Goat Lake


An attempt on Merritt Peak that ends as a hike in the snow above Goat Lake

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Although this page is titled "Goat Lake," our real objective was Merritt Peak. However, as we had read from a book the night before (this is a rough quote), "An adventure is when things go wrong. A real adventure sounds interesting when the story is told afterwards, but is usually fairly miserable for the persons involved at the time."

This trip was to be an adventure.

We woke at 3:15am, and it seemed too warm. In fact, there was a low fog obscuring the stars. As Bob brewed coffee, we noticed a rumbling sound.....then the lightning started. Followed by the hail.

If we weren't already packed and dressed, we might have stayed in our bags and slept like more reasonable persons.

Instead, we headed out into the darkness. Somewhere in the dark it went wrong.

After hiking for about an hour in the dark, we knew we were off trail, but couldn't determine exactly where it had happened, nor where the trail was now. Bob searched down the hillside, and I searched up. Not a trace. That set the stage for a 3-mile, sidehilling bushwhack that finally brought us into the Goat Creek drainage....and the marshy bog thereof.

When we finally found the Alpine Way trail again, we weren't sure which way to proceed. So we went back and forth a couple of times for practice. By elimination, we finally found the right direction and headed up the Goat Lake trail. It had taken us 4 1/2 critical hours- the day had turned bright and (too) warm.

After all that bushwhacking, the Goat Trail seemed liked a superhighway.

We stopped at Goat Lake and admired the view.

We wanted to traverse the edge of the lake to access the gullies on the far side, but it didn't look like we could due to water at the edge of the lake ice.

This view from the lake is a little skewed, but the snow-covered point just right of center in the picture is the summit of Merritt Peak.

Our original plan was to ascend one of the two snow gullies up high on the face, get on the summit ridge, and traverse to the summit.

Our original plan also had us hitting Goat Lake at 6am, and it was about 9. It was also about 50 degrees, and the snow was mushy. Plan B was now in effect.

Since the edge of the lake looked a little watery, and discontinuous, we opted to ascend the ridge. This gave us an awesome view of the valley, as you can probably tell from this picture.

Our highpoint for the day was just under 9000'. The wind was howling, and the snow was soft and occasionally unpredictable. The combination made balance difficult, so as we waded through the softening snow we both felt like drunken sailors.

The view of the upper basin was fantastic. Mts. Thompson and Carter are marked here.

Our highpoint also gave us a great view of the route we had proposed.

Oh well, there's always next year.

From this vantage point, it looked like we could walk around the edge of the lake, so we headed straight down the steep gully forming at the lower right edge of the picture. Oh, for a pair of skis...

As it turned out, open water *was* blocking the route around the lake. But we only stepped in it once or twice, and a little technical snow climbing (on very steep slush) got us around another bad spot.

Epilogue: We were able to follow the correct trail on the way back, saving over 2 hours. We determined that in the dark we had walked past a switchback in the trail, which at that spot had been covered by snow. Our search for the trail had been futile because the critical switchback doubled around backwards and went up a side drainage, while we had stayed on the face of the hillside. Oh well. It was the stuff adventures are made of.

We'll be back.

Mr. Natural Home | 2004 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski