Today we hiked up and over Spider Gap via the Lyman Lakes Trail and Spider Gap Snowfield Route, near the Upper Lyman Lakes and Lyman Glacier, climbing up a snow-filled chute and glissading down the Spider Glacier. It was a short, yet challenging and beautiful hike.
That morning, we intended to get up super-early, so that we could pack up in the dark and leave by dawn. But grand plans and intentions weren’t enough. The eight mile day we’d had yesterday must have taken a bigger toll than we thought, because we didn’t bother waking up until long past dawn. We were pathetic, I know. But it was all OK, as we only had three miles to hike to reach our next campsite.
We packed everything, ate some breakfast, and started hiking. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and there was a gentle breeze from the west. We re-joined the Lyman Lakes Trail and headed south, downhill off the ridge toward the Upper Lyman Lakes. It felt good to hike downhill, but we knew it wouldn’t last. Spider Gap, at 7100 feet elevation, was about a thousand feet higher than the basin, and it looked like half of the climb would be on snow. Snow! That was exciting. This day seemed certain to become one of the “highlight” days of our trek.
We hiked past the side-trail to the official campsite, and saw the two men we’d met yesterday. They were still packing up their gear, so we figured that we’d be the first ones to hit the snow slope. It looked like they were just as lazy waking up as we were.
Down in the basin the trail was essentially flat. It wandered through rocky piles of glacial moraine and generally stayed on the east side, just below a long apron of talus below a line of granite cliffs. The rockfall was a colorful mix of red and white granite. Meanwhile, off to the southwest, the Lyman Glacier was shining white in the morning sun. As we got closer, we could see that it was cracking and calving near the bottom as it met with the uppermost of the Lyman Lakes. The floating icebergs that we’d seen two days ago from the Cloudy Peak summit had already melted.
The flat section of trail ended as we came upon a tall cairn of stacked rocks. One mile of three was finished already! Too bad we had a 20% Grade to climb for the next mile. We took a break and ate some snack. I took some photos of the glacier.
The huge cairn marked the spot where the obvious trail ended. After this the route climbed on a slope of tumbled rocks, and it was difficult to be certain precisely which way to go. Besides up, of course. We had spoken to other hikers the day before, and they assured us that there were smaller cairns, or “ducks” that we would be able to follow, and that’s what we kept our eyes out for. They were easy enough to find, with the main problem being that more than one helpful hiker had placed them along the route, and not always on the same obvious path. But that was OK. The real truth of the matter was that the route mainly followed along a rocky watercourse that originated in the melting snow high above.
The higher you climb the better the views. That’s the rule, and this was no exception. The other rule is: If you want to get warm, start climbing. And soon enough Vicki was down to her final layer of shorts and a t-shirt. The sun was climbing, too, and Vicki began grumbling a bit, saying that we should have gotten up earlier instead of being so lazy. I decided to shut up and keep a low profile. If I foolishly mentioned the fact that she had been the primary slugabed, then her mood would get a whole lot worse, really fast. Still, it was hard to be grumpy with views like these.
Video looking up at Spider Gap following its outlet stream toward the Upper Lyman Lakes
GoPro video panorama of us above upper Lyman Lake on the way to Spider Gap
GoPro video panorama
The small creek headed off to one side, while we climbed a final steep slope of loose talus and scree (which had an obvious cairn at the top) and eventually reached the snow line. This was what we had been waiting for! It was time to unpack the two sets of Microspikes that I had been patiently carrying all over the wilderness for the past nine days.
And that meant that it was time for a break.
GoPro video panorama as we climb the snowfield on the way to Spider Gap
Windy noisy video as we watch some rockfall come down nearby
GoPro video of the snowfield on the north side of Spider Gap as we continue climbing
GoPro video panorama from just north of Spider Gap looking back at the snowfield we just climbed
Video of Vicki as she immediately decides to glissade down Spider Glacier from the Spider Gap summit
GoPro video panorama and first-person glissade as I slide down the Spider Glacier
Vicki takes a video of me glissading downhill toward her on the Spider Glacier
GoPro video panorama of the Spider Glacier
Panorama video of the outflow stream from the Spider Glacier as it heads steeply down to Spider Meadow
GoPro video panorama looking down on Spider Meadow from our campsite at Larch Knob
For a topographic map of the hike see my CalTopo Page
For LOTS more photos of the trek see my Flickr Page