Image Lake Glacier Peak North Cascades

Glacier Peak and Image Lake

Image Lake and Glacier Peak

Image Lake Glacier Peak North CascadesGlacier Peak Image Lake #58240   Purchase

Image Lake Glacier Peak North CascadesImage Lake Glacier Peak  #58240   Purchase

Recently I made a five-day backpacking trip to one of my all time favorite areas in the North Cascades, Image Lake . Located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness this is one of the classic views of lake mountain glacier in the Northwest. Image Lake is rivaled only by a few other spots such as Picture Lake/Mount Shuksan, and Tipso Lake/Mount Rainier. The big difference here is that you’re not likely to run into crowds, or more than a couple other people for that matter. My last visit to this outstanding location was back in 2000 and I’ve been wanting to get back there ever since.

Image Lake Glacier Peak North CascadesGlacier Peak  Image Lake #58248   Purchase

Due to a series of winter floods, subsequent lack of repair funding, and environmental studies, the Suiattle River access road has been closed for nearly 12 years. I’m not very optimistic that the road will remain open for long. The whole length of the river valley is made up of ancient volcanic debris from past eruptions of Glacier Peak. During the rainy fall and winter months the river routinely eats away at this easily eroded material. Despite extensive repairs there are still several areas where the road is still very vulnerable. It won’t take much, I’m afraid, to put it out of commission again.

Hiking In

Image Lake on Miner’s Ridge is a fairly long backpacking trip that requires at least several days to justify the effort. The total roundtrip mileage is about 32 miles with 4500′ of elevation gain, most of it in the last five miles. Of course there is much more to see than just plopping down at the lake so figure on adding several more miles and another thousand feet or so of elevation to that. On all three of my visits I encountered parties that did it in two days. However, I really don’t see the point of carrying a full load that far and high to take a quick look around and head back the next day. I consider three days a minimum.

Hiker on suspension bridge Suiattle River Trail North CascadesBackpacker on Canyon Creek Bridge #58176   Purchase

The first nine or ten miles travels along the Suiattle River through gorgeous old growth forest with massive trees. One of the highlights comes when crossing Canyon Creek on a very well built suspension bridge. Such a large and sturdy structure is rare in the wilderness. Horses also use this trail so it needs to be able to stand up to heavy weights. At around ten miles the real work begins, non-stop switchbacks from the river valley to the top of the ridge. Fortunately the upward grind is in the shade of forest almost all the way up. On this trip it was fairly cool with heavy overcast and fog. However, the intense humidity had me sweating like a pig while just putting my packing on! When I got to camp I was soaking with sweat.

North Cascades Old Growth ForestOld Growth Forest Glacier Peak Wilderness #58192   Purchase

At The Lake

Image Lake itself is nothing to go out of your way to see. It’s a very shallow lake which has a soft sediment bottom, and is usually covered with hatching insects in summer. Image Lake is not the best for swimming, but good to cool your toes off. The real reason that makes the lake so special is its situation on Miner’s Ridge. At about 6000′ high it has a perfectly placed front row seat view of the heavily glacier-cloaked NE face of Glacier Peak.  At 10,541′ Glacier Peak is the most isolated of the five volcanoes in Washington.  It is definitely one of those views you could just sit for hours or days admiring. And since it so far out you’ll most likely have it to yourself! On this trip I had the whole ridge and lake basin to myself for two whole days.

Hiker Glacier Peak Wilderness North cascadesUpper Suiattle River Valley from Miner’s Ridge #58279   Purchase

If you are looking for a truly extraordinary wilderness experience then spend a day or two at the lake before heading east along Miner’s Ridge. This route traverses through high meadows to Suiattle Pass and beyond to Cloudy Pass and glacier fed Lyman Lake. Nearly the entire length of the trail is above tree-line.  Along the way you’ll travel through some of the most astonishing mountain scenery in the North Cascades accessible by trail. Seven to ten days would be perfect to enjoy such a trip and you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

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Glacier Peak and Miners Ridge

North Cascades backcountry camp Miners RidgeCamp on Miner’s Ridge, Dome Peak in distance #58268   Purchase

Glacier Peak Wilderness backcountry camp Miners Ridge North CascadesMiner’s Ridge camp, Glacier Peak in distance #58317   Purchase

Image Lake Glacier Peak Wilderness North CascadesMiner’s Ridge and Image Lake #58322   Purchase

 

Nooksack Tower North Cascades

North Cascades Washington

North Cascades Washington

As I’ve mentioned in many posts, North Cascades Washington is one of my favorite places to get out and enjoy a rugged wilderness setting, and since I live in Bellingham Washington it is also practically in my backyard. Over the past several weeks I’ve made a few leisurely hikes and backpacks to some of my regular spots. Below are some photos from these trips that help illustrate the wild and rugged nature of this magnificent range. Enjoy!

Nooksack Tower is, in my opinion, one of the coolest and most dramatic looking peaks in the North Cascades. Topping out at a modest 8268′ / 2520m it is an outlier of the Mount Shuksan massif. Nooksack Tower has also been famously  labeled by legendary climber Fred Beckey as one of the most difficult climb in the North Cascades, equaled possibly only by nearby Slesse Mountain (the “Fang”) in British Columbia. In this view from above Hannegan Pass a layer of fresh spring snow adds to the formidable appearance of the tower.

Nooksack Tower North CascadesNooksack Tower #58069  Purchase

Ruth Creek Valley and Nooksack Ridge

Also one of my favorite areas in the North Cascades, Ruth Creek Valley via the Hannegan Pass Trail has some of the greatest views of any low to mid elevation trail in the Northwest. Most other trails at this elevation are deep in dense old growth forest. However, the slopes in this valley are regularly swept clean by avalanches fueled by massive winter snows. This heavily traveled route is also one of the few trails that provide access to the heart of North Cascades National Park. Aside from the great views, Ruth Creek Valley is also notorious for plagues of black flies that swarm around hikers in the heat of summer, be prepared with lots of Deet if you hike here in July or August!

North Cascades WashingtonRuth Creek Valley, North Cascades #58068  Purchase

Backcountry Camping in the Mount Baker Wilderness. This photo is from on the same trip as the two photos above. While it has the looks of a winter setting the amount of snow seen here is typical for late spring in the North Cascades. Most of the higher elevations are not snow free until mid-July, with wildflowers blooming in sub-alpine meadows soon after that. In the distance you can see Nooksack Tower and its relation to the rest of Mount Shuksan.

Backcountry camp North CascadesNorth Cascades Backcountry Camp#58078  Purchase

North Cascades waterfall. This is a typical view just about anywhere in the lower elevations in spring. Lots of snow melt streams and creeks rushing down the slopes into lush green forests. This nameless, as far as I know, waterfall is midway up the trail to Excelsior Peak.

Waterfall North CascadesNorth Cascades Waterfall #58066  Purchase

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North Cascades Washington

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

   Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54613 Purchase

Here is another image from last September’s trip to Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, since this image has garnered an exceptionally favorable response on social media I felt that I should fill in a little background on how it was made. This was my third trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park and I had high hopes of getting some stunning images of the mountain. I had allocated five days to fulfill my goal. However, by the third day I was becoming frustrated by the lack of interesting light. The weather was spectacular, warm with blue skies. But while great for outdoor activities it didn’t possess the kind of light I had hoped for. Finally on the third morning clouds from an approaching storm arrived just as the sun was coming up. Perfect timing and conditions to illuminate the sky and mountains in a warm glow. Just what I wanted!

Mount Robson sunrise Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54615 Purchase

The images above were some of the first made as the sky warmed with a reddish magenta glow. I had thoroughly investigated this spot the day before to see where and how the best compositions lined up. I knew there were many possibilities for both horizontal and vertical images. So I mentally took note on which were the best and planned the shoot accordingly if the light cooperated. This plan paid off the next morning as I knew there would be a limited amount of time before the light began to fade.

By the time I had finished working this area the light was still going strong. About a half mile east along this basin there was another spot I planned on photographing in the evening or next morning. With the approaching weather I had a feeling there might not be another opportunity like this one. So I gathered up my equipment and ran along the basin as fast I could, and hastily set up my tripod. By this time most of the warm dawn glow had faded but the light was still intense on the clouds. The third image in this post  is one of the last from that morning. The post processing was nothing more than adjusting levels and curves with some burning and dodging. I like to keep things on that end as simple and strait forward as possible.

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54646   Purchase

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54651r   Purchase

Forbidden and Boston Peaks from Hidden Lake Peak, North

North Cascades Photography

North Cascades Photography

Forbidden and Boston Peaks from Hidden Lake Peak, North CascadesNorth Cascades sunrise from Hidden Lakes Peak #54196  Purchase

What a great summer season for photography! Despite canceling my last trip in July to British Columbia, due to wildfires, I’ve been very busy adding lots of new images to my files. While waiting for the wildfire season to moderate I’ve returned to several of my favorite locations in the North Cascades. Since this is the height of summer in the mountains I selected some sub-alpine locations. Good displays of wildflowers and rugged vistas were my goal. These locations are mainly in North Cascades National Park, and the Mount Baker Wilderness.

Late July and August is the driest time of the year in the Northwest. It also has the most predictable weather. Sometimes though this means the weather can be a little too good, with empty blue skies. Great for outdoor activities, but not the greatest for photography. Fortunately my timing was spot on and in a few days I was treated to some fantastic lights shows in the mornings and evenings.

Mount Baker Skyline Divide North CascadesMount Baker from Skyline Divide #54244  Purchase

For now I’ll just post some image highlights from the first few locations since I still have tons of editing and processing to do. I also have another summer trip planned to a very exciting new location. That one will put the brakes on any further posts for a few weeks. Stay tuned, and don’t forget that prints and commercial licensing are available for all of these photos!

Pink Heather North Cascades WashingtonPink Heather North Cascades Sunset #542154  Purchase

Mount Shuksan from Skyline DivideMount Shuksan from Skyline Divide #54238  Purchase

North Cascades backcountry campBackcountry Camp on Hidden Lake Peak #54229  Purchase

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

This article was originally posted back in August of 2008. Since my main summer photography trip for 2014 will be an extended visit to several very remote and seldom visited areas in British Columbia, I felt it appropriate to bring this one back to light. To date, this trip to the Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia was one of my favorite and most exciting in recent years. Despite an abundance of National Parks and Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest, it is getting harder every year to find a place to visit and photograph that is relatively unknown and has a truly remote wilderness feel to it. The Athelney Pass/Salal Creek area fits the bill in all aspects, even though it has no wilderness park or protected area designation.

Begin original 2008 post:

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard and  Icemaker Mountain #18242   Purchase

For the last six days, I’ve been working on editing all the new images from my recent trip to Athelney Pass in British Columbia’s Coast Range. This trip was one of the best and most productive amongst a string of excellent photo trips in 2008. So it’s worth adding a few words and pics about it. I was vaguely aware of this area until early last month while researching nearby Coast Mountain routes and trails on the web. It only took seeing a couple of photos on Google to convince me to make a trip there.

Salal Creek Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Creek Coast Mountains British Columbia #17884

Researching Athelney Pass in a couple of guidebooks revealed that it wasn’t too far away. Just a 4-5 hour drive north of Bellingham. I felt four-six days would provide ample time for exploration and photography. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no formal trail leading into this rugged wilderness. Meaning that the hike to Athelney Pass is only a modest 8-10 or so miles in length and 2200 feet elevation gain. However, it felt like it was about twice that much.

Athelney Pass Coast Range British ColumbiaAthelney Pass Mountains British Columbia #19083  Purchase

Mining cabin Coast Range British ColumbiaDerelict mining cabin and equipment at Athelney Pass #17979   Purchase

There are several sections requiring route-finding in the forest. Along with a couple of torturous sections of bashing through thick nearly impenetrable slide alder. The rest of the route is “easy” hiking in open country along the river bank and steep loose glacial moraines. If your definition of easy is hiking for miles on unstable ankle-breaking rocks the size of baseballs and bowling balls! All of this plus a lengthy logging road access meant that I had the whole area mostly to myself. I only saw one other person in six days and that was from a distance. The only other downside to this trip was encountering discarded items from past mining exploration.  There is a derelict cabin rusting equipment, plus discarded barrels of fuel higher up the ridge.  (By 2014 all this may have been cleaned up since my 2008 visit)

Athelney Pass Coast Mountains British ColumbiaAthelney Pass British Columbia #18127  Purchase

As an added bit of excitement, I came across a very large Grizzly Bear on the road as I was driving out after the hike. I’ll never doubt the speed at which these animals can run. I was driving a gravel road when it burst out of the brush in front of my vehicle. It took off down the road at an accelerating speed before disappearing into the brush again.

So if you are looking for a new place to go hiking away from the crowds with a true feeling of raw wilderness, and don’t mind putting in the extra effort this area might be for you.

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaIcemaker Mountain  British Columbia #18270  Purchase

Mount Ethelweard Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard  British Columbia #18545   Purchase

Salal Divide, Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Divide British Columbia #18545   Purchase

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