Sunday, September 8, 2013

Copper Ridge Loop

This summer I have consistently managed to get into the backcountry for some stellar running adventures. The Copper Ridge Loop in the north cascades is definitely one of the summer highlights, in part due to the sockeye salmon we saw spawning in the Chiliwack River. It's one thing to see this on a nature show, but it was awesome to see it in person. There were so many fish you could practically walk across the river on them (although in reality they quickly swam away when we started fording the river).

Salmon spawning in the Chilliwack River.
To start at the beginning, we met in Mt. Vernon at 5am and arrived at the Hannegan Pass trailhead east of Bellingham and north of Mt. Baker around 7:30am. The route starts with a 4 mile uphill climb to Hannegan Pass and then shortly afterwards the trail divides. We opted to continue uphill on the Copper Ridge trail and then return via the Chilliwack River Trail. The approximate distance of the loop is 34 miles with about 9,000 feet of climbing. The views from the higher elevations on the Copper Ridge were magnificent, although we did not have a clear day and I will definitely need to run this loop again (or even an out back to the lookout) on a clear day. There was good availability for water and I only carried two bottles, although once you get onto Copper Ridge there was a 5-6 mile section without water until we got to Copper Lake. We refilled with water just past the lake where an outlet stream crosses the trail, and then again at the bottom of the long downhill shortly before the junction with the Chilliwack River trail. If one really needed water along Copper Ridge, there were a couple of lakes at campgrounds that were available although you would have to go a mile or so out of the way to get the water.

Elevation Profile

Scotty, myself and Rich at the trail head

In the valley leading up to Hannegan Pass

Looking back at Hannegan Pass

Views from Copper Ridge

The ranger's lookout at the high point on the ridge

Scotty descending

Copper Lake

I don't know what valley this is, but I want to explore it sometime

Looking north into Canada with a glimpse of Chillwack lake on the right

Chilliwack river, upstream of the salmon spawning

View down the valley towards the trailhead

Moon over Hannegan pass

Garibaldi Lake

I spent the past few days in Vancouver and decided to take advantage of a free day to do a backcountry run. I got the idea from the course for the Rubble Creek Classic race which is held at the end of September and looks like a very cool event. The race is an approximately 24 km point to point run from Cheakamus Lake to Garibaldi Lake. Since I needed a longer workout and didn't have a car shuttle, I decided to start at the trailhead for Garibaldi Lake and do an out and back run. The trails were incredibly well marked and although I had printed out a map from the park website, I never looked at it during the run. Water was plentiful and I took 2 water bottles which I refilled at a stream a little past the halfway point of my run. I did not make it quite all the way to the trailhead at Cheakamus Lake. If I were to do a similar run in the future, I would turn around at Helm Creek Campground before descending down into the trees towards Cheakamus Lake, and add on the trail to the top of Panorama Ridge. Another option is to climb Black Tusk, but it sounds too technical for me. There is pretty incredible scenery in the middle of the route once you have climbed above treeline. The views were somewhat limited by swirling clouds and fog but I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Route map-I stopped a mile or two short of the entire route used in the race.

The route starts off with a long and fairly intense climb.

Helm Lake

Crossing a field of volcanic rock

Helm Creek meadow

Stream crossing beneath the Cinder Cone

Black Tusk appears briefly when the clouds clear

Panorama Ridge

Garibaldi Lake

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Devil's Dome Loop

Jen, Bruce and myself ready to start the run.
Last weekend I went with Jen and Bruce to run the Devil's Dome Loop in the Northern Cascades. This is the second time that I had run the loop and it was fun to return to such a beautiful area on a day with different weather, at a different time of year, etc. You can read Scotty's blog post on our previous trip here. I'm not going to write a narrative of our day in this blog post, but I did want to share some logistical data, particularly information on places where water was available. The guide book I have with a writeup of the route cautions that water can be scarce. The previous time I ran the loop we ran it in early August and water and snow were plentiful. Considering that it was a month later that we were running the loop this year I was concerned that many of the water sources we used the previous trip might be dried up. We all ended up carrying big loads of water that it turns out we didn't need. We started at the East Bank trailhead on Highway 20 and did the loop counterclockwise which as you can see in the elevation profile below puts most of the climbing at the beginning of the day. Next time I will have to run the loop clockwise and see how much harder it is with the climbing at the end of the day.

Route map starting at the East Bank Trailhead and running counter clockwise

Elevation profile
The following list shows the approximate mileage based on my GPS watch recording to water sources all of which seemed fairly reliable although clearly if you go late enough in the year some of these could be dried up. I am confident that the loop can be done with a couple of bottles instead of a hydration pack, but if you do want to take a hydration pack, wait until mile 6 or 7.8 and then fill it up once you have done a lot of the initial climbing.

Distance Name Note
4.5 miles Unknown stream About 3000 feet elevation
6 miles Unknown stream ~5,000 feet near top of initial climb
7.8 miles Nickol Creek McMillan Park
14.6 miles Middle Fork Devil's Creek
15.1 miles North Fork Devil's Creek
17.5 miles Spring near Devil's Pass We didn't use this since it requires a slight detour off the route onto trail 752 (turn right instead of left at the pass)
22 miles Snowmelt just past Devil's Dome on the way down Presumably dries up late in the season but good amount of water now with snow still on the ridge above
25 miles Unknown stream
25.5 miles Unknown stream
32.6 miles May Creek First place to get water after dropping down to the lake (5 miles after turning onto East Bank trail)
37 miles Unknown stream Several stream crossings in the last few miles

A few pictures from the run:

McMillan Park meadow

Lots of beautiful ridge running
Bruce and Jen descending the scree field

More ridge running

Looking at Devil's Dome (highest peak) and north from the saddle below

The route circumnavigates Jack Mt. This is the view from Devil's Dome.