Alpine Lakes High Route: Malachite Peak to Mount Hinman / 孔雀石峯

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Alpine Lakes High Route takes on various forms in the rugged area of Alpine Lakes Wilderness. But most routes primarily center around West Fork Foss River and the notable Necklace Valley, aka East Fork Foss River. Along the way, one can experience some of the most striking landscapes of the Central Cascades.

Alpine Lakes High Route: Malachite Peak
Alpine Lakes High Route: Malachite Peak

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Alpine Lakes High Route at a Glance

High Route = Malachite Peak + Turquoise Peak + Camp Robber Peak + Tourmaline Peak + Wild Goat Peak + Iron Cap Mountain II + Otter Point + La Bohn Peak + Mount Hinman + Saint Agnes Ridge + Atrium Peak

高路線=孔雀石峯+綠松石峯+灰噪鴉峯+電氣石峯+野山羊峯+鐵蓋山之二+水瀨高點+拉邦峯+辛曼山+聖艾格尼絲脊+中庭峯

Access: West Fork Foss Lakes Trailhead
Round Trip: 43.4 miles
Elevation Range: 1600′-7492′
Gear: helmet
Route Info: Jerry Stein, Outside & Stuff
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no
Common Theme: krummholz, damp rocks

October 1-4, 2021

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Friday, October 1
Malachite Peak + Turquoise Peak
Night 1 – Peak 5812 east face @ 5500′ meadow

Day 2 – Saturday, October 2
Camp Robber Peak + Tourmaline Peak + Wild Goat Peak
Night 2 – Point 5880 northeast saddle

Day 3 – Sunday, October 3
Iron Cap Mountain + Otter Point + La Bohn Peak
Night 3 – La Bohn Gap

Day 4 – Monday, October 4
Mount Hinman + Saint Agnes Ridge + Atrium Peak
Exit


Day 1

Malachite Peak + Turquoise Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

The Preface

The trip was six years in the making after the pups and my first visit in 2015. Back then, two friends had invited me along on a similar traverse. But I wanted to spend some time with the late black lab during the shutdown of the North Cascades Highway.

The popularity of this place has outgrown its size with the rise of social media. But now that the high season has ended, it was an ideal time to revisit before the snowfall. Best of all, the weather cooperated most of the time, with just a handful of people around.

Entering Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Entering Alpine Lakes Wilderness

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Malachite Peak

I embarked on my four-day trip at 6 AM with two other cars at the trailhead. Later I reached the serene Trout Lake after going through the flat trail in the forest. Then past the empty camp, I went up the switchbacks to Lake Malachite’s outlet.

Soon, I left the path before the bridge and headed northwest into the trees. The small rock fields in the open forest help to keep me from sliding on the steep, slick terrain. At 4000′, I broke out into the open and went through some talus.

Trout Lake
Trout Lake

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Malachite Peak South Route

Past the rocks at 4600′ was the dense forest that I couldn’t avoid. Then I went north-northwest and spent the next 800′ zigzagging my way through the brush and slide alder. I even tried hugging the headwall off the south ridge, hoping to find a more pleasant way.

Later terrain expanded at 5400′ and would be so for the rest of the trip. After more scree, I reached the 5800′ south notch and saw my next goal, Turquoise Peak, to the south. Then I continued below the summit ridge to the west notch at 6040′.

Malachite Peak south route
Malachite Peak south route

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Final Stretch on Malachite Peak

From the notch, it’s tempting to go straight up the west ridge. So I checked out a couple of spots there but didn’t like the exposed terrain. Then I went back to the saddle and moved clockwise a short way to the other side of the crest.

Despite the dampness, the shady side looked way better. From there, a ramp brought me higher on the crest. Then a short, exposed class 3 section took me through the grassy slope up to the summit.

Aiming for the west notch
Aiming for the west notch

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Malachite Peak Summit Views

Malachite Peak was my only concern of everything on my plan as I decided to leave the rope. But to my surprise, the climb at most exposed class 3 on the snow-free terrain. Then and everything else after here would be tamer.

The quiet summit gave much-needed solace from the everyday chaos. The only sounds I heard were the overhead ravens. To the east were some places the pups and I have visited. But I bet they were glad not to come on this trip.

Southeastern panoramic view on Malachite Peak
Southeastern panoramic view on Malachite Peak

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Turquoise Peak

My second stop on the Alpine Lakes High Route, Turquoise Peak, sat less than a mile away. So back on the south notch, I made my way down the southwest rock gully. The adjacent timbered slope had hard dirt with slick heather and duff.

Below the joining ridgeline was a massive rock field. So I decided to go up the peak’s north side through the light brush and broad talus lower down. Later at 5600′, I went up the steep northeast ridge and battled some krummholz en route.

Alpine Lakes High Route: Turquoise Peak
Alpine Lakes High Route: Turquoise Peak

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Turquoise Peak Summit Views

The day went by fast! By the time I reached the top of Turquoise Peak, the sunset was only another hour away. So that meant my plan of traversing to Camp Robber Peak today was too ambitious. But, for now, I needed to find a place and crash.

Malachite Peak looked more impressive from this side than seeing it from Silver Eagle Peak. I glanced over to the south, and it’s quite a ways to Tourmaline Peak. Mount Hinman looked way out of reach as well.

Southeastern panoramic view on Turquoise Peak
Southeastern panoramic view on Turquoise Peak

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Turquoise Peak South Ridge to Camp One

I checked out the broken south ridge and knew I needed to bypass the top of it. So from the west, I worked my way through a couple of slab gullies and more krummholz. Then at 5600, I went back onto the crest by the cliffs above Hinter Lake Basin.

From the saddle, I continued south as the daylight slowly dwindled. Then shortly before dark, a series of cliffs above Lake Malachite stopped me in my tracks. So I called it a day and bivvied in the meadow below Point 5812.

End of day one
End of day one

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Day 2

Camp Robber Peak + Tourmaline Peak + Wild Goat Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Resuming the Alpine Lake High Route

The following day, I poked around the cliffs and found my way down through, you guessed it, krummholz. But during this, I encountered an awkwardly tall step that forced me to take off my pack first.

But as I lowered the pack onto the platform below me, it tipped over and started rolling down the ledges. “Crap,” I thought as I watched the bag tumble onto the rock field at a hundred feet below. So I finished downclimbing and recovered it from the talus.

Malachite Peak and Malachite Lake
Malachite Peak and Lake Malachite

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Alpine Lake High Route: Camp Robber Peak

Amazingly, the only thing that smashed was the sunglasses; everything else stayed intact. So grateful! Soon, I continued southbound over the top of the lake and saw a lone tent down by the outlet. From the south, the sight of Malachite Peak was even more striking.

I stayed below east of the broken crest at an altitude of 5200′-5400′. Then just beyond the ridge between Lake Malachite and Copper Lake were more cliffs to bypass. Again, I was able to continue with the help of krummholz.

Alpine Lake High Route: Camp Robber Peak
Alpine Lake High Route: Camp Robber Peak

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From Scree to Granite Rocks

As I neared the top of Little Heart Lake, the big rocks slowly changed to granite slabs. It was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the traverse. The small ponds plus the slabs very much reminded me of the area up by Robin Lakes.

Above Big Heart Lake’s west shore was the last group of cliffs. So I went above it via a ramp by the headwall until I reached the grassy area. Above the heather was a broad rock field that took a while to hop through before the rocky summit.

Little Heart Lake
Little Heart Lake

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Camp Robber Peak Summit Views

It was a long way from Turquoise Peak! But the views had helped to keep my mind off the tedious traverse. The last time I saw the stunning Summit Chief and Chimney Rock was through the wildfire smoke. But I was able to appreciate their sheer beauty on this clear day.

There’s a reason how the wilderness got its name Alpine Lakes. So far, I’ve seen at least three lakes from all the summits I’ve visited. And that didn’t include the tiny ones west of here in Camp Robber Valley. So glad for the decent weather.

Southern panoramic view on Camp Robber Peak
Southern panoramic view on Camp Robber Peak

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Alpine Lake High Route: Tourmaline Peak

The way to my next goal, Tourmaline Peak, was pretty straightforward. Like Camp Robber Peak, I only had to contend with the massive boulders below the top. But I’ll take those over the scree north of here any day.

Going down required me to hop through more boulders. Then at 5800′, I hugged the headwall up to the northwest saddle and went through krummholz on the northwest ridge. A dirt ramp on the west also would’ve worked.

Alpine Lake High Route: Tourmaline Peak
Alpine Lake High Route: Tourmaline Peak

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Tourmaline Peak Summit Views

The top had an open view as well. Again, the sight of three big lakes–Big Heart Lake, Angeline Lake, and Chetwoot Lake, was breathtaking. Like on the other summits, I limited my visit to half an hour. But that was barely enough time to savor the scenery.

My next stop, Wild Goat Peak, shared a pass with Tourmaline Peak, but it looked far from here. From here, Mount Hinman still looked out of reach. Since I wasn’t sure If I could get to it on this trip, I had to play it by ear.

Northern panoramic view on Tourmaline Peak
Northern panoramic view on Tourmaline Peak

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Alpine Lake High Route: Wild Goat Peak

Somehow I thought Chetwoot Lake had a trail along the north shore. So after losing 500′, I went straight down to the water through the dense forest. But it soon dawned on me that there wasn’t much space by the shoreline to walk continuously.

So I went back up into the trees and made my way up to Chetwoot Pass. Views in the meadow weren’t all that great, but it’s a perfect place to avoid the crowds. Soon, I made my way up another massive talus to the east notch.

Alpine Lake High Route: Wild Goat Peak
Alpine Lake High Route: Wild Goat Peak

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Wild Goat Peak Summit Views

From the pass, it’s only a short way west to reach the broad summit. It was another hour until sunset, so the evening colors had grown more vibrant. Wild Goat Peak was the first one I’ve been on that had an open south view.

In my option, the area between Chikamin Peak and Bears Breast Mountain holds the most stunning landscape in the area. And it’s still on my laundry list. Then across the valley was Big Snow Mountain, which I’d still like to visit at some point.

Southern panoramic view on Wild Goat Peak
Southern panoramic view on Wild Goat Peak

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Wild Goat Peak East Ridge to Camp Two

The initial plan was to camp by Chetwoot Lake’s outlet like we did the last time. But after seeing how annoying it was to go around the shore, I decided not to go back that way. So back at the notch, I continued on the ridge through the east peak.

Just beyond the peak, a short stretch of krummholz forced me to bypass it from the west. Then terrain expanded down through the bouldered ridgeline. Later the ridge narrowed before Point 5821 by the rock arête, where I scooched across as the sky darkened.

End of day two
End of day two

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A Night Above Chetwoot Lake and Crawford Lake

Going around Point 5880 was a little tricky, especially in the dark. Twice, after going through more krummholz, I ended up going back west. WTF?! So instead, I bypassed the dense forest from the east and reached the slabbed ridge shortly.

Thanks to Outside & Stuff for noting the small pond on the ridge. But because of our warm summer, I wasn’t sure if there’d still be water there. And there was! After dinner, I watched some “Britney vs. Spears” and went to sleep as the clouds slowly rolled in.

En route to ridge camp two
En route to ridge camp number two

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Day 3

Iron Cap Mountain + Otter Point + La Bohn Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Point 5760

It rained overnight, and it continued to drizzle into the early morning. So I waited around for the weather to improve. As the rain subsided, the clouds remained. But I started moving so I could reach Necklace Valley at a decent hour.

In the mist, I went to the top of Point 5760 that ended above the cliffs. So I backtracked a bit and bypassed them from the steep south side. I got a glimpse of Crawford Lake that I had hoped to see from the camp during this.

Looking back at Point 5760
Looking back at Point 5760

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Alpine Lake High Route: Iron Cap Mountain

Since I had been up to Iron Cap Mountain, I wanted to skip it this time. But dropping into the basin from Point 6077 would eat up more time. So I bit the bullet and continued on the ridge to save time route-finding.

I stayed on the crest but moved to the north of the ridge before Point 6077. The broken ridgeline had steered me away from the south. Soon, a defined boot path showed up and took me through the rest of the way to the top.

Alpine Lake High Route: Iron Cap Mountain
Alpine Lake High Route: Iron Cap Mountain

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Iron Cap Mountain Summit Minus the Views

The clouds haven’t left the area since the crack of dawn. By the time I reached the top, visibility was virtually none. At least when we were here before, we had smokey views of the entire area. I signed the register and then left the summit.

Cliffs spanning the east ridge had kept me from going straight down to Iron Cap Gap. Otherwise, it would’ve saved some time without detouring from the north. But I didn’t have any other options in this crappy weather.

Iron Cap Mountain east ridge
Iron Cap Mountain east ridge

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Iron Cap Gap to Tank Lakes

I made my way north and got a glimpse of Otter Lake. Then at 5800′, I followed the cairns east and dropped onto the talus below through a path in the bushes. Then I lost another 200′ as I contoured southeast in the broad basin to Iron Cap Gap.

Judging by the influx of photos on social media, I expected to start seeing people in the area. But a runner was the only one I saw en route to Tank Lakes. Meanwhile, lingering clouds continued to obscure the dramatic views of the southern peaks.

Peek-a-boo
Peek-a-boo

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Alpine Lake High Route: Otter Point

Later I stashed my pack at the bottom of Otter Point’s extensive ridgeline and made my way toward Tahl Take. But before I went too far, I noticed the massive talus spanning east of the peak. So I went up to check out the ridge instead.

The narrowed, bouldered ridgeline at the start had a few cairns leading the way. I went over the big rocks on and east of the crest until they dwindled. Then I strolled through the meadow and went up to the false peak from the west.

Alpine Lake High Route: Otter Point
Alpine Lake High Route: Otter Point

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Otter Point Summit Views

It took only minutes to reach the actual high point. Right away, Otter Lake, Azurite Lake, Locket Lake, and Tahl Lake stood out as they glistened in the afternoon sun. But what felt more surreal was seeing the first part of the Alpine Lakes High Route.

Silver Eagle Peak and Bald Eagle Peak made up the dramatic landscape to the north. Then on the other side of Necklace Valley were my following two goals–La Bohn Peak and Mount Hinman. But I needed to make my way over to La Bohn Gap first.

Western panoramic view on Otter Point
Western panoramic view on Otter Point

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Alpine Lakes High Route: La Bohn Peak

With a late start this morning, climbing both La Bohn Peak and Mount Hinman today was out of the question. Later I made my way through the moraine to the north of La Bohn Peak. Then came the tedious 700′ climb to La Bohn Gap. Along the way, I spotted two people and a dog coming down from La Bohn Lakes.

This place had no shortage of boulders! I dropped off my gear at the gap and made my way east uphill 30 minutes before sunset. The lower ridge had a defined path and cairns. Then higher up, I scrambled through more boulders up to the top at sundown. Yaaaaaas!

Alpine Lakes High Route: La Bohn Peak
Alpine Lakes High Route: La Bohn Peak

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La Bohn Peak Summit Plus Camp Three

By now, clouds have sunk into the valley to show only the top of the nearby peaks. The jagged southern peaks piercing through the beautiful inversion had dramatized the mood considerably. At last, here I got an even closer look at my next goal–Mount Hinman.

Despite the shorter daylight, I made it back to La Bohn Gap without the headlamp. Then I found a decent spot facing the southern peaks and turned in for the night. But a foot massage sounded great right about now.

West-to-south panoramic view on La Bohn Peak
West-to-south panoramic view on La Bohn Peak

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Day 4

Mount Hinman + Saint Agnes Ridge + Atrium Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Alpine Lakes High Route: Mount Hinman

It’s my final day here, but it would end up being the longest. Clouds had cleared during the night, and it looked to be another beautiful day ahead. After breakfast with Bears Breast Mountain, I made my way east toward Mount Hinman.

Cairns soon showed up after I walked past La Bohn Lakes. Having a path to follow always gives me more time to enjoy the views. Of the places I visited in the past three days, the way to Mount Hinman was perhaps the most scenic. But it also harbored the most boulders and slabs.

Alpine Lakes High Route: Mount Hinman
Alpine Lakes High Route: Mount Hinman

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Mount Hinman Summit Views

Later I had my first look at the summit from the southeast ridge, where the cairns stopped. From there, I went around to the north side above Hinman Glacier. Then a short, southeast traverse below the pinnacles put me on the windy summit.

I didn’t know where to begin with the views, but I had been waiting to see Mount Daniel. Next to it was the familiar sight of Dip Top Peak and Lynch Peak above Pea Soup Lake. But seeing the eight peaks from the last few days was the most exciting part!

Northeastern panoramic view on Mount Hinman
Northeastern panoramic view on Mount Hinman

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Back to West Fork Foss River Valley

After a short visit on top, then came the part I had been dreading. Now I needed to go back through Iron Cap Gap and find my way to Saint Agnes Ridge. But the only route descriptions I had were from Cascade Alpine Guide, which was no help.

Back at camp, I packed up and quickly made my way back to Necklace Valley. During this, I spotted two people on the ridge as I slowly walked up through the moraine. But it was all downhill from Tank Lakes as I marveled at the dramatic landscape.

Time to say goodbye
Time to say goodbye

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Saint Agnes Ridge

From Iron Cap Gap, I took the lower trail and went north toward Otter Lake. But the path faded after just a few hundred feet. Then I continued in the narrow valley and went around Iron Cap Mountain’s north side.

At 4400′, I walked across a meadow that led me to a talus field with a couple of cairns. Then I went back into the forest and scrambled up to Azurite Lake. Then from the outlet, I climbed up the southeast ridge through a series of outcrops to the 5050′ meadow.

Alpine Lakes High Route: Saint Agnes Ridge
Alpine Lakes High Route: Saint Agnes Ridge

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Saint Agnes Ridge Summit Views Plus Outro

I continued east from the meadow and, meanwhile, avoided the cliffs on the south side. Then I went through 300′ of talus to reach the woodsy summit. A quick walk north put me on the actual high point among krummholz of all places.

I left at sunset. A couple of reports mentioned a trail on the northwest ridge. But I never saw it until a large cairn showed up at 5200′. The steep path later took me down to the outlet of Angeline Lake, where the water ran beneath the rocks.

Mount Hinman in the evening light
Mount Hinman in the evening light

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Atrium Peak

On the other side of the creek, I fumbled my way through the cliffs in the dark. Interestingly, I never saw another cairn after crossing the outlet. But later, I found the path above the headwall and continued up through the light brush.

I had somehow missed the fork to Big Heart Lake. By the time I realized it, I was on the ridgetop below Atrium Peak. Earlier I decided to forego the peak because of the long day. But since I had made it up here, it would be a pity not to pay a quick visit.

One last look at Turquoise Peak and Malachite Peak
One last look at Turquoise Peak and Malachite Peak

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Atrium Peak Summit After Dark

It’s been a while since I went up a summit after dark, and it isn’t something I enjoy doing. At night, the woodsy crest had made it longer to reach the top with a couple of big rocks. Too bad I couldn’t see the lake or the ridge across the water.

Back on the trail, I went down to the junction 400′ below. Then I hiked out to Big Heart Lake’s outlet with raging water. So I hopped through the log jam to reach the other side and continued. By now, my eyes were heavy with sleep.

Summit register on Saint Agnes Ridge
Summit register on Saint Agnes Ridge

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Alpine Lakes High Route: Over and Out

Exiting in the dark was uneventful as I walked the rest six miles back to the trailhead. It’s a Monday and late season, so I didn’t expect to see any campers. During this, I took a break by Copper Lake before finishing the rest of the trip.

As it turned out, it was the only weekend in October with decent weather. What timing!

My final destination on Atrium Peak
My final destination on Atrium Peak

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

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