East Oval Lake (May 26-27, 2012)

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east_oval_coverConditions: Winter scramble (overnight)
Gear: Snowshoes, ice axe, crampons
Map: USGS Oval Peak
Area: Pasayten Wilderness
Reference: 100 Hkes in Washington, NCNP Region
Stats: Day 1 10.3mi, 4190' to the lake, Day 2 9.35mi, 97' gain back to the TH, Total: 19.66mi, 4287' gain (round trip)

It's been a loooooong time since I've done a real overnighter. Hiking into East Oval Lk seemed like a possibility to me. It would be tough. An overnight on snow, lots of off trail, heavy winter packs...I didn't know if I was ready.

I met the group at the Ash Way P&R at about 6:15am. It was a short reshuffling of gear and off we were for the long drive out to Twisp.

We arrived at the TH (Oval Creek) and we ready to move about 11:30am. I'd been in this area before but don't think I've ever hiked this trail. It's gorgeous. Pretty mellow at first, horse grade. Nice tree cover which was really nice because it was about 10 degrees warmer than expected. We had heavy winter packs (including snowshoes, crampons and ice axes) and the shade made it bearable. For most of us, this was our first overnight of the year. For me...the first time I'd carried this much weight in about 5 years.

We made pretty steady progress. About 1.7 miles in was the first creek crossing. It wasn't too bad...about mid calf. Since we were hiking all of us debooted and forded the river bare foot. Took some time but it was nice to keep the boots dry. After the crossing the trail ascends a few moderate switchbacks and then eases off again. About 3.5 miles in we stopped for lunch (~ 4700').

About 4.4 miles in (~5100') on went the snowshoes, most of us tired of the post holing. At about 6.7miles came the second creek crossing...an upward sloped, snow covered log. Hmmm...interesting with snowshoes on. This second crossing had us leave the summer trail (which follows the creek of the west side) and we did a very slow rising traverse on the east side of the creek. At about 8 miles in we quit with the traversing and started the gain we knew we had to go to get to the lake. We stayed to the west of the Middle Oval Lk drainage heading nearly straight up. At about 6400' we traversed left looking for a slope that would lake us up into the lake basin. We ended up climbing up a moderately steep slope between the East and Middle Lk drainages. Most of the group climbing this in snowshoes...me...I was uneasy about the slope so I stopped to put crampons on and followed the great steps kicked into the hillside. This route had us climb about 100 above East Oval Lk so we descended down to the lake from the west. Arriving about dinner time under overcast skies, we set up our tents, made some dinner, and sat down for an enjoyable snow camp. The temps were comfortable and there was wind...thankfully. The group talked about plans for the next day. One group would head off to do Oval Pk, the other group would try for Star Pk. Me...I was just happy to have made camp :)

In the morning, Team OvalTeam headed off about 8:30am to do Oval. About the same time, Team StarBucks headed off for Star. The StarBucks team had a long day ahead. The plan was for one group...the OvalTeam + me...to head down to the car as soon as them arrived back in camp for their trip. The StarBucks would follow us later. The OvalTeam had slower travel conditions than expected and didn't arrive back in camp until early afternoon. The StarBucks meanwhile knew they wouldn't make Star to tagged Gray instead and arrived back in camp first...with a plan. Once group of 4 would head back to the car that afternoon. SuzanneH's group would remain so they could tag Oval and they planned to hike out Monday.

I was a bit nervous about descending the steep snow slope we came up the day before. The group had looked at maps in camp and we could have come up a more moderate slope More north of the East Oval Lk drainage so we planned to find a route down that slope. We headed off downhill about 2:30pm first doing a short jog due north, crossing an un-named drainage, and then easily descending the slope to meet up with our tracks from the previous day at about 5900'. From here we could easily follow our tracks from the previous day to find our way back out to the trail and TH.

We arrived at the TH about 7:30, tired, sore and hungry. It was a short stop in Twisp to gas up and get some quick eats for the road. I got dropped off at the Ash Way P&R just after midnight and the rest of the group headed down a little longer to Seattle.

Lots of blowdown (a dozen or so tree) on the lower stretches. Nothing that can't be stepped over, stooped under or walked around.
East Oval Lake Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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