July 30 – August 2, 2009

Mid-Summer Climbing Trip No. 7:  Lower Skagit Mountains

Bacon–Hagan–Blum Traverse:  Watson Lakes to Blum Lakes

Bacon Peak (7061’)
Mount Blum (7680’)

——————- Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Northwestern Cascades

Starting Point: Watson Lakes Trailhead (Anderson Creek Road)

Way Points: Watson Lakes & Watson Glacier & Diobsud Saddle & Diobsud Lakes & South Bacon Basin & Bacon Peak summit & Diobsud Glacier & Green Lake Glacier & Bacon Tarns & North Bacon Ridge & Point 5432 & Point 5565 & Hidden Lake & Hagan Lake & Southeast Hagan Col & Hagan Glacier & North Hagan Notch & Berdeen Lake Glacier & Blum–Hagan Col & South Blum Ridge & Southwest Blum slope & Upper Blum Lake & Middle Blum Lake & Blum Creek Ridge & Blum Creek & Baker River Bridge (hike & climb & bushwhack)

Ending Point: Baker River Road blockage

Campsites: Diobsud Lakes & Hidden Lake & Middle Blum Lake

Summit: Bacon Peak (climb via South Basin—South Ridge; descent via Green Lake Glacier—North Ridge)

Summit: Mt. Blum (climb via Southwest Slope—South Chute—South Slope)

Approximate Stats: 20 miles traveled; 11,800 feet gained; 15,400 feet lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

For our seventh annual Mid-Summer Climbing Trip, Jon, Eric, Adam, Todd, and I completed the Bacon-Hagan-Blum Traverse. This was particularly satisfying for me because I’d been waylaid by a broken ankle after getting about halfway through the Blum-Hagan-Bacon Traverse in 2007.  This time, I figured I could best redress my past misfeasance by traveling in the opposite direction, thereby sneaking up on my demons from behind. It wasn’t easy, but it worked!

Day 1- Watson Lakes Trailhead to Diobsud Lakes:

After dropping a vehicle far up the Baker River Road (a fallen tree prevented access to the Baker River TH at the end of the road), we drove back to the Watson Lakes TH for a graciously high starting elevation of 4200 feet.

We began hiking up the trail shortly past noon in 90-degree heat. There was general trepidation about beginning a traverse during a record-setting heat wave in Western Washington, but a dip in Watson Lake momentarily quenched those concerns. More importantly, it set a tone for our entire four-day trip: we would never pass up a swimmable lake or tarn, regardless of schedule.

With this new attitude, it felt more like a “lake-bagging” trip than a “peak-bagging” trip—a first for all of us! The next 4 hours found us traversing rock slabs, scree, and snowfields below Mt. Watson and over a 300-foot saddle, then down heather to the upper pair of the four Diobsud Lakes (6.0 hours from TH).

Bacon Peak and Diobsud Lakes

We made camp near the northern lake and quickly jumped in. Dinner that night was shared with aggressive blackflies and mosquitoes.

Day 2 – Diobsud Lakes to Bacon Peak Summit to Hidden Lake:

Today’s goal was to get up and over Bacon Peak, from south to north. This turned out to be a day of great contrasts. The entire morning involved unpleasant sidehilling through slippery vegetation, groveling through brush and cedar thickets, slithering up mossy slabs, and clawing up super-steep dirt gullies with much loose rock. (When the snow melts off Bacon’s south side, it reveals some ugly terrain beneath!)

Scrambling the upper Bacon gully

We were approaching the limit of our tolerance when we finally crested the south ridge around noon. From there, we climbed wide-open snowslopes to the summit (5.9 hours from camp).

Climbing Diobsud Creek Glacier

In the register, I soberly read through succession of entry names for early 2007: Fay P…Steve F and Beth B…Kevin K, John M, Tony D and George W—all climbers who played a prominent role in my misadventures that year.

View north from Green Lake Glacier

Leaving the summit behind, we quickly descended more snowslopes to the “Bacon Tarns,” a cluster of beautiful glacial-melt ponds on a rock bench below the Green Lake Glacier. The clear, frigid water ensured a very short but refreshing dip.

Descending Green Lake Glacier
Swim break at Bacon Tarns

The remainder of the afternoon was spent going down and up and down and up and down the exquisite heatherland on Bacon Peak’s north ridge, high above the unearthly blue expanse of Green Lake.

Green Lake from Bacon Peak meadows

In early evening, we reached a small 4553-foot lake in the lowest saddle between Bacon Peak and Mt. Hagan (11.8 hours from Diobsud Lakes). “Hidden Lake” would be an appropriate name for this feature, considering that it drains into Hidden Creek (the USGS map incorrectly shows it draining to Bacon Creek) and considering its very remote location. The warm water demanded a long swim to wash off our day’s toil…and escape the hungry bugs.

Day 3 – Hidden Lake to Mt. Blum Summit to Blum Lakes:

We bushwhacked northward up steep forest slopes, past two cliff bands, until reaching gorgeous heather and grassland on the southern flank of Mt. Hagan. A little farther up, we stopped for a splash in a small, picturesque lake surrounded by white sandstone boulders. It wasn’t really very hot yet, but we were lake-baggers now!

Bacon Peak and Green Lake from Mount Hagan meadows

Continuing up a broad scree and talus couloir, we popped through a col near the southwestern end of Mt. Hagan. We then donned crampons and made a wide arc around the ice apron of the Hagan Glacier.

Climbing Hagan Glacier

Although a climb of Hagan’s main peak had been on our agenda, we passed it up due to time concerns. Instead, we ducked through a dike-notch at the glacier’s northern edge, then traversed firm snow to reach a rotten bedrock gully (Class 3) that led back up to the Hagan-Blum crest.

Mount Hagan and the group at the ridge col
Mount Blum from north Hagan dike notch

A long but easy traverse over gentle snowfields and boulderfields got us to the southwestern flank of Mt. Blum. There, we dropped packs and hurried up talus slopes, a Class 3 rock slot, and moderate snowfields
to the roomy summit.

This was my third summit visit, and probably my most memorable. The evening light cast long shadows across our route from Bacon Peak, which appeared remarkably distant. I think that’s when my feet first started to throb.

Glissading down Mount Blum

We quickly returned to our packs, then descended past the rock bowl of upper Blum Lake to reach the heather bowl of middle Blum Lake (12.4 hours from Hidden Lake). Despite the chilly water, we did take a much-needed swim here.

Mount Baker sunset from Upper Blum Lake

Day 4 – Blum Lakes to Baker River Road:

This was a day that looked easy on paper but turned out to be frustratingly long and painful. We contoured around to the west-trending crest of Blum Creek ridge at 5100 feet, hoping to find the faint fisherman’s path. Several hours and two handline rappels later, we stumbled across the path…then lost it…then regained it. This process repeated itself numerous times until we reached the most-welcome Baker River valley bottom, feeling drained and parched from the hot, humid, waterless descent.

We hobbled into the Baker River TH in midafternoon heat (6.7 hours from Blum Lake) and immediately threw ourselves into the river. Our adventure was capped off by a round of bacon burgers (naturally!) in Burlington that evening.

——————– Route Maps (click to enlarge) ——————–

——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–