Whittier Ridge Traverse and Lakes Loop Trip Report

As this past weekend approached, I saw we’d have perfect fall weather.  Last fall was horrible, the rains started in early September and didn’t let up until late Spring.  So far this fall has been easy with uncharacteristically good weather (i.e. not raining every fucking day).  Its important to take advantage of it while it lasts.

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Mt St Helens from Bear Pass
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Looking south to Mt Whittier
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Where is the trail???

I wanted to do the Whittier Traverse last time I was in Mt Margaret Backcountry but the logistics didn’t work out.  Its been on my list.  Everything I read about it came with a disclaimer begging you not to actually do it.  I figured, fuck it, how bad could it be?

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Not the summit

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Approaching the summit
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From the summit of Mt Whittier

Well, it’s the most challenging 1.7 miles I’ve ever hiked, that’s for damn sure.  I went from south to north.  There are lots of sheer cliffs, steep drop offs, and difficult terrain.  The trail disappears in several places.  Route finding skills are super important.  A few places require being on all fours, climbing up or down very low quality rock that breaks off in your hand.  Rocks break off underfoot, one sizable one smashed into my calf leaving a solid scrape and bruise.  There are  several areas where a stumble or fall would be deadly.  It’s definitely not a hike you want to take beginners on.

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For me, the benefits of this hike outweigh the risks.  I love seeing wildlife, especially big game, and this area is full of elk and mountain goats.  I saw one herd of around 30 elk.  Around every bend I saw mountain goats, easily in the 25-30 range in several small groups.  I spent a good amount of time taking pics and movies with my new camera.  The views and scenery are to die for.  Atop Mt Whittier at 5883′ you can see Mt Jeff, Hood, Saddle Mountain, Rainier, Adams, Goat Rocks, and even the distant Olympics… not to mention Mt St Helens right up in your fat face.  The fall colors were poppin and the temps were warm during the day with manageable cold at night.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

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The first night I camped on Bear Ridge, and it was extremely windy.  I had to change my A frame pitch in the middle of the night.  I staked down one of the ridgelines and it solved the wind tunnel effect.

I pulled off some macro shots too on the ridge.

The rest of the lakes loop is stunning in its own right.  After a long day on the ridge shooting photos and watching animals I camped out at Obscurity Lake.  The next morning I hiked on out.

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Half underwater test shot
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Pretty decent underwater shot
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Obscurity Lake Camp with a high pitch
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Cooking beans and rice with a Flat Cat stove 🙂
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Its rad to have a camera that can do this!

Someone I met on the trail was nice enough to leave me a bottle of water with a nice note in my car!  Thanks to whomever left it for me!

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