Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
proxie
Posts: 26
Joined: September 12th, 2009, 7:39 am

Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by proxie » August 4th, 2019, 9:10 pm

After many years of living in Oregon, I finally was able to make it to the Wallowas for the first time ever. Was not disappointed.

TLDR Summary: fantastic alpine and wildflower scenery as every guide alludes to, lots of bugs, pleasantly surprised with amount of solitude (most likely because was in middle of work week), snowpack this year was 30% more then usual but didn't serve any issue, great sunny weather throughout with no rain. Permetherin treated hoodie and 40% deet insect repellant kept bugs at bay.

=== Day 1 : Sun Jul 28th : Aneroid Lake, Tenderfoot Pass ===
I drove in from Pendleton and got started on the trail around 1020 AM. After ascending on well marked, if not overly horse pooped trails, and crossing some nice meadows:
IMG_20190728_134129.jpg
made it to Aneroid Lake. Had lunch:
IMG_20190728_141250.jpg
Had contemplated setting up camp here and doing Pete's Point, but could not find the trail. Decided since had plenty of daylight and energy, to just press ahead. Entered into a lovely basin on way to Tenderfoot Pass:
IMG_20190728_154439.jpg
Thought I was going to hit Jewett Lake at some point but never did. After ascending Tenderfoot Pass:
IMG_20190728_165339.jpg
and realizing there was not going to be any more water sources, packed some snow in my Nalgene and decided to set up camp in a flat spot right after the descent of Tenderfoot Pass. Was very quiet with no sound of rushing water or people.

=== Day 2 : Mon Jul 29th : Polaris Pass, Frazier Lake ===

Started traversing alongside the slopes to start of the ascent to Polaris Pass. Views into the valley with the morning light were really nice.
IMG_20190729_061612.jpg
As got to top of Polaris Pass, started laughing as it was the first great alpine view of the trip:
IMG_20190729_073348.jpg
After soaking in the views, started descent with intent to hit Frazier Lake. Going down the scree wasn't too bad in my opinion as long as was careful:
IMG_20190729_074545.jpg
Beautiful wildflowers adorned the slopes as going down:
IMG_20190729_110147.jpg
Was pretty parched and wanting water and finally hit a good stream 4 hours after I had left camp. Gorged on water and made a solid breakfast. Hit some junction, and after second guessing myself, made a wrong turn that eventually took me to Six Mile Meadow. After cursing myself and getting another meal in, decided to bite down and just double back to the junction that crossed a stream to head to Frazier Lake. Wasted about 4.5 mi worth of energy, but it was mostly level ground, so I wasn't too tired. There was a relatively fast churning stream had to ford. Was very chilly and got thigh deep, but taking time and keeping center of gravity low was able to cross. Hiked up to quiet Frazier Lake. Was very buggy here with mosquitos, so was relegated to stay inside the tent for the most part. Was only camper at the lake it seemed.

=== Day 3 : Tue Jul 30th : Glacier Lake, Moccasin Lake, Mirror Lake, Horton Pass, Eagle Cap (Lakes Basin area) ===

Morning was quiet and Frazier Lake was very calm:
IMG_20190730_061251.jpg
Started ascending to Glacier Lake. As got there, all I could think was "wow". Glacier Lake was very pretty. Just my kinda thing. High up alpine lake with gorgeous mountains for backdrop. Came across some folks fishing for brook trout in the lake.
IMG_20190730_092350.jpg
Took time soaking in the views and made way up to Glacier Pass. Kept on sneaking looks behind me and the gorgeous spread of Glacier Lake that got better and better as ascended. As rounded up and descended Glacier Pass, could see Moccasin Lake and Mirror Lake in the distance. Made way to Moccasin Lake where set up camp on the high rocks and had a meal:
IMG_20190730_104142.jpg
Packed a light day pack with intent to tackle summit of Eagle Cap. Initially got confused with searching for the trail to start up Eagle Cap south of Mirror Lake and meandered around:
IMG_20190730_124045.jpg
but eventually came across a ranger who pointed me more north of Mirror Lake to a clearly signed junction of "Horton Pass / Eagle Cap". Started ascent. Snow was covering some of the trail, so had to wing it getting to top of Horton Pass. From here to summit of Eagle Cap, trail alongside ridge was well defined. One final sketchy snowfield before the top took some time to get across, as was pretty steep on a diagonal, and a slip would mean a pretty far drop. Got to summit and again, wow!
IMG_20190730_154215.jpg
Could see all over, including Glacier Lake where I was there just that morning. Descended and headed back to base camp at Moccasin Lake. Took a chilly dip in Moccasin which while numbing, was refreshing after a long day.

=== Day 4 : Wed Jul 31st : Horseshoe Lake, Crescent Lake, out to Joseph OR ===

For some reason, my backpack just started weighing me down. No matter how I adjusted, my shoulders were aching and it felt like gravity was unnecessarily pulling me back. Maybe it was how I packed it that morning, not sure. In any case, descent was pretty uneventful as left the Lakes Basin area. Passed by Horseshoe and Crescent Lakes. Had wanted to go up to Ice Lake, but decided a change of plan to head out to Joseph OR and recuperate a solid night in a hotel room, as my pack weight was making things a lot less enjoyable that day.

=== Day 5 : Thu Aug 1st: Ice Lake, Matterhorn ===

The next day refreshed, I was able to tackle both Ice Lake and Matterhorn summit in one fell swoop (~20 mi, 5200 ft gain/loss RT). With a daypack with nothing but food, I was able to practically fly on the trail. I started at the Wallowa Lake TH at 600 AM. Nice views as ascending. Rounded up Ice Lake where it was very scenic, and sat down to enjoy the view and a meal, resting up before tackling the Matterhorn summit:
IMG_20190801_092739.jpg
Ascent up to the Matterhorn was pretty steep, and had to rest after every couple of steps. As got closer to the white granite, had to pay attention to pick out trails. Finally got to top. Once again, clear and tremendous views all over the Wallowas. I was the only one at the summit.
IMG_20190801_120210.jpg
Descended, and enjoyed another meal at Ice Lake while soaking my feet in the waters. Made way all the way back down to the Wallowa Lake TH to end my first Wallowas trip adventures.

Glad I was finally able to do it. Will find days in the coming years to go back and hit up some different areas in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Lakes Basin areas.

User avatar
Water
Posts: 1244
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by Water » August 4th, 2019, 10:17 pm

very nice trip. thanks for sharing. Wallowas and Lakes Basin, Matternhorn were the first big trip we did once we moved out here a while back. Great memories.. went back a handful of times since, even got my dad to the top of Eagle Cap! And Mother in Law half way up another year (a feat for her).

Glad the weather cooperated fully :)

cheers
Feel Free to Feel Free

proxie
Posts: 26
Joined: September 12th, 2009, 7:39 am

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by proxie » August 5th, 2019, 8:13 am

I wasn't sure if that long a stretch of good, sunny weather was atypical of that area, or common. I had thought the Wallowas would be drier in general, so wasn't too surprised. Regardless, yes the weather fully cooperating was very nice.

User avatar
teachpdx
Posts: 151
Joined: January 21st, 2014, 4:45 pm
Location: Hillsboro, OR

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by teachpdx » August 5th, 2019, 9:06 am

I was up there in a few of these areas just a couple days before you (25th-29th). The weather for us was incredible... no rain at all during our 5-day visit.
We went to Ice Lake for 2 nights with a jaunt up Matterhorn and along the ridges the day between, then 2 nights at Horseshoe Lake with a trip around the Lakes Basin and up to Glacier Pass. Also wanted to summit Eagle Cap but it all looked a bit too snowy... so we are holding that off for next time.

Glad you had as good of a time as we did!
instagram: @robo_remy

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12774
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by retired jerry » August 13th, 2019, 5:58 am

Nice!

That's what I tried to do a month ago. Next time I'll wait for more snow to melt off.

Your report will motivate me to try this again, thanks, beautiful pics.

User avatar
drm
Posts: 5135
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: The Dalles, OR
Contact:

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by drm » August 13th, 2019, 9:52 am

proxie wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 8:13 am
I wasn't sure if that long a stretch of good, sunny weather was atypical of that area, or common.
It is common. While the area is much more prone to thunderstorms that the Cascades, I think I've only had tstorms on two of my Wallowa trips, and only one of them was really strong (and that was at Frazier Lake). So more common than for the Cascades is not saying much. Not like it's the Rockies or anything. :lol:

I think that the Wallowas are not so dry because winter is cold and none of the snow that falls melts until spring, allowing a longer melt season and more greenery.

proxie
Posts: 26
Joined: September 12th, 2009, 7:39 am

Re: Wallowas 7/28/19 - 8/1/19 : Polaris Pass, Lakes Basin, Eagle Cap, Matterhorn

Post by proxie » August 13th, 2019, 7:36 pm

retired jerry wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 5:58 am

Your report will motivate me to try this again, thanks, beautiful pics.
Actually, your earlier report was the one that made me hold off to go until end of July, so thanks for that.

Post Reply