West Fork Foss River Valley / 西支流福斯河谷

Glad we got Ptarmigan Peak out of the way at last. Because of the recent wildfires, forest service had shut down the North Cascades Highway. While waiting for the road to reopen, the pups and I went into West Fork Foss River Valley.

Big Heart Lake in West Fork Foss River Valley
Big Heart Lake in West Fork Foss River Valley

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West Fork Foss River Valley at a Glance

Access: West Fork Foss River Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 1640′-6347′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

Earlier in the week, two friends invited me to do a ridge run in West Fork River Valley. It’s the ridgeline that divided West Fork Foss and East Fork Miller drainages. But as tempting as it sounded, I opted to take the pups backpacking.

The three of us haven’t spent much time together outside this summer. So it was great to go on another camping trip with them. My two friends stopped by our campsite at Chetwoot Lake on night two. Then they continued with the rest of the traverse.

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West Fork Foss River Trail

There were so many lakes in the valley. Many of them looked spectacular. It was also shocking to see many people camping by Trout Lake. Then the farther up we hiked, the few people there were. But that was until we went up to Big Heart Lake.

Beyond the water, there was one tent next to every switchback. So we stopped just long enough to photograph the lake before leaving the chaos behind. Then we went up to Atrium Ridge between Big Heart Lake and Angeline Lake.

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Getting to Chetwoot Lake

We had a late afternoon start. So when we hiked through to the southern end of Atrium Ridge, it was after sunset. Later, we met a group camping by the 5320′ pond. They, too, wanted to avoid the crowds. So we chatted a bit before we continued down the hill.

Later we walked past Little Chetwoot Lake. Then we reached Chetwoot Lake shortly. By then, it was too dark to see the water. I managed to find a flat spot on the tiny peninsula by the outlet. So I set up our tent there. Hard to believe that no one was here but us.

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Iron Cap Mountain Climb

The next morning, the pups and I left for Iron Cap Mountain. I figured we could at least go up one summit during the trip. Through talus and heather, we went up to the north ridge of Point 6077 at 5,900′. 

Later, we bypassed Point 6077 from the east on more talus. Then we made it up to Iron Cap Mountain’s west ridge. The greenish color moraine lake down in theog basin looked very inviting. So I thought we could go down there after summiting.

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Iron Cap Mountain Summit

On the way up to the summit, we bypassed a few outcrops and lots of dense shrubs from the north. It was my first time seeing a gazillion lakes from a mountaintop. So it was quite the vantage point in the West Fork Foss River area.

The impact of this summer’s wildfires was especially evident from the top. The nearby views were generally good but with a tint of smoke. The Stone Kingdom peaks were just as impressive as seeing them from other high points in the area.

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Outro

I signed the register and read through some thought-provoking entries. Later, the pups and I went down the mountain via the north ridge. Then we made our way to the moraine lake. The dogs played in the water for a bit. Then we left the place through a notch west of the outlet.

We first made our way down to Azure Lake. Then we went up to the knob west of the water. So I could see a close-up view of the beautiful Angeline Lake. Azurite Lake was partially visible. But too bad, I couldn’t see Otter Lake that sat farther east.

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Going Back to Camp

It felt great to be lazy for once on a backpacking trip. We spent some time scoping out the area. Then we went back to camp just shy of sunset. After dinner, while hanging up our food in the dark, we heard noises coming from Little Chetwoot Lake.

Glad it was my two friends and not some wild animals! They had planned on coming to Chetwoot Lake the night before. But the ridge run ended up taking more time than they anticipated. But they got to sleep on the ridge. Fun times!

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Leaving West Fork Foss River Valley

Early the next morning, my friends continued their high traverse through Iron Cap Mountain. Later I heard that they also went through La Bohn to climb Mount Hinman. The dogs and I spent our last morning lounging by the camp. Then we slowly made our way out of the area in late morning.

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