I had unfinished business in the Pasayten Wilderness and have wanted to come back and attempt Lago, Carru and Osceola for three years. Last time I only got Lago. Damien and I drove up the narrow, twisting road on a precarious cliff to Slate Pass as 6900ft in the Pasayten Wilderness on Saturday morning. When we got out of the car it was snowing/raining. The weather basically switched from snow, rain, hail and sun every 10 minutes or so all day making it impossible to dress correctly!

Unlike most trails that begin in the valley and require you to climb out of it onto the ridge of some sort, the Buckskin Ridge Trail starts out on the ridge and  drops down. We needed to get into the valley below and had beta with two different routes. First we planned on using the Whistler Trail which was supposed to be in 1.3 miles from the pass. But even with our GPS telling us we were right on the junction we could not find it! So we backtracked and took the Middle Fork Pasayten down (.6 miles from the pass). The trail traverses and switchbacks down to the valley for 3 long miles until it meets up with the Robinson Creek Trail (stay left). Then its a virtually flat 5 miles through the forest. At the Shellrock pass junction we turned left and began to climb up and out of the valley for 2400 feet. At about 6,500 feet we passed along the left shoreline of Fred Lake. Ahead was the final 600 feet to the pass. There are tons of switchbacks which are great on the way up… and endless on the way down.

From the top of the pass the deep heart of the Pasayten is revealed.. well it was a bit concealed in the clouds. But we could see Lago, Carru and Osceola. From here the trail traverses and slightly descends until a junction is reached. This unmarked junction about.1 miles form the top of the pass leads to basecamp: Lake Doris. We turned left here and followed the well worn path down to the hidden lake. 11.8 miles from the TH. Its popular as a camp for the Pasayten.. which means you might have one other party. The area is pretty remote though. We set up camp in a nice spot by the water and turned it as thick, wet snowflakes feell from the sky.

The next day we were before light and moved about 4:40am. Lago and Carru were commonly done as a combo on a very long day. We hoped to get at least one, but were aiming for both. We followed the Lake Doris spur trail back to the main trail and continued down into the next valley loosing about 1000 feet over the next 4 miles. This trail is not as well maintained and had lots of fallen trees and was thin in spots. Its not difficult to follow though and we easily found our way in the dark.The beginning of the route up Lago is marked by a red gully (hard to miss).  We turned left and crossed Eureka Creek leaving the main trail and accessed the lower talus and scree… there would in fact be lower scree, middle scree and upper scree.

After ascending the gully for about 400feet the way gets a bit more slabby and the chute narrows. From here we scrambled up the blocky wall of the gully to the left and traversed under a rock buttress trending upward until the buttress gave way to, you guessed it, more scree/talus! From here the route basically just traveled up to the ridge. Kt very much a take a stop and slide about 3/4 of the way back. Gnarly stuff and it was amazing how much of it there was! In fact it was about 2400ft of scree total! We followed the slope up until we gained the ridge. Then we followed it close to the top (but not on the knife edge) on the south side were the rock was a bit more solid. There was definitely mileage involved on this climb. It was long and the terrain took a toll on the time it took to summit. We did make it though to the top at 8745 feet. It was 11:30am. We enjoyed a wondrous closeup view of the clouds for a bit and signed the register. We looked back and were actually able to find when Eric and I signed it three years ago. Not many folks do this mountain.

We descended back down the ridge, partly walking and partly skiing down the loose rock. The clouds opened and closed around us providing glimpses of the vast wilderness. However, when we reached about 7500 feet we had a decision to make. Climbing Carru would involve us dropping down into the gully beside us to the meadow at 7100 and then ascending straight up steeper scree for 1400 feet. It was about 1:00 at that point and we tried to work out the timing. In the end we figured that climbing Carru would ultimately mean descending part of the route in the dark and since we could have to cross back over to Lago to descend this might get a bit to spicy for our liking. Finding our way would be difficult in the dark. The weather had been changing from rain, snow, clouds, hail and sun all day as well. We didn’t trust what the night might bring. Plus after the morning screefest we weren’t to eager to go back up steeper loose rock.

We followed the scree down along the top of the gully until we reached the buttress. Then we veered off to the left and stayed under it until we reached the lower red gully. We somehow ended up about 300 feet above where the entrance to the gully was, but it wasn’t difficult to navigate down to the blocky area. From there we easily descended back to Eureka Creek. We walked the long 4 miles uphill back to camp. We were entertained though by being in the sunshine, but having snow fall about 5 yards away and holding the line. A brilliant rainbow swept across the valley as well! But of course as soon as we finished dinner and went into the tent, the thick snow began to fall again.

On Labor Day we started out at about 6am at first light. We walked along the shore of Doris Lake until we arrived at a buttress. We climbed around the left of the buttress over some grass and then scree. We then followed a series of ledges up onto the buttress and across it to access a gully just below it on the right. In reality we kind of made the route up. The goal was to get to the top of the ridge below Osceola. Basically we followed the path of least resistance until we were up on the broad ridge that reminded me of the Sound of Music. We followed the ridge through heavy mist and snow that was beginning to stick for about .6 miles to the base of Osceola which resembles a massive dome made of scree and talus. We climbed up on black, lichen covered rock that are slippery under normal circumstances, but the additional of the fresh thin layer of snow made it extra exciting. The route instead is straight forward: follow the SW ridge up  to the summit taking the path of least resistance. There is a boot track, but it doesn’t help very much as far as dealing with the loose rock. It at least kept us off of the black rocks for sections though.

Again we had a great view of clouds at the summit. Damien and I don’t mind though. We have a thing for climbing in less than stellar weather. I think its become kind of our trademark. The descent went quickly as we managed to stay on the boot path the while way down dodging the slippery black rocks we climbed on the way up. The key to finding the “trail” is from the base of mountain go as far left as you can before hitting a cliff on the ridge. Then look for a reddish line of rocks going up through the black. That’s it.

We followed the ridge about halfway back the way we had come. We saw what looked to be a shorter route to the lake from the slopes of Osceola and cut down at the second ridge saddle. There were a few carins here, but not really much to navigate by. We followed the path of least resistance across steep meadows, talus, scree and slabs back to Lake Doris. But the day was not over! Time to pack up and walk the 11.8 miles out! Needless to say that the 5 mile flat walk through the valley was endless, but we did get out of the backcountry before dark having tagged two remote Pasayten peaks!

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