Upper Thunder Mountain Lake (Sep 22-23, 2012)

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thunder_mtn_lk_coverConditions: overnight backpack
Map: USGS Stevens Pass, USGS Scenic
Area: Stevens Pass
Stats: 14mi, 4163' gain (2-day round trip)

Another invite from Suzanne...this time to an area I'd not been for. Plans fell through on another trip, I jumped at the chance to join this trip. New areas are always fun.

Day 1:
Another early start. Time to hike in and get to the destination and leave the other part of the group plenty of time for peakbagging. I'm getting used to the idea of hiking to lakes and then lounging around reading a good book while the others toil away :)

We parked at the Tunnel Creek TH (~ 3200') and slogged up the trail. I say slogged because there is nothing aesthetic about this trail. It's purely functional. It only gets you to Hope Lake and the PCT in the most efficient manner forward and that is up. Honestly, I thought the trail kind of on the fugly side and was glad when we finally reached Hope Lake (1.5mi, 1192' gain from the TH). The hike up was chilly, cool mist wafting down the drainage. At the lake, it was a bit clearer and warmer.

From Hope Lk we hiked the PCT south bumping into a 1/2 dozen or so through hikers and one section hiker. The foggy mist from earlier in the day was gradually replaced by a smoky haze and the smell of smoke from the fires to the east. Thankfully the smoke didn't completely obscure the views. No problem...it's all part of the experience. From Hope Lk its about 3.5mi more (and ~1300' gain) to the switchbacks above Trap Lake where the trail heads up to the pass (another .3mi and 230' gain).

At the pass is a trail junction, I guess most do a loop and head down to Surprise Lk. There is a good boot path though that heads over to the lake. We followed the boot path. It was steep and brushy at first, then steep and not brushy, then just bouldery. Beautiful basins we crossed through on the traverse over to the lakes gaining another 1.25mi and 840' gain until reaching the high point before the drop down into the lake (7mi, 3672' gain from the TH).

The rest of the gang headed off to scramble Thunder Mtn and then Nimbus while I read in camp. I heard another couple arrive early evening but they camped up higher on rocks and from where our group was we couldn't see them. Temps dropped and the wind picked up making quite a cold evening but at some point the wind let up and temps probably didn't drop below 40F.

Day 2:
The gang was up and after breakfast headed off to scramble Thor. They arrived back at camp around lunch when we packed up and started the hike out. The wind direction had changed from the previous day so temps were much warmer and the smoky haze was a lot better. It was one quick stop at Trap Pass and then we continued the hike out. The group dropped packs at the saddle west of K9. I read for a bit and then started a slow hike down to Hope Lake. Then once again on the Tunnel Creek trail I hiked as fast as I could to get through the not so scenic section of trail.

Another great trip.

A few bugs (not bad). A couple of snow patches once off trail in the high basin (but nothing difficult to cross). Lots of Fall color is out.
Upper Thunder Mtn Lk Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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