Maple Pass Loop (Sep 15-17, 2012)

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maple_pass_loop_coverConditions: 3-day backpack
Map: USGS Washington Pass, USGA Mount Arriva, USGA McGregor Mountain, USGS McAlester Mountain
Area: Washington Pass
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's North Cascades National Park Region
Stats: Day 1 - 5.86 miles, 2652' gain to Wing Lake, Day 2 - 4.75 miles, 1822' gain Wing Lk to campsite near Maple Pass, Day 3 - 2.86mi, 74' gain, campsite to TH Total - 13.47 miles, 4548' gain (round trip)

Day 1:
This was my third...maybe fourth trip to Wing Lake but I've never done the Maple Pass Loop. Wow. I'd been missing a lot. This was Suzanne's trip and the rest of the crew would be Barry, Barb, and Mike.

We arrived at the TH at Rainy Pass and the lot wasn't full, but getting there. Some of us were worried by the number of hikers heading up and wondered if we'd have trouble finding a campsite at Wing Lk later that day.

We did the loop counter clockwise so we started up the Lk Ann (not Lk Anne as many of the signs at the TH said) and made steady progress to Heather Pass. It was warm. Unseasonably warm for mid September. The colors were out though. Looked promising for the trip.

After a short break at Heather Pass (at 3mi, 1200' gain from the TH) we dropped down to begin our traverse of the looooooong boulder field. We followed the booth path (not a maintained trail) until we lost it at the edge of the boulder field. Then it was time to follow the rock cairns. There was an occasional dirt crossing but it's a long boulder hop over to Lewis Lake (1+ miles and 500' loss and 125' gain from Heather Pass).

Lewis Lake was gorgeous, an amazing shade of bright azure blue. We followed the boot path around the right/north side of the lake. It's a bit brushy at times but not bad. Then at the far side of the lake, a few more boulders and lots of steep hillsides to climb to the Wing Lk basin (1.75mi, 1250' gain from the Lewis Lk outlet).

Surprisingly, we were one of the first groups to arrive. We nabbed a larger side further from lake's edge with plenty of nice flat rocks to cook and lounge around on. Mike arrived later after tagging one of his obligatory bumps. Suzanne, Barry and Barb headed up towards Pt 7755 but turned back when they encountered a large male mountain goat that was intent on holding it's ground (yes, there is a sign at the TH warning of habituated goats in the area). It was a late dinner and then time to wander around and photograph the larches that were starting to turn golden. Some trees were full on gold, most were still green or just starting to change.

Day 2:
The group headed up to climb Black early (with Mike just going to the col to oogle at Goode) and they were back in a few hours. After packing up camp it was time to reverse the route out. We did decide to avoid the brush to the north of Lewis Lk and cross the small boulder filed to the south. A good choice. A much easier and shorter route. After a short lunch break at Heather Pass we then headed up the trail to Maple Pass. Oh my...gorgeous trail, beautiful color, awesome views in nearly every direction. A loop trip worth repeating.

At Maple Pass we caught the junction of the trail down to Rainy Lake. Our plan was to head to the small tarn above Rainy and camp there. The views on the ridge were very tempting. After a short discussion and search for water we made the choice to camp up on the ridge well away from the trail (4.75mi, 1822' gain, 1560' loss from Wing Lk). Suzanne and Barry volunteered to drop the 500' or so down to the tarn to fetch 11 liters (yes, 11) of water for the group. While a bit windy, the views beat camping down lower.

Day  3:
The group was again up early as the plan was to climb up Frisco. I stayed behind and lounged as the group disappeared down to the tarn and then began the ascent up the moraine and the route up Frisco. I had plenty of time to kill, no problem as there was lots to photograph. I then took my time hiking back out to the TH completing the loop (2.9mi, 74' gain, 1837' loss). The rest of the group arrived a few hours later.
Wing Lake>Maple Pass Loop Slideshow

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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