Sunday, June 28, 2015

Missions - McDonald, Panoramic, St. Charles link up

Leah nearing Point St. Charles.

Record temperatures were not enough to keep Leah and me from putting in another great day in the Missions. We drove out to the Glacier lake trailhead the previous night, which helped take the sting out of the 5 am start. We hit the trail at first light and made quick work to Heart lake. We endured "pretty bad" bushwacking and hordes of mosquitos on the hike up to Island lake, but fortunately we were though before it got too hot. It was nice to top out on the divide by mid morning, and we were soon well on our way up McDonald peak. The climb up McDonald was just one long, hot, snow slog, but we made good time. On the summit, we were surprised to see no less than three parties, 17 people, and at least two dogs climbing the peak from all directions. Popular place, I guess.
Early morning light at Heart lake.
Bushwacking. It was worse than it looks in the picture.
Nearing the crest of the range on the way out to McDonald.
Leah fording Post Creek. Game face.
Climbing the East face of McDonald.
We were able to easily glissade the East face without an axe or crampons, and took a short break to cool off at Icefloe lake. A good hard push put us at Lake of the Couds, and another push put us on Panoramic peak. We had a nice long shoes-off-to-dry break on the summit.  The ridge to Point St. Charles ended up being too exposed, so we bypassed it on the north, and were treated to some terrible scree, steep snow, and fun but slow 4th class rock on the way to St. Charles. The egress to the car was nice and slow and relaxed. We were hot and tired, but the bushwacking was minimal, and the trail back was smooth and easy. A rejuvenating swim near Turquoise lake also helped. Even with the easy egress, we were both ready to get out, switch to flip flops, and drink a beer at the end of a day well spent.
Glissading near the bottom of McDonald peak.
Lake of the Clouds on the way to Panoramic point.
Leah on the traverse from Panoramic point to St. Charles.
Working the steep final pitches to Point St. Charles.
This is a pretty good traverse, but the drive is long enough, and there is enough adversity (mainly bushwacking) to keep it out of the "must repeat as often as possible" category.  I hadn't been on the east side trails in several years, and aside from some painfully flat switchbacks, they are well maintained and generally fabulous. It was surprising to see so many people on the mountain, especially since McDonald is so much easier to access with skis in the spring, but it is always good to see people getting after it. As a note of warning, mosquitos are out so don't be surprised.  Somewhere north of 8,000 vert done in a little over 15 hours car to car. Also, there must be a better way to get from Heart to Island lake. It would make the day a lot smoother. We took the shortest route between the lakes, but I wonder if it would be better to do a high traverse to the Island/Cliff pass from the north.

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