Loowit Trail (Fail)

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
Beer Town Bill
Posts: 127
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm

Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by Beer Town Bill » September 30th, 2020, 12:39 pm

With the news that the Timberline Trail was essentially closed due to all the recent wind fall, I opted to try the Loowit instead. My plan was to start at the June Lake trailhead (9/29/20) and hike clockwise, camping at the Toutle and the far side of the Plains of Abraham. How hard could it be? I did the Colorado Trail earlier this summer, so this should be a cake walk.

Well, the boulder fields and ravines were tough. And then there was the ravine at mile 9.4 (south of the Sheep Canyon Trail). No way was I going to do that sketchy rope descent with a 30 lb. pack. And I'm not even sure the rope was long enough - I think the recent rains washed out the bottom of the ravine. I reluctantly turned around at about 3:30 and was able to make it back to Chocolate Falls before darkness descended. Night hiking the last boulder field didn't seem like a wise choice, so I set up camp.

I was down to 0.5 liters of water, but the stream was now flowing (it was not when I crossed in the morning). Although the water was silty, I was able to get my Sawyer filter to work. Fortunately I had brought along my plunger and was able to backflush periodically. At about 10:00 PM the stream stopped flowing, but by then I had collected and filtered an adequate supply of water.

The biggest disappointment was not getting to hike through the blast zone. I guess that I will just have to section hike the Loowit.

User avatar
teachpdx
Posts: 237
Joined: January 21st, 2014, 4:45 pm
Location: Hillsboro, OR

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by teachpdx » September 30th, 2020, 1:04 pm

That canyon where you turned around is notoriously bad. I remember many years ago (maybe 2003?), before the trail was re-routed 500' down the mountain at that location, and it was some of the sketchiest hiking I have ever done. The crossing location is MUCH better now... but still can be a challenge! And dropping elevation just to gain it right back is not always fun...

I've had great luck by enlarging the loop a little bit, and taking the Butte Camp / Toutle trails past Blue Lake instead of keeping strictly to the Loowit. This gives an extra opportunity for water at Butte Camp and/or Blue Lake, avoids the sketchy canyon, and provides a few miles of shade. The west side of the mountain is the most boring, so I always recommend the enlarged loop.

My best trip around the Loowit, actually, was a 2-day loop starting at Blue Lake TH going clockwise (north) on the Toutle Trail, and returning via Butte Camp. The net mileage is actually very similar to a normal circuit from June Lake, since the Blue Lake TH is essentially on the loop itself.

Now if only Blue Lake TH would quit getting washed away every year...
instagram: @robo_remy

User avatar
Brian95
Posts: 46
Joined: June 25th, 2018, 10:13 am
Location: Portland/Salt Lake City

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by Brian95 » September 30th, 2020, 1:27 pm

teachpdx wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 1:04 pm
I've had great luck by enlarging the loop a little bit, and taking the Butte Camp / Toutle trails past Blue Lake instead of keeping strictly to the Loowit. This gives an extra opportunity for water at Butte Camp and/or Blue Lake, avoids the sketchy canyon, and provides a few miles of shade. The west side of the mountain is the most boring, so I always recommend the enlarged loop.
I wish I had done this too when I did a one-day circumnavigation of Loowit last month; I'll have to give it a try! I went counterclockwise from June Lake, and while the first 20 miles were every bit as breathtaking as I thought they'd be, the part from the Sheep Canyon junction back to the trailhead was no fun at all. It didn't help that I ran out of water near Sheep Canyon so had none between there and Chocolate Falls! I kinda wish that they'd just re-route Loowit down to the lower trails here. The Timberline Trail has the Ramona Falls/Top Fork forested low-elevation section; Loowit could use a similar area.

leiavoia
Posts: 115
Joined: April 24th, 2015, 9:53 pm

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by leiavoia » September 30th, 2020, 1:33 pm

Dont feel too bad. I also bailed out on Day 1 of my first attempt. Hot weather sapped our energy and dried up streams. I made it to Butte Camp after 10 hours of hiking, and went back to June Lake via 7 miles of paved road the next morning. Ugh.

The rest of the trail is steep/sketchy in places too, so if a rope descent turned you back, it isnt going to get better. There are two rope assisted spots (Toutle River, Sheep Canyon) and at least half a dozen steep washouts that need to be delicately stepped down and back up the other side. Small pumice turns these otherwise unremarkable obstacles into slippery ball-bearing traps.

The good news is that the boulders are only on the south side.

User avatar
Beer Town Bill
Posts: 127
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by Beer Town Bill » September 30th, 2020, 3:17 pm

leiavoia wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 1:33 pm
The rest of the trail is steep/sketchy in places too, so if a rope descent turned you back, it isnt going to get better. There are two rope assisted spots (Toutle River, Sheep Canyon) and at least half a dozen steep washouts that need to be delicately stepped down and back up the other side. Small pumice turns these otherwise unremarkable obstacles into slippery ball-bearing traps.
The ravines prior to Sheep Creek didn't bother me. How bad are the Toutle and Shoestring Glacier ravines when compared to the one that freaked me out?

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2113
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by Chip Down » September 30th, 2020, 3:33 pm

Beer Town Bill wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 3:17 pm
leiavoia wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 1:33 pm
The rest of the trail is steep/sketchy in places too, so if a rope descent turned you back, it isnt going to get better. There are two rope assisted spots (Toutle River, Sheep Canyon) and at least half a dozen steep washouts that need to be delicately stepped down and back up the other side. Small pumice turns these otherwise unremarkable obstacles into slippery ball-bearing traps.
The ravines prior to Sheep Creek didn't bother me. How bad are the Toutle and Shoestring Glacier ravines when compared to the one that freaked me out?
Toutle is worse, as I recall. The first time I saw it, I just chuckled, and muttered something like "okay then, I guess this is where I go". I mean, if there's a rope placement, you figure no other option will be better.

Regarding the one that turned you back, I've seen bicyclists do it. I don't say that to make you feel bad, just sharing what I saw. I'll admit I was shocked/impressed when I saw that.

It should be noted that the stub trail still exists leading to the higher washed-out crossing. Interesting to stand on that precipice and try to picture what the canyon looked like before.

Oh, regarding Shoestring, it's not bad at all. Of course, as unstable as it is, I suppose it might vary from year to year.

Story: Met a guy going CCW who was confused and asking which way to go. Had a page from this site printed out. I helped him out, but it was getting late, and he still had to contend with that crossing, then to Butte Camp, and a return to Blue Lake which involved a sketchy gully crossing. Tried to warn him, but he insisted he was an experienced hiker. Yeah, whatever. I actually kept an eye on the news in coming days, looking for reports of a missing hiker.

User avatar
teachpdx
Posts: 237
Joined: January 21st, 2014, 4:45 pm
Location: Hillsboro, OR

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by teachpdx » September 30th, 2020, 3:35 pm

Beer Town Bill wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 3:17 pm
The ravines prior to Sheep Creek didn't bother me. How bad are the Toutle and Shoestring Glacier ravines when compared to the one that freaked me out?
I think the ravine that turned you around is probably more challenging than the other two, especially if the recent rains did some work on it. I was reading that there were some serious mud flows on MSH last week in the rain, enough to be picked up on the seismometers.

https://komonews.com/weather/scotts-wea ... -st-helens

The ropes at the Toutle aren't bad... and at Shoestring it's just watching your footing really well, as well as watching for unexpected rocks rolling toward you from above.

And no harm in bailing... we bailed a couple weeks ago five miles into our 100-miler in Yellowstone. And glad we did... the smoke rolled in the next day and we would've been out for eight more days in hazardous air.
instagram: @robo_remy

User avatar
walrus
Posts: 176
Joined: July 9th, 2014, 7:24 am

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by walrus » October 1st, 2020, 7:16 pm

I don't know - this summer, the Shoestring was the hardest for me - but mostly because I surprised a goat coming up to the rim and watched it start a rockfall into the abyss right where the trail drops down into the canyon :shock:

User avatar
Beer Town Bill
Posts: 127
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm

Re: Loowit Trail (Fail)

Post by Beer Town Bill » October 9th, 2020, 10:16 am

teachpdx wrote:
September 30th, 2020, 1:04 pm
My best trip around the Loowit, actually, was a 2-day loop starting at Blue Lake TH going clockwise (north) on the Toutle Trail, and returning via Butte Camp. The net mileage is actually very similar to a normal circuit from June Lake, since the Blue Lake TH is essentially on the loop itself.
Second time was a charm. I took your advice and bypassed the subject ravine by using the Butte Camp and Toutle Trails. It was actually a nice scenic alternative. I started at June Lake again and camped at Blue Lake the first night. If I were to do it again, I would push a little farther the first day to one of the camp spots further up the trail. I camped the second night at the springs just beyond the Plains of Abraham. I exited vis Ape Canyon and road walked back to the June Lake trailhead.

Post Reply