Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fay Lakes and Spectacle Lakes via Ypsilon Lake.

While I am not complaining, the weather has been a little strange lately.  When I parked at the Lawn Lake trail head, my truck said it was only 39 degrees!  Fall is definitely on the way already.
I took the Lawn Lake trail to the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake trail.  This was going to be a fun and interesting one, since the last time I was up to the lake, winter conditions still prevailed.  Despite there being no snow on the ground currently, I was wearing exactly the same amount of clothing I was wearing back then.
Ypsilon Mountain, Y couloirs.
But this was my first time actually taking the trail all the way to the lake.  It gains elevation pretty steadily from the junction- if you look at a topo, you are actually on the huge eastern flank of Mount Chiquita.  Things level out near the lake, and then you actually descend a little bit to Chipmunk Lake and finally Ypsilon Lake. 
I followed the trail around the lake and dealt with a little bit of bushwhacking on the way up.
Next up was the ascent of this slope on the north side of the lake.  Cresting this ridge will land you in the Fay Lakes basin, and following the top of the ridge west will take you to Blitzen Ridge, and one of the technical ways to ascend Ypsilon Mountain.  I would advise staying down close to the water to work through the trees.  It is not necessary to hug the cliffs either.  I found the grassy terrain slightly east to be pretty easy going, with only a touch of loose scree near the top.
Ypsilon from the ascent.
Lower Fay Lake is visible upon cresting the ridge, but my plan was to keep the elevation I'd just gained and work my way to Upper Fay Lake.  
At the top Blitzen Ridge there is a little bit of a trail which I did follow at first.  However, this goes to the top of the ridge and leads to the technical stuff.  It looks like you can contour from the high point of the ridge and arrive at Upper Fay Lake.  This was the option I took, though I ended up gaining too much altitude.
I got to a point where I saw this ahead of me.  Blocked by steep slabs, I worked my way down into the basin.  At this point, I was probably closer in elevation to the top of the ridge than Upper Fay Lake.
Four Aces and Ypsilon Mountain.
Upper Fay Lake.  A quite beautiful, secluded, and powerful place.  Unfortunately, it was only a little upstream and to the right from where this photo was taken that someone lost their life this past year.  Rest in peace.
Looking back east.  I descended through that talus to arrive here.
I ate a snack on a nice flat rock that was in the lake.  I had to jump out to it.  There was no better place to dine!
Next up was Middle Fay Lake.  I had yet to see it since there is a little high point that obscures it from view when on Blitzen Ridge.  I started to follow a small creek down through some grass and marsh.  I came around a few trees...
The sudden appearance of this lake, shimmering in the sun, was a sight I will never forget.  No camera can or will ever be able to capture the beauty and immensity of being in this place.  My reaction to seeing this lake was much like the double rainbow guy, minus the what does it mean.  It was astounding, and I stood there with my jaw wide open, taking it all in, memorizing as much as I could.
Four Aces and Ypsilon from along the small creek.
And once again.
Middle Fay Lake.  The terrain was quite wet and marshy.  I did see what looked like a trail, and followed it down, or at least tried to.  I could see human footprints here and there, some grass was disturbed, so I could tell I wasn't the only one who had been up here recently.
Back up the Fay Lakes drainage from Middle Fay Lake.
On the way down I noticed Longs in the distance, and with fresh snow on it.  Again, quite a sight to behold.
A small cascade with Fairchild Mountain. 
Lower Fay Lake came soon enough despite my thinking I had accidentally gone past it.  This was even wetter and marshier.
And now it was back up!  I did see a few cairns on my way back to Blitzen Ridge, but not enough that I would say they could be used to find a way.  It is best to just pick a way up.
I ended up too high on the ridge and could see there were cliffs below me.  I had to go east.  I have the oddest route finding/landmark skills.  I was wandering in that general direction when I saw a mushroom.  "I recognize that mushroom!" I said, and then I knew exactly where I was.  I was shortly after looking down the descent back to the lake.  
Going down wasn't bad.  Like I said, a touch of loose stuff at the top, but the rest is pretty solid second class territory.  As I was nearing the lake, I thought I heard some voices, but I never did see anyone.  I took another snack break and then followed one of the trails up.
Though they are unofficial, these trails are quite well defined and beat in.  Cross the creek that feeds into Ypsilon on the partially collapsed log bridge, and then look for a trail on your left.  Follow it up.  Do not cross the creek again until the top.
Once it flattens out, you will come to a waterfall, and then a second which has a trail going up next to it.  This is the way up.  I have read of this descent being described as climbing a waterfall.  That is certainly accurate in places!  There is a lot of wet and slippery ground.  And my shoes seem to loose all traction when wet, so I was extra careful here.
Upon investigation, I noticed this couloir down from Blitzen Ridge.  It does look loose, by may be a viable option to descend and avoid going all the way back to Ypsilon Lake from Fay Lakes.
Ypsilon and the Y couloirs over Spectacle Lakes.
More possible descent options from Blitzen Ridge??
There were some clouds coming in, but things looked ok enough for me to talus hop and climb over to the upper lake.  I'd take the rounded rock benches to your left, and pick a way through/around the talus to arrive at the upper lake.
Very pretty!  Opposite view here.
The other side of the Four Aces. 
Lower Spectacle Lake.  These lakes are at the same elevation, just split by a small patch of grass and rock.
The clouds were becoming more frequent and I was starting to see some of the thicker thunder head type.  It was time to descend.
There was one part near the top of the ascent/descent that was definitely the crux.
This is looking down from atop it. 
This is looking up at it.  You can either climb these rocks, which is third class with maybe one fourth class move, or find a way up the slabs to the left of the creek.  I have heard of people doing both, I just felt more comfortable going this way. 
Getting back to treeline.
I have a winter photo of this view also.
A snack was had at Ypsilon Lake yet again.  I briefly thought about going in for a swim, but the sun disappeared behind some clouds and it was a bit windy.  Some other time.
I was expecting to see a ton of people on the way back.
Chipmunk Lake in summer.
In reality, I saw two others on the Ypsilon trail, and two on the Lawn Lake trail.  Not exactly busy.  I also surprised myself by running the 1.4 miles from the Ypsilon junction back to the truck.  This is the longest I have ever willingly run.
In the end, I must say I found the Fay Lakes to be more rewarding over Spectacle Lakes, though the route to those was definitely more technically difficult.  In fact, I'd say the Fay Lakes were pretty close to my idea of a perfect hike.  Off trail, secluded, and amazingly beautiful.  If I weren't married already, this would be a place I'd ask someone to marry me.  And in reality, I'd say it's not all that difficult.  Certainly more so than Ypsilon Lake, but there are other high lakes that I'd say are harder to get to.  It actually made me think of this quote from Sir Francis Younghusband, though no summits were obtained.  "To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again.  The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits."  In other words, add this drainage to your list!
Fay Lakes and Spectacle Lakes via Ypsilon Lake:
Fay Lakes:
Upper (11220 feet): 6.1 miles one way, 2680 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Middle (11020 feet): 5.8 miles one way, 2480 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Lower (10740 feet): 5.3 miles one way, 2200 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Spectacle Lakes:
Upper (11340 feet): 5.7 miles one way, 2800 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Strenuous-.
Lower (11340 feet): 5.3 miles one way, 2800 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Strenuous-.
You'll also pass by:
Ypsilon Lake (10540 feet): 4.7 miles one way, 2000 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Chipmunk Lake (10660 feet): 4.2 miles one way, 2120 foot gain.  Moderate+.
And if you feel SUPER motivated:
Chiquita Lake (11340 feet): 5.5 miles one way, 2800 foot gain.  Strenuous-.

No comments:

Post a Comment