October 12-13, 2013

Frozen Larch Hiking & Climbing Trip:  Icicle Mountains

Jackaroo Peak (7893′)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Central Cascades

Starting Point: Mountaineer Creek & Lake Stuart & Stuart Meadows & Horseshoe Lake (hike & snow hike)

Campsite: Horseshoe Lake

Side Trip: Goat Pass (snow climb)

Summit: Jackaroo Peak (climb via South Ridge)

Approximate Total Stats: 20 miles traveled; 5500 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

After getting snowed out of the high country a week before, I teamed up with Lisa, Keely, Kevin K, and Maria to find golden larches over this past weekend. We chose Horseshoe Lake near Mt. Stuart as our destination, figuring that there would be relatively little snow, few people, and a good helping of golden larches. We were pretty much correct in all three assumptions.  Due to a federal government shut-down, no permits were needed.

Day 1 – Trailhead to Horseshoe Lake:

On Saturday, we hiked up to Lake Stuart, then continued up the well-trodden fisherman’s path to Horseshoe Lake. Two shut-down forest rangers were just leaving the lake when we arrived, so we had our pick of campsites. We selected a rocky knoll overlooking the partly frozen-over lake. The larch trees were in full autumn color.

Horseshoe Lake from camp

There was about 12 inches of snow at camp, which lay in the shadow of Mt Stuart’s daunting northwest face. Early in the evening, another couple arrived and set up camp down by the lake shore. When their stove malfunctioned, we invited them to join us for dinner. (This act of hospitality on our part was actually a clever ploy to preempt their inevitable complaints about our rowdy camping behavior.)

Mount Stuart from camp

Day 2 – Summit Climb & Exit:

We awoke on Sunday to clear, blue skies and frosty air. The morning sun highlighted Jack Ridge above camp, and glanced off the Stuart Glacier. Our goal for the day was Point 7893, which sits immediately north of Goat Pass. This rocky knob is fairly small (especially in comparison to nearby Mt. Stuart) but forms the highest crag of Jack Ridge and looks quite appealing from Horseshoe Lake. “Jackaroo Peak” seems like a fitting name for this little rascal.

Morning sun on Jackaroo Peak
Kevin and Maria with a pika and wombat
Keely and Lisa in the chilly camp
Northwest face of Mount Stuart from camp

We scoped out a reasonable-looking traverse route from camp to the base of the snow couloir leading up to Goat Pass. Our chosen route contoured between cliff bands at an elevation of about 6400 feet.

Scooping out traverse route to Goat Pass

As it turned out, the most difficult part of our route was just outside of camp. We had to negotiate a field of huge granite boulders ranging in size from refrigerators to double-car garages. Thin snow bridges covered gaps that dropped 10 to 20 feet between the boulders. After an hour of mentally and physically taxing work, we had managed to travel a whopping 200 yards and gain 100 feet!

Keely and Lisa in boulder field

In the midst of the boulderfield, we passed some fresh animal tracks. It appeared to be a cougar stalking a small mammal of some sort. Both seemed to be navigating through the boulders with more deftness than we were.

Big kitty tracks

After 2 hours, we reached to base of the Goat Pass couloir. Our progress improved immensely as we climbed along the sharp crest of a moraine and then up a rocky slope to Goat Pass. Ingalls Peaks and Ingalls Lake greeted us from the south.

Lake Stuart and Mountaineer Peak
Traversing crest of moraine
Ingalls Peaks and Ingalls Lake from Goat Pass

From Goat Pass, it was an easy jaunt to the summit of Jackaroo Peak. This excellent vantage point gave views of the Stuart Range to the east, Jack Ridge to the north, Snoqualmie peaks to the west, and several lakes below—all highlighted by a thin blanket of snow.

Kevin, Keely, and Lisa on Jackaroo Peak summit
Horseshoe Lake from Jackaroo Peak summit
Argonaut Peak from Jackaroo Peak

We made better time getting back to camp, but the boulderfield was just as tedious and nerve-wracking as before. Maria was waiting for us there, after having spent the day greeting day hikers and backpackers coming into the lake basin. We packed up and headed out in late afternoon. Darkness caught up to us at Lake Stuart, requiring a headlamp finish to a satisfying Frozen Larch Trip.


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