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Trip Reports
Trip Title:Osceola, Carru, and Lago
AuthorToby Young
GuideBookSummit Routes
WeatherSun, Sun, and more Sun
Owned Bydr_tobster
Mailed to WacList09/08/2012
Mountain Elevation Summitted
Recently myself and fellow WACer Rob Hurvitz ventured into the Pasayten Wilderness to get a look at and climb a few of those "WA 100 Highest."  Specifically we went into what I have been told is known as the Eureka Valley because, well, the Eureka Creek drains it.  This area is also where you can make a base camp to climb Osceola, Carru, Lago, and Blackcap peaks. We planned to climb at least the first three and strive to get Ptarmigan and Lost Peaks.  In the end, only Osceola, Carru, and Lago would be had. I had climbed Blackcap some ten years ago. Rob had climbed none of them and so was fairly indifferent about the objectives.

Pictures of the trip can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_tobster/sets/72157631466920814/

Below are the "just the facts" of the trip as I know a number of WACers working that "100 Highest" list and will eventually make their way to this same area.  You may find some of this information useful. And if you don't plan to climb those peaks the area is still well worth a visit. And given the extensive trails in the Pasayten Wilderness, you can put together a loop.

Trailhead and Approach:
There are a number of trail heads departing along the road between Hart's Pass and Slate Pass.  Rob and I made the first mistake of the trip right from the get-go by leaving from a TH about 1/2 mile beyond where we should have started. Luckily, we saw the error of our ways quickly and were able to connect to the correct trail by a short bit of off-trail travel.  The TH you want is the Buckskin Ridge trail, which is about a 1/2 mile shy of the end of the road leading to Slate Peak and at a switchback in the road. I drove to the very end of the road where it is gated.  I should have read the directions better, but, hey, at least it was easily corrected.

The goal was was to reach Lake Doris which sits above the Eureka Valley and makes for a good camp for ascending Osceola Peak.  To get there you follow a very good trail along the Middle Fork of the Pasayten River about 8 miles or so to the turn-off at Berk Creek and a 1,500 foot ascent to Fred's Lake.  There is plenty of water along the trail and no need to carry more than a liter or at most two with you.   About 50 yards beyond the turn-off for Fred's Lake is Berk Creek and it appears to run year round (since it drains Fred's Lake).

The ascent to Fred's Lake grinds out a 1,000 feet in 0.7 miles with a near endless supply of switchbacks. The next 500 feet is gained on a rising traverse.  All good trail, though.  The lake itself is quite pleasant and sits in a deep bowl. Good camping here if desired. To reach Lake Doris you climb another 600 feet on good trail.  The trail does not go directly past Lake Doris and instead you take an unmarked but easily seen side trail and drop a 100 feet to the lake.  Lake Doris is gorgeous and worth a stay.

Osceola Peak:
An ascent of Osceola is quick from Lake Doris. The only real issue you will find is how best to reach the base of the wide open south facing slope you want to climb.  The "Summit Routes" guide book indicates you should traverse below some obvious cliffs before climbing up through talus.  Rob and I chose to instead ascend the (never in short supply) talus slopes directly next to Lake Doris and then follow the ridge top to the base of Osceola. We descended more-or-less the way the "Summit Routes" book describes.  Personally, I think our ascent route is better for each direction. It is more scenic and looks to avoid far more crossing of talus fields.   Our route of Osceola followed the left-most ridge that overlooks an impressive north face. The terrain is nothing but talus but you will find a climber's path here and there and the rock does not move much under your feet. Overall a straight forward ascent.

Trail from Lake Doris to Head of Eureka Valley:
After returning from Osceola we broke camp and began the descent into the Eureka Valley.  There is no camping between Lake Doris and the head of the Valley.  The trail starts in good shape but eventually is very unmaintained and overgrown in many places.   You will drop to about 6,000 feet where the trail cross the Eureka Creek and just beyond a wide gully and avalanche path that leads to the col between Carru and Lago peaks. The first good camping is at 6,300 feet.  Numerous camps exist beyond the first one. Bring nylon cord to hang your food at night and when you are away from camp.  Many animals are roaming around.

Lago Peak:
This peak is a 100% pure pile of choss.  A real piece of shit and to climb it will make you wonder why you spend time ascending something only because it is taller than many other peaks, peaks that are more aesthetically pleasing and have more interesting terrain. To be fair, if you ascend from the south, which we did, you will walk along an airy ridge that has elements of "fun" for about 100 feet.  So there is that.  All that said, Rob and I did go up it.  We did not follow the route described in the "Summit Routes" book which has you ascend traverse from Shellrock Pass. Instead we went straight-up a talus filled gully of reddish rock directly across from our camp at 6,300 feet. This was followed until reaching slabs where we went left up a  very loose slope to gain a southern extending spur ridge. This spur ridge takes you to a ridge crest which will take you to the summit.  It is very exposed but a rope is pointless as the rock is such crap there is nothing to anchor to. We found it better to traverse lower on the north side for the last bit to the summit.

To descend you have three options. The first is to return the way you came. Given the looseness of the rock and the angle at times, backing down would be quite time consuming and tedious. It is doable but it will take its toll. Another option is to head west down a slope that will eventually drop you near the Carru-Lago col and you descend from there.  We did not go this way so I can't speak to it. But after having been to the col and looking up, you will have some taxing down climbing on rounded slabs and many opportunities to get "cliffed out." It does go but plan to take your time.  The third option is to descend the north side and is what we chose.

The descent down the north side is a wide talus filled slope.  Descending it has no problems whatsoever and depending on snow coverage may be quite fast. Choosing to descend the north side would be done for one of two reasons.  First, you plan to continue onto Ptarmigan Peak.  We had wanted to do this but after taking stock of the time it would take and the time we had remaining we chose to abandon Ptarmigan and instead climb Carru on our way back to camp. The second reason to descend the north side is because you wish to simply visit and explore the basin on that side of the peak and return via the Carru-Lago col. We chose this option and I will say the basin is worth a visit.  There is a very pretty meadow to take a break in, enjoy the scenery, and load up on water.

Traversal of North Side of Lago to Carru-Lago Col
The traversal of the north side to the col takes a fair amount of time if no snow is present. The terrain is nothing but talus, scree, and some boulder hopping. At times the rock is very loose and you need to test each step or risk having it dramatically fall out from under you. Awesome. The only real problem found was the last 200 or so vertical feet to reach the col and this was due to us not bringing an ice axe.  The north side of the col is pretty much 100% snow and it extends down a very long way.  Given we were visiting at the beginning of September I am going to say this is a permanent snowfield and you will never find that area snow free.  One could kick some minor steps in the snow but any slip would have had very bad consequences without any way to arrest the fall.  We chose to scramble smooth slabs for most of the distance before making our way in a moat for some more.  The terrain in this area was very sketchy and I had to say a couple "Dude, maintain!" to keep myself focused on the task at hand and not the consequences of a slip.  It is nothing I wish to repeat and we only did as we had no other viable options to reach the col.  The last 50 vertical feet required travel on snow which with good mountaineering boots was not to bad. Rob was wearing light hikers and he found that portion to be less than "not to bad."  

The take away message here is that if your travel plans include crossing the Carru-Lago col for whatever reason, bring an ice axe or other device for self arrest (e.g. a Whippet). With that gear the travel would have been of no real concern.

Carru Peak:
Our ascent of Carru began just below the Carru-Lago col on the south side, since we came up to the col on the north side.  At about 7,100 feet you can easily gain the south slope of Carru from the gully below the col. No worries there. And from here you just continue to make your way up the south side never venturing very far from the edge facing the col. Eventually you are forced left through one notch at 8,100 feet and over various minor ribs. There are no technical issues to be concerned with on this terrain. It is just a long way to the summit. The summit register has been there since the early 2000's.  I saw the entry for Jonathan Pryce and Norm Fox in 2002 on my first visit to this area and when I chose to say in camp instead of climbing Carru.  George Snelling and Todd Gits's entry is there with the very correct statement of "[Carru is] a big pile of choss." It is not as bad as Lago but nothing positive to speak of, frankly.

Our descent took us back to  the gully below the col. We crossed the talus in the gully to get onto the Lago side and then descended until reaching the trail at 6,000 feet. The descent gets easier at about 6,600 where you enter heavy timber.  I am certain this is not the descent described in the "Summit Routes" book but from various paths we saw and other boot prints, it is a way to go. 

The description in the "Summit Routes" book for climbing Carru is not very clear in my view. It talks about ascending a Class 2 gully from the valley floor at 6,200 feet until reaching a climber's path at 6,600.  First off, there is no gully at 6,200 feet.  The gully we descended and which leads to the col crosses the trail at 6,050 feet. And the trail heading west only descends further from that point. There is another gully to the west of the one we went down but it does not start at 6,200 feet.  So which gully is it?  And when the description indicates to leave the gully and take the climbers path it does not say to exit left or right, which would have really helped identify the correct gully.  Finally,  there are freaking paths EVERYWHERE on Carru above 6,600 feet. Some are more useful than others.  Really it is more a "pick your path" than a "take the climber's path."  So don't spend much time trying to figure out if you are on the correct path. If it goes "up," you are one a correct enough path.

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