|Wagon Wheel Lake, the prettiest I have ever seen it|
I woke up at 5:30 and was at the trail head by 7:20, but no one was at the trailhead so I figured that 7:30 must have been the carpool meet up time. At 7:40 I left a note on the trail head sign to inform the others, if they arrived that I was on the trail and getting a head start. I was not having a high energy day, so I was glad to get a head start. I had not completly recovered from doing Mount Rose just two days before, I had been suffering from sinus issues last week and my intestines were giving me fits. To put it briefly, I was not in top hiking form.
I spotted a dear peeking up at me though the woods, I don't know how I spotted it. I tried to take a good picture of it but that was difficult in the dark woods.
I was gaining about 900 feet an hour as I headed up the trail, I was not feeling good and I was moving slow. After I had gained about 3,000 feet I had a sudden attack of intestinal issues but I decided to put it off. Just then a voice from down below yelled “hello!”. It was Doug Savage from the meet up group. I had heard of Doug many times when I was a member of the PWC and it was nice to finally meet him.
Doug told me that everyone else who was hoping to come had bailed and he had not been up Copper Mountain in 20 years. He said given the fog, that he would be just as happy to go to the ridge above the lake.. But I really wanted to go up Copper and I had my GPS with a topo map and some experience in the area, so we agreed to try for Copper. Doug had started out an hour and ten minutes later than I had, so he was rather puffed from catching up to me. We stopped at the lake to have a snack before we began bushwhacking.
Doug wanted to go the long way around the lake, I did not think that was the best way, but I let him convince me to go that way anyway. We had to climb over a lot of brush and it was a longer route around the lake, but it was not too bad. We headed up the ridge towards the long side hilling section. I had the flags that I found on my last trip up way pointed in my GPS and we used those waypoints for guidance.
|Working our way around the lake|
|Sidehilling off trail|
Soon we reached the saddle where I had turned back last time. Everything was enveloped in fog. We could not see the summit. We sat down on a lovely lichen covered rock to look at the map and the climbing guide. We saw some tracks in the snow, they were contouring below the summit but it was hard to tell where the tracks ended in the fog. Where did the tracks go up, we wondered.
|Doug reads the map while sitting on a lovely lichen covered rock.|
The name of the lichen is Rhizocarpon geographicum
common name "Map Lichen" The map lichen is of
no use for navigation, it simply looks like a coloful map print
Doug decided to head straight up the snow chute on the right and into the notch. The chute was steep but not too scary since there was a very nice run out below us if one of us were to fall. When we reached the top of the notch the route was unclear. I thought maybe we should contour below the ridge onto the south side. Doug did not like that route, he thought the route was straight up the rock and onto a ledge. It looked doable to me but I did not want to do 500 feet of that! After going up just a few feet Doug said he was done. The rock wall was forcing him to the edge and it was scary. I tried the same route and agreed. So that is where we turned around. Just 500 feet short of the summit.
|We stopped here|
The trip down was fast, Doug flew down the snow section, I took my time trying to keep my footing. I think a Glissade might have been nice to try there. In no time we were back down to the lake where we took about a ten minute break before we headed back down the steep trail.
I do not like the Wagon Wheel Lake trail, it is steep and viewless and the forest is less than stellar. The lake is not that great either. Oh well at least it’s a good work out.
I felt rushed most of the day, so my pictures are not so great and I did not know it, but I had left my camera set to manual focus after taking pictures of the deer at the start of the trail. All of my pictures are a little out of focus as a result.
9.6 miles 4,400 feet elevation gain
|Thrashing through slide alder and devils club on the lake shore|
|Wagon Wheel lake was just 2/3rds of the hike|
|Ice Axe time|
|Lunch time view|
|On the saddle where I stopped last time|
|Working towards the notch to the right|
|Extreme for a hike but not for a climb|