Showing posts with label cat basin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cat basin. Show all posts

Sol Duc Divide in Autumn - 30+ Days in the Olympic National Park Section 6

Start at the beginning of story?

  Several months ago while snow and rain were still falling in the lowlands of western Washington, I received an email in my inbox from Grant from Gossamer Gear.

  He expressed that he would be in the area for a hiker conference and was wishing to check the Olympic National Park off of his bucket list.

  In a return email I let him know that I would be finishing up my trail series '30+ Days in the ONP' around that same time.

  This would be a  perfect way to finish this trail series.  Since Gossamer Gear has supported me so much in my adventures this year,  I was honored that he asked and of course, I agreed.

Gossamer Gear backpacking
Just crossed over Spread Eagle Pass which is a section of the Bailey Range Traverse - Grant showing off his custom Black on Black 2012 Gorilla 

Backpacking Cat Basin

I wanted to get back into the Sol Duc - High Divide and see how much snow has melted. I also wanted to scout out into the Cat Basin which is one of the main entrances into the Bailey Range. A trip that I originally planned on doing at the end of August. So I asked my buddy Jay to join me, because trips are always more memorable when you share them with someone. Plus he always wanted to go up the Sol Duc.

We got a late start on Friday, since work ran long. We didnt get started up the trail until around a hour before sundown. Headlamp hiking is something that Ive grown a custom to and do not have a problem with it. We made good time not using any headlamps until the last hour of the hike. Funny how your eyes adjust pretty good in the woods if you give them a chance. We made camp at '7 Mile Bridge Camp' where we could have fresh water, hot fire and enjoy some adult beverages before continuing up the trail first thing the next morning.

7 mile camp
*photo 1 of 3 by Jay Landro

The next morning after a good breakfast we broke camp and headed to see how much snow was in the higher elevations above us. The log bridge that was disabled during the winter months was being repaired by a trail crew. They were putting a new massive log across and they were not finished 'setting' the log into place. That is a plus since a month before i had to Ford the river up stream.

sol duc basin

Route finding was easy going, since it was a clear day and the trail was in part melted out almost all the way to Heart Lake. After hopping a few streams, we refilled water at Heart Lake it self. The lake was still partially melted over.


After some Ridge travel and chatting with a ranger. We made camp and had lunch in the same Meadow I stayed in last time in the snow. Which was melted out all most completely this time. After ate lunch I took off solo to scout out as far as I could with daylight the Cat Basin. Because of snow fields and lots of fresh scree fall because of the snow melt. I was unsure where the 'trail' was so i took off just traversing my own route across the middle of Cat Basin. After going across a ridgeline finger i found the tarn that has been in lots of Mt Olympus post card pictures that ive seen in lots of stores across the state.

cat basin

After assessing my line of travel. I noticed that i was below the trail at least 500' up the hill. So up i climbed on game trails, getting foot hold on Marmont holes and rocks. Shortly after I crossed a snow field that had me having Mt. Deception flash backs for how steep it was. But on I traveled. I decided to shoot for this notch in the ridgeline. At that time I made the decision to turn back for the sake of how much time i had left to play before my partner would think about calling SAR. From there I decided to try to stay as high on the ridgeline as possible to make my travels easier. Which later turned out to be a mistake because it got to steep and rocky for me to travel on foot. I did however get onto a ridge top that gave me views of Haigs Lake, Mt. Appleton, all the way down the Sol Duc Valley, Sol Duc Basin and Mt. Olympus.

sol duc valley

haggen lake

olympic clouds

sol duc basin

Coming back was a steep descent from atop the high ridge peak. At times i used all my limbs to travel down. I headed straight down toward the tarn that i seen before, because I knew the 'main trail' was down around the side of it next to a single little camp sit tucked up next to some trees. I saw 2 Marmonts and a Male Mountain Goat that followed me from a distance all the way back to camp. The goat did not approach us or come within closer than 100 yards.

olympic mountain goat
*photo 2 of 3 by Jay Landro

pyramid shelter

bivy sack camp
*photo 3 of 3 by Jay Landro

The next day after breakfast and a steady wind all night that woke me up a few times. We broke camp and headed off the High Divide/Cat Walk. Made really good time descending stopping at Heart Lake to fill our water and had a super steady pace all the way down the Sol Duc Valley. Stopping only for a few pictures and to chat with Rangers.

Over all it was a good trip. Found out that in the right amount of snow. A whole lot of snow can melt out fast. I also found out that Vibram Five Fingers can handle a serious amount of scree travel and traversing, since i did a lot of that this week. Of coarse when used with proper stride and posture.

vibram treksports

I will be back to the High Divide this season, but will not be doing the Bailey Range this year because of conditions. I am however going to do my Plan B trip at the end of August. So you will just have to wait and see where i head to next.

*All Pano's by Jay Landro (click to enlarge)