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Author Topic: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten  (Read 1885 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« on: 05/08/18, 05:25 PM »



There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
and the rivers all run God knows where...




Okay, so the mountains have names, and USGS topos show where the rivers go.  But there's something mysterious about the Pasayten, a part of the Cascades that's difficult to visit on skis.

Steve Hindman knows the Pasayten better than most.  In the mid-1980s, with Brent Harris and Alan Millar, Steve skied the entire width of the Pasayten Wilderness, starting at Iron Gate in the east and ending at Ross Lake in the west.

Recent conversations with Steve Barnett, who also has a long relationship with the Pasayten, rekindled interest in visiting the area.  Barnett's 1987 book, The Best Ski Touring in America, describes a week-long trip around the Eureka Creek Loop. 



The trip started with good luck on the Robinson Creek trail, where we found this horseshoe.

We considered repeating Barnett's Eureka Creek loop, but modified our plans due to concerns about obstacles from last summer's Diamond Creek fire.  We also learned that the trail bridge near Eureka Falls is gone, making the crossing impractical in spring.  As an alternative, we decided to start our trip up Robinson Creek, passing Robinson Mountain to the east and descending from there to the south fork of Eureka Creek.



Steve skis the east flank of Robinson Mountain in evening shadow. Beauty Peak rises across the valley.

My one experience with Pasayten skiing was a 2006 tour to Windy Pass via the Harts Pass road.  From that trip I knew that the snow covered road provided a quick exit from the upper Pasayten River. So we decided to come out that way. We stashed a mountain bike at the end of the plowed road near Cache Creek.



Osceola Peak, Mt Carru and Monument Peak from our first campsite.

We started up the Robinson Creek trail wearing sneakers and carrying our skis.  By 5000ft in Beauty Creek, the snow was deep enough to ski and we continued through woods to the basin between Beauty Peak and Robinson Mountain.  Dropping our overnight packs, we climbed the east cirque of Robinson to its summit around 6pm.  Here we found beautiful views and pretty good skiing on slopes that were re-freezing in the evening shade.



Basin northeast of Robinson Mountain.

We camped on the divide NW of Beauty Peak and awoke to skies that became hazy as morning progressed.  We entered and traversed an east-facing basin and climbed to the divide above Eureka Lake.  After crossing the ridge near Point 7236ft we descended with much deliberation through forest to the South Fork of Eureka Creek.  We felt lucky to find a continuously skiable route and even a skiable crossing of the creek.



Someone was feeling the love when they made this blaze along Eureka Creek.  Before long we were feeling the hate.

Trial and error led us downstream to the main fork of Eureka Creek.  Bouyed initially by open forest, we soon found ourselves in a tangle of tight woods and endless tree wells.  Our pace slowed to less than a mile an hour.  The trail shown on the topo maps was abandoned long ago and aside from the blaze pictured above, we found no sign that it ever existed.



Climbing the NE shoulder of Mt Lago. Burned forest from the Diamond Creek fire can be seen in Ptarmigan Creek below.

At the end of a weary afternoon, we came to a narrow opening in the forest below Osceola Peak.  We climbed this a few hundred feet to a place where, though still in forest, we could at least see some of the surrounding peaks. We camped there for the night.  The next morning we left our camping gear and continued up the valley with light packs.  We climbed to the saddle between Mounts Carru and Lago and followed the northeast ramp to the summit of Lago (shown in the first photo above).



Steve celebrates on the summit of Osceola Peak.

The next morning we broke camp and skinned out of the valley to Lake Doris.  Here we dropped our overnight packs and climbed light to the summit of Osceola Peak.  In the three days since we'd admired the peak from Robinson Mountain, the snow finger leading to the summit had become discontinuous, requring a few hundred feet of walking.



Steve Hindman skis Osceola Peak. This view looks west toward Jack Mountain and the Picket Range.

We enjoyed an unencumbered descent of the peak and returned to our packs near the lake.  We descended to Freds Lake and made our best guess at the location of the trail leading northwest toward Berk Creek.  Amazingly, we found the trail switchbacks descending to the Middle Fork Pasayten River snow covered, easy to follow, and almost continuously skiable.



Descending Harts Pass road on the fifth day.

Leaving our skins off, we strided and glided along the gentle trail to a clearing below Mt Rolo, where we camped for the night.  On the fifth day, we continued along the trail on skis (without skins), then left it to follow open forest on the valley bottom to the final climb (with skins) to Slate Pass.

Harts Pass was reached by a gentle descent, and we strode with little effort (again without skins) down the old mining road to Cache Creek, where my bike made quick work of the five-mile glide back to the car at Robinson Creek.



Retrieving the bike for the return to Robinson Creek and our car.


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Dave_R
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #1 on: 05/08/18, 06:17 PM »

Thanks Lowell, well done!  That area's been on our list for a while and you've just moved it up a few rungs.  Any mush, or are things well-corned?

-Dave
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Pete A
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #2 on: 05/08/18, 06:22 PM »

wow!  what a cool trip!
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #3 on: 05/08/18, 06:31 PM »

Any mush, or are things well-corned?

The snow was somewhere between corn and mush depending on aspect and time of day. I'm pretty sure we found better snow conditions than were present farther west in the Cascades during that time.

We chose not to descend the south flank of Mt Lago, for example, because we judged it to be likely to produce big mush slides. We saw pretty big debris piles from recent slides on that aspect, and the slopes below the summit hadn't all cleared yet.
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garrettww
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #4 on: 05/08/18, 06:47 PM »

Awesome photos Lowell! They definitely peak my interest in a ski tour to this region. Thanks for taking the time to write up and share your trip!
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DG
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #5 on: 05/09/18, 11:11 AM »

Thanks for the trip report! My wife and I have done a few summer backpacking trips into the Pasayten wilderness over the years.  It's neat to see someone pull off a ski journey there, no small feat with the many river valleys and wilderness route finding.
« Last Edit: 05/09/18, 11:15 AM by DG » Logged
danpeck
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #6 on: 05/09/18, 08:39 PM »

 Cool.
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cumulus
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #7 on: 05/10/18, 01:37 PM »

that looks good.  Perfect way to do those peaks. Thanks for the report!
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Stefan
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #8 on: 05/10/18, 04:09 PM »

What a rad trip!  I have always wanted to ski the boundary trail so I was keen to see your pictures.
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markharf
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #9 on: 05/10/18, 05:38 PM »

A slug of Skoog, a dash of Hindman, plus a pinch of Barnett for seasoning...

Great report, Lowell!

Mark
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peteyboy
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #10 on: 05/10/18, 10:31 PM »

Fine, fine work gents.  Way to dream it and boldly go and get 'er.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #11 on: 05/11/18, 09:53 AM »

A slug of Skoog, a dash of Hindman, plus a pinch of Barnett for seasoning...

Plus some great advice from Matt Firth, who probably has more experience in the area than any of us!
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jtack
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #12 on: 05/12/18, 06:09 PM »

Lowell, as I'm sure you know, there have been plenty of people tramping around that neck of the woods in the winter time. I was lucky enough to know some of the guys that worked in the Azurite mine, and they had great stories to tell of the guys that use to ski in with the mail, sometimes over Azurite pass....... that would be a scary path! I wish I could rember how fast they would get from the mine to Lost River, but it was fast.  Fancies Luffkin had a trapping cabin somewhere near where the airport is today and he would go back and forth from Winthrop, a dam long hike! There was a hardy crew that skied from Lost River to Manning Park in the, late seventies on skinny little XC gear.  I don't think they did any peak bagging but they sure had an adventure, and I know of at least one person that spent the whole winter in a wall tent back there. It does seem to cast a spell!
« Last Edit: 05/12/18, 09:25 PM by jtack » Logged
Roger Strong
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #13 on: 05/12/18, 10:01 PM »

Love this!!
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mccallboater
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Re: May 2-6, 2018 - The Spell of the Pasayten
« Reply #14 on: 05/13/18, 07:10 AM »

In the spring of 1984 a friend and I tried to do this trip, but experienced the worst TG snow ever. We could ski for about 4 hours, from 4am to 8am. Otherwise, the 8 foot snow pack would collapse through the 1 foot of firm snow, leaving us wallowing over our heads in sugar. It was like getting trapped in quicksand. After three days of that, we gave up. But what a gorgeous place to ski.
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