August 7-11, 2014

La Bohn – Tank Loop: La Bohn Lakes to Tank Lakes 

Little Big Chief Peak (7225’)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Central Cascades

Starting & Ending Point: East Fork Foss River Trailhead (Foss River Road)

Way Points: East Fork Foss River & Necklace Valley & Upper Necklace Valley & La Bohn Creek & Lower La Bohn Lake & Upper La Bohn Lake & La Bohn Gap & Chain Lakes & Williams Lake & Upper Tank Lake & Tank Pass & Upper Necklace Valley (hike & scramble)

Campsites: Upper La Bohn Lake & Williams Lake & Tank Pass

Side Trip: Middle Fork Snoqualmie River & Dutch Miller Gap (hike)

Summit: Little Big Chief Peak (climb via East Slope—Northeast Ridge—East Face—Southeast Face)

Side Trip: Lower Tank Lake & Otter Ridge (hike & scramble)

Approximate Total Stats: 29 miles traveled; 10,000 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

Last weekend, I joined Steve, Deb, Sandra, and Eileen on a trek into the gorgeous core of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Deb was the trip architect, and she did a great job picking scenic routes and campsites over a span of five days. I missed Day 1 of the full trip, due to work demands, but caught up with the peloton on their second day.

Day 1 – Trailhead to La Bohn Lakes:

Starting at the East Fork Foss River Trailhead, I hiked up the nicely maintained trail 8 miles into Necklace Valley. The day was very warm but, surprisingly, the mosquitoes and flies were almost non-existent. After traveling another mile to the very head of the valley, I turned sharply to the left and followed a crude bootpath up “La Bohn Creek,” the exit stream for La Bohn Lakes. This west-facing drainage slope feels terribly steep and hot at the end of a full day. I was very glad when the path finally eased at the lip of the lowest lake (7.1 hours from TH).

La Bohn Creek and La Bohn Pass From Upper Necklace Valley

From the lowest La Bohn Lake, I wandered northward and found our team campsite on a heather bench overlooking the uppermost lake. Steve, Deb, Sandra, and Eileen came strolling into camp an hour later, having just returned from climbing Mt. Hinman and La Bohn Peak.

Upper La Bohn Lake From Camp 1

This was a birthday weekend for both Deb and Sandra. I surprised them by producing a birthday cake that had largely survived the 10-mile approach trek crammed in my backpack. Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked.

Sandra and Deb With La Bohn Cake

Day 2 – La Bohn Lakes to Williams Lake:

After an unexpectedly cold night, we awoke to a clear, calm morning. Sunshine highlighted the jagged summit crest of Bears Breast Mountain and bounced it off a glass-flat tarn near camp.

Bears Breast Mountain Above La Bohn Tarn

Deb’s itinerary called for a short traverse over to La Bohn Gap, from where we could look down on Chain Lakes to the south and down Necklace Valley to the north. La Bohn Gap has always had a special meaning to me; if not the geographic center of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, it must at least be the spiritual center.

Chain Lakes From La Bohn Gap

From the gap, we easily dropped to Chain Lakes and then descended huge talus boulders to the greenery of Williams Lake. Eileen and I quickly pulled out climbing gear, stashed our backpacks, and headed off to Dutch Miller Gap. Our goal was to climb Little Big Chief Peak (the northeastern peak of Summit Chief Mountain) and return to Williams Lake before dark.

Williams Lake

Little Big Chief Peak is overshadowed by the many better-known peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but it is visually impressive and worthy of attention. The peak’s cute name belies its scrappy attitude. The crux of the climb is a wildly exposed Class 4 notch in the northeast ridge, which is vertical—or even slightly overhanging—on its north side.

On Northeast Ridge Of Little Big Chief Peak

We got a bit off route on the summit tower and ended up on the steep southwest face, which had a few Class 4-5 moves. This was all good fun, but we didn’t reach the top until almost 4pm (5.5 hours from Williams Lake). We enjoyed great views of surrounding peaks and lakes before heading down the easier (Class 3) east face.

Eileen On Little Big Chief Peak Summit

Farther down, in an effort to make up time, we gambled on descending a couloir that angled northeasterly toward the trail, rather than descending easterly to Dutch Miller Gap. Our gamble did not pay off; we got cliff-bound 600 feet above the valley floor and eventually had to traverse back over to the east-facing slope. The last rays of sun were playing with the furrowed face of Bears Breast Mountain as we hurried down the steep easterly slopes. Darkness met us right at Dutch Miller Gap, and we hiked back to Williams Lake by headlamp.

Evening Light On Bears Breast Mountain

Day 3 – Williams Lake to Tank Pass:

Today was planned to be more relaxing, and it turned out to be much warmer too. We climbed up a talus slope above Williams Lake and then wandered up a gentle bench of heather and rock, en route to Tank Lakes. This was splendid alpine terrain with fabulous views of the Snoqualmie peaks.

Hiking Up Meadows To Tank Lakes
Little Big Chief Peak and Summit Chief Mountain From High Meadows

It was nearly noon when we passed by Upper Tank Lake and made camp on smooth rock slabs at “Tank Pass” (3.3 hours from Williams Lake).

Hiking Past Upper Tank Lake

Our hot afternoon activities included a sidetrip up Otter Ridge for views of manta-ray-shaped Tahl Lake and the various tarns surrounding Tank Lakes.

Tahl Lake From Otter Ridge


Tank Tarns From Otter Ridge

A warm evening breeze carried in distant forest fire smoke to create a slight haze. This added a soft glow to the fading light. From our camp kitchen, we marveled at the horns, faces, aretes, and glaciers of the Snoqualmie peaks across the valley.

Little Big Chief Peak, Summit Chief Mountain, and Chimney Rock From Tank Pass


Little Big Chief Peak, Summit Chief Mountain, and Chimney Rock Reflected In Tank Lake

Day 4 – Tank Pass to Trailhead:

The morning was very warm and smokey as we packed up and then headed down moraine slopes to Necklace Valley. Once in the valley, we left the smoke behind and hiked out the remaining 8 miles in sweltering heat to end a wonderful trip.


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