Ingalls Lake

Mid October usually means just about the peak of larch season. That is the time then the green larch trees east of the Cascade crest turn a golden color. It also coincides with the first day of the general deer hunt. Last year I managed two ( Wing - Carne ) backpacking trips that produced some of the best larch photo opportunities I have had. This year I did not have a whole weekend free but great weather meant I had to get out for at least a day hike. Gary was also free this day and joined me.

We met at the Eastgate Park & Ride at 6:30 and arrived at the end of the North Fork Teanaway Road at about 8:30. I ran into Geo Tom in the lot. He had has dog so Ingalls was not a possible destination. He chose instead to head to Lake Ann. I recommended a trip up Fortune Peak as well. By 8:45 Gary and I were on our way. Most hunters realize how crowded this trail is with hikers. None the less, I have seen them here. We chose to be safe and donned blaze orange hats and vests. While there is no resemblance to Aykroid and Belushi, I dubbed us "The Blaze Brothers" as we really stood out among the dull colored hikers.

The lot is one cold place. There was ice on cars left overnight. We warmed up as we climbed up the trail. I had pea soup fog in North Seattle. It was then clear to Snoqualmie Pass and foggy again. At the trailhead there was not a cloud in the sky. The trail is very gently graded as it gains some 2250' in about 3 miles to Ingalls Pass. We arrived at the trailhead early enough that there were still 8 to 10 empty parking spaces. We knew that the crowds were coming. At least were ahead of most of it.

There were a few golden larch just before the pass. The real show began right at the pass. Golden larch, and snow in Headlight Basin. There was very little snow before the pass on the south facing slope. Mt. Stuart, Ingalls, South Ingalls, and Fortune Peak all had a nice coating of fresh snow. Probably the prettiest view I have ever had from Ingalls Pass. We took a long break to photograph trees near the pass. We then debated taking the high or the low trail. We chose high on the way to the lake.

The ground was mostly snow covered but never that deep. I didn't even put on gaiters until we reached the lake. There was a well packed down trench to follow. Our progress was very slow. The low sun backlit the larch trees providing great color. We also took a few jaunts off trail for views down the valley of Ingalls Creek. The crowds did begin to arrive.

We headed around the end of the basin and around towards the lake. The intersection with the lower trail is signed. I don't remember seeing a sign before. A last climb brought us up to the lake. It is snow free and unfrozen though the shore is mostly under snow. Mt. Stuart had been in the clear all morning but now a small cloud began to form just below the summit. It took us less than 1 1/2 hours to reach the pass. It took another 1 3/4 hours to reach the lake. Our pace was very slow. Way too much to see.

We had lunch at the lake. Not long after we sat down a big party of scramblers reached the lake. There were at least 10 in the group. We were on big slabs above the lake. They proceeded to sit down all around us. We could not even talk over the din of all those voices. It's a big lake. It is not necessary to sit down two feet away from others. Oh well.... We cut our lunch short and got going.

Gary had done a loop backpack around Ingalls Peaks a few years ago. They had reached the north side of Ingalls Lake and tried to get around it. They hiked along the east side and made it near the west end before giving up and heading down into the valley a ways and climbing back up to the trail. He was interested to see if either side went easily. We tried the west side and while it did look reasonable the snow was slick and snow covered voids in the rocks. We chose to try the other side.

Heading along the shore I heard my name called and it turned out to be Trail Junky and his friend. We have conversed via email but had never met. It was nice to have a chance to talk. Soon we were back on our way again. The ridge climbs quickly above the lake on the east side. We chose to head around the right side (farther east) to see if we could find a route up the ridge.

We headed around until the only easy way up was a ramp cutting back to our left. That took us up to a level area. Above us were more cliffs. We went around to the right again and saw a reasonable route heading up to a notch. Gary went first, dropping a little then climbing higher. At the notch he told me to come on up. I climbed up and we found ourselves on top of the ridge. The notch was not at all obvious if coming from the other direction. Gary wanted to see if this route continued down to the lake shore.

On we went. The terrain is mostly big slabs. Great traction even on steep sections. We went a little farther then a little farther. Soon we could see it would go and we dropped on down to the lake shore. This proved to be a neat scramble route. There was only a few short spots with exposure and the hand and foot holds were fine even with a little snow. After a nice break we headed back. The down climbing was not very difficult. As we reached the bottom of the notch route two other hikers were coming up. That was unexpected.

Soon we were back on the trail near the lake. We dropped down to the intersection sign and headed downhill on the lower trail. This was a good choice. We missed the crowds on the upper trail and were able to hike through forests of golden larch. We also had sun though parts of the upper trail were already in the shade. First we dropped 180 feet adding more elevation gain to our trip. We passed several vacant tent sites and one very loud site. We could still hear these guys when all the way back up at the pass. Ingalls is not a place for solitude on most any weekend, especially at the peak of the larch.

Back at the pass we ran into Trail Junky again. We sat on rocks above the pass and enjoyed the view. At about 4:00 we headed down.. I thought we were making good time though half a dozen folks passed us heading down. We reached the trailhead near 5:15. On the drive out we passed the usual 30 or so cars parked along the road. The road itself has great color. A few golden larch and many yellow deciduous trees. Once back on pavement Gary noticed a lot of deer and/or elk off in the fields. Looks like they have figured out how to outwit the hunters.

This may turn out to be my only larch hike of the year. If so, I hit the jackpot. The combination of blue sky, white snow, and golden larch was spectacular. I've been to Ingalls Pass a number of times in mid October and this was the best trip yet. For the day we hiked 10 miles with about 3000' gained including several off trail jaunts.

Gary Near Start
Fall Color
Frozen Leaf
Fortune Peak
Hawkins Mountain
Esmerelda Peaks
Ingalls Pass
Mt. Stuart & Larch
Stuart Again
Golden Larch
Morning Sun
Up Close
Blue Sky
Larch Needles
Gary On Snow
Ingalls Peaks
Beyond Pass
Ingalls Creek Valley
Larch Below
Basin Flattens
Fresh Snow
Blue & Gold
So Much To See
Gold On Black
Gold & Green
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2007