With an atmosphere mostly still full of clouds, we rose slowly on Monday July 23. We only had to climb a half mile up 400 feet to the pass. However even at sunrise it appeared a thunderstorm might appear at any time. If we didn't quickly try for the pass, the warming day would likely cause storms to develop and bottle us up all day. So we packed up and set off about 6:30am. The route is rather obvious up a ramp.
The crux is midway where one has to climb up steeply on turf steps besides talus. From just below the whitebark pine filled pass one will see boot paths straight down the steep south side of the pass where those who don't bother looking at maps foolishly chose to descend. Looking back south across lake 2b, the largest of the Graveyard Lakes and residence of abundant pan sized salvelinus fontinalis.
Joe a few feet from the saddle of Silver Fox Pass at 10700 we reached at 7:15am.
View north of Silver Fox Pass.
The view east across talus from lowest point of pass. Below the lowest point of the saddle are small steep class 3 chutes while a lower gradient gravel descent maybe 20 feet higher on the east shoulder provides the main route one can see below at the X. One should not descend directly down there like some map clueless paths follow because it begins to steepen at 10500 that cannot be seen from above. Rather after dropping to about 10600 on the obvious gravel use path, begin traversing right down the obvious smaller talus rounding to the east side of that steeper rim.
Then follow moderate to small talus down that east side until about 10300. There instead of continuing towards the northwest fall line where larger talus goes quite a ways over low gradient slopes, turn north over medium talus to an obvious quicker escape and into the pines beyond. Joe's pic of David carefully monkeying down steep talus often using my hands. Note the heavy item inside at the bottom of my nylon shell in my left zippered shell pocket is the SX130 in its case on a lanyard attached to the zipper pull. Thus the camera can conveniently be pulled out.
Below shows the view up towards the pass. The route in pink is where we descended on July 23 while the route in violet is a less tedious route through smaller talus we made on our return July 27.
By time we reached the bottom at 8am 500 feet below, our legs were rather dangerously rubbery so we stopped frequently. Thunder had begun rumbling over Graveyard Peak by 7:45am. Meadow shores of East Maryland Lake at 10150 feet. We drank water directly out of this drainage and note the stream should last into late season.
Below East Maryland Lake a lightly used trail on the topo is reached. View down towards the outlet of Peter Pande Lake from that trail.
At this point we were well below areas where we had to worry about lightning. We decided to forgo my original day 3 destination because it was obvious the day would be too cloudy to make the photographic effort productive. So instead decided to travel to our day 4 destination at Olive Lake at 9740 feet down in a hole where any storms would be pleasant and safe to experience. Thus would use the extra day back in the Graveyard Lake upper basin on the return. We had to drop through a steep granite slab section along the Minnow Creek outlet of Peter Pande. Given the closeness of vertical lines on the topo, I chose to start on the east side of the stream at 9920 then to traverse across to the west side at about 9800 feet. Well what we found was the stream began following a deep joint crack not visible on the map that we could not climb down into to cross as the water was right up against the bottom of the crack wall and of course would be quite slippery. Joe's pic later from below.
That forced us to stay on the east side where we soon faced class 3 rock. Instead of climbing back up to the top we got our rope ready and as a team hand lowered packs over two ugly spots where we could free climb. The effort took quite some time and left us rather exhausted and sweating by time we reached a mosquito infested mountain hemlock grove at the bottom about 9am. A couple quickly left their itchy juice in me so we applied 100% DEET for the second time on the trip and all was well again.
Well we took a 15 minute break then continued on the short 0.7 miles up 150 feet to beautiful Olive Lake, moving around to a camp area at 9:30am on the north side of the large lake. For the first time on our trip we were pretty excited about the rest of a day. Our camp area was on a lake level dried turf flat just west of a small seasonal stream with open granite areas just east. The remote lightly visited lake has quite beautiful shores, a 500 foot steep cliff and talus southeast side, and a view of Graveyard Peak with its snow fields to the south.
Before long we had set up our tents, cooking gear, filled up on water directly from the stream, and for the first time rigged up our fishing gear. We were both hungry for a big fish dinner. In fact in planning our food supply, we purposely brought less packaged dinners because we were confident we would be able to catch trout on at least 4 days. It was thus work we had to seriously approach rather than entertainment as a catch and release fisherman would. Skies were still cloudy and stayed so the rest of the day with rain drops occasionally sending us scurrying and thunder rumbling above the peaks. Although fish were somewhat spotty along the shores, by 1pm I had caught over a dozen rainbow trout out of which I kept 4 with the largest a fat 12.5 inches. Great sport, many leaping multiple times out of the water, with most caught clear float with spinning tackle on a #16 dry fly with yellow body, red tail, and grizzly hackles. The tossed back fish were smaller pan sized trout all these lakes have in abundance.
One of the most solemn tasks in our backcountry experience is having to kill fish. I do not enjoy killing any creatures others than mosquitoes and house flies. However I very much enjoy eating fish and long ago understood if one eats meat or fish from stores and restaurants, one ought to not be hypocritical about having to sometimes dispatch an animal for food just like all our ancestors had to regularly do. The killing grounds atop dwarf bilberry turf.
With the fish cleaning over, I started my meal by getting my MSR Whisperlite running, heating up boiling water for three-quarter cups of quick cooking white rice. Then applied a small amount of cooking oil into Joe's big frying pan since he was still fishing, placed the 4 fish in, covered it with aluminum foil, and let it all heat up about 10 minutes.
Then I removed the foil and began picking out the backbones, tail, fins, and skin leaving just flesh plus a few small bones. Joe's pic later of our pile including his.
I put the foil back on for another few minutes before pouring in the by now water absorbed rice I mixed in well.
Finally was a couple more sessions with the foil back on in order to dry the trout flesh out some. All done I just added some salt and my feast was on. About all I could eat, Joe returned and began cooking his fish as I retired for a nap. Joe's feast much like mine though a bit less rice.
After we had arrived at camp, Joe had hiked down to the west end of the lake where the main inlet stream entered and noted how nice that was.
Thus after my nap walked down that way and noted the lushly green wildflower turfy shoreline shown at page top.
Next the view southeast across Olive Lake at the 500 foot high cliffs and talus.
A section of shore right in front of our camp where I caught most of my rainbow trout. The light green just off shore is an underwater grass species. Just beyond it drops off deeply. Note the rusty red joint crack above the distant shore.
A telephoto of that joint crack.
A fine granite bedrock slab with some plates of glacial polish continues down gradually underwater.
Our day 3 ended in fine fashion with the storm clouds finally thinning. We looked forward to the exciting coming adventure that would begin early next morning climbing the headwall at the west end of Olive Lake and then continuing on to the Anne Lake plateau.
Next:Day 4 Tuesday July 24