Day 3: Cirque of the Towers

Monday 7/24/2017, 14.6mi/23.5km

Big Sandy Lake (23.7/9,720ft) – Lake below Raid Peak Pass (37.0/10,650ft) (WY) +1.3mi Texas Pass alt

I woke up at 6am, ate a cold breakfast of Belvita and poptarts, and we were on trail at 6:45am. We apparently camped at a “no camping” spot…oops!

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We found a climbing nut while packing up! Weird.

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We hiked up the steady switchbacks, following a nice trail. Upon crossing a creek a mile later, the nice trail disappeared. We followed a series of social trails up to a lake, and saw a few other parties camping. I had a nice 2nd breakfast at a scenic spot nearby.

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After we ascended above the lake, the trail looked familiar to me, but also strange since I was heading in the opposite direction from last year.

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The upper trail was new to Quickham – he took a lower trail last year on the CDT. We hiked over Jackass Pass, and then descended to Lonesome Lake.

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Cirque of the Towers, with Lonesome Lake in the middle. Amazing!

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The alpine squirrels were watching us as we passed by.

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There were many snowfields at the bottom. We met a camper who said he’s never seen this much snow or mosquitoes in his 15 years of coming here. We made our way across the outlet of the lake, which was a knee-deep ford this year. After circling the lake, we began the climb to the next pass. About 500ft up, we had a quick break to look around.

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And I was apparently posing for a hiking calendar…?

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Upon closer inspection and discussion, we decided that NY pass isn’t safe, as there was a huge cornice.

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So, we climbed Texas Pass instead, which added just over a mile. One positive, we got to “mess with Texas”, which is always a good idea.

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We descended the north side of Texas Pass, which was surprisingly mostly snow-free. It still felt weird hiking this part in reverse.

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We continued past several alpine lakes, which still had a decent amount of snow cover.

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We pass a group of four hikers going the opposite direction, they were out for a quick 4 day trip.

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We stopped for lunch just before joining the trail by Shadow Lake. The views were great, but the mosquitoes were insane. Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to eat while wearing a headnet.

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We cruised down the nice trail for 2 miles to a junction, then passed a father/daughter duo on our way to Skull Lake.

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We left the trail at the north end of the Lake, just as the sky started to look ominous with dark clouds. We bushwhacked down to a stream and easily crossed it in ankle deep water.

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We followed another fork upstream for a very pleasant hour – it was all open slabs and trees! It was the most amazing “bushwhacking” I’ve ever done. Then, a flat gravel/grass field lead to another easy stream crossing.

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Quickham and I took turns leading the last segment, which followed a stream uphill.

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We gradually climbed past several alpine lakes, the last two had some ice in them!

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A marmot came by, they’re always looking for food.

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We got to our intended destination, an unnamed lake below Raid Peak Pass, at 5:30pm. Nice and early! We set up camp, cooked, battled mosquitoes, and discussed the day.

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The Ursacks are great! They protect your food from critters and bears, and don’t need to be hung from a tree, which is especially handy when there aren’t any trees around. I tied it around a large rock.

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I was in my tent by 7:30pm, and so excited by that! My ribs still hurt from the fall yesterday, but I was asleep by 9pm.

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