Doris Lake, Shellrock Pass (Sep 28 to Oct 1, 2005)

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shellrock_pass_coverConditions: Backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Slate Peak, USGS Pasayten Peak, USGS Mount Lago
Area: Pasayten Wilderness
Stats: about 36mi, 9976' gain (round trip)

Wow...what a trip. The plan was for a whole group of us to head in for our annual larch trip. MikeC and I decided to head in a day earlier than the rest of the crew. We'd been keeping an eye on the weather all was good...then bad...then good...then bad...but by the evening before departure, it was looking good so off Mike and I went. We parked at Slate Pass and then headed down the other side and down to the Middle Fork Pasayten River trail. At the junction where the trail up to Freds Lake heads uphill to the right, we took the trail and climbed up the switchbacks steeply to the lake. More steep switchbacks on the other side of the lake taking us up to the 7100' pass between Freds and Doris Lake. Then, finally down to Doris Lake making camp. Long way in.

Day two Mike and I awoke to weather that looked like it had turned once again. It was dry...for now...but we'd see how the day went. We followed the trail down and over to Shellrock Pass. Climbing up to the pass the wind was picking up and bits of rain were starting to fall. The wind gusts were picking up pretty well often making balance, at least for me, not so fun. Part way up the SE ridge of Mount Lago...I called it quits. Mike was up ahead, I waived him on telling him I'd meet him back at camp. Back down to the pass I went and down the protected basin I went. It was then I realized the wind had ripped my pack cover completely off my pack and sent it far down to the east of Shellrock Pass. I never heard it go aloft with the howling of the winds. I stopped at the basin briefly to have lunch. Then high tailed it back to camp arriving just as the steady rain arrived. Without much shelter the best option was to crawl into my REI Roadster to stay warm and dry. At least I'd brought a paperback book to keep my company. I stayed in the tent for the better part of the day. The rain never really letting up. Then, just as it was about to get dark I heard Mike arriving back at camped. He'd spent the day tagging Logo, Carru and other peaks and was absolutely soaked to the skin. He dove into his tent and that was it for the day. This trip really wasn't going as planned... We talked a bit that evening and decided it was best to scrub the rest of the trip and hike out in the morning.

Morning of the 3rd day came and at least it was dry. While the sky was no longer clear, at least it looked "better" and didn't appear the heavens would pour buckets of rain on us again. Mike and I chatted about what we'd do. The plan for the rest of the group was to join us this day (Friday). We sat around camp and completely by surprise, JimB and KevinW. The rest of the crew had bailed. Jim and Kevin would have as well if the did not see our car at the trail. Because our car was there, they hiked in to let us know...we needed to hike out. Nice guys. The somewhat nice day of relief was spent by watching the guys head over to Osceola. With no time to waste and more bad weather headed out way (Jim and Kevin brought the news of the deteriorating weather in with them) we packed up camp decided to head down to the Middle Fork. Snow was expected that night at higher elevations. We needed to drop down. On the way up the group tagged Rolo and after picking packs back up at the pass above Freds Lk, we headed down. We camped down low that night. We'd have a shorter hike out the next day and thankfully we wouldn't have to make our way through the dump of snow that was coming.

Morning of the 4th day camp. Looking back up from where we came the day before, it was clear that dropping down was the right choice. The ridges and peaks above us were solid white with new snow. The Middle Fork trail is a trudge, churned up badly in places by horses. As the trail climbed back up to Slate Pass the wind picked up again and snow began to fall. Before I knew it I was bringing up the rear and the snow was blowing horizontal. It wasn't long before I was back at the cars with Mike, Jim and Kevin.

What an interesting trip. Gorgeous area and beautiful golden larches. I'd like to return someday with better weather.

More information on the lookout: The first lookout that was built here was a 1924 gable-roof cupola cabin. The current structure is a L-4 cab that sits atop a 41' treated timber tower and was built in 1956. The lookout is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
Shellrock Pass Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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