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Lake Stuart, Alpine Lakes Wilderness 11/29/2004

I almost didn't think I was going to make it, there was snow in Leavenworth and Icicle Creek Road had a scant amount of snow, but the patches of ice were nasty, I was driving less than the speed limit and hit a spot and almost slid off the road. I started up  forest road 7601 which begins at 2000' and headed up to the Colchuck / Stuart Lakes trailhead which is at 3400', there was about 2 in. of snow on the ground, but more than that the ice and at least 4 small trees down over the road, in 4x4 and second gear it was no problem though. Left the trailhead 3400' at 9:15 am a balmy 20 degrees, winds were calm. It looked like the trail still gets it's use due to the vehicle tracks, yellow snow, and wow actual tracks that give the trail away, and better yet due to the heavy forest canopy snow was sparse sometimes none and always less than 2 in. to about 4000' after which all the way to Lake Stuart there was only about 6" of snow on the trail, but beware lots of scattered thin ice. The elevation gain is only 2000' over about 5 miles in, so not bad. The highpoint was 5400' on the SW side of the lake. The lake is totally frozen and near the shore has about 4-6 in. of ice crystal type snow, that is where I had lunch and refilled my stowaway winter hydration system (it remained patent the entire way) . There was about 1/2 liter of water in it so I just shoved handfuls of snow into the big mouth opening and mixed and instant water. The temp at the Lake was a chilled 15 degrees. The essential things I can say are that you get the full ride, except a high ridgeline or summit on this trip, runs, creeks, boulder fields, deep woods, 2-3 hanging glaciers, four  8000' peaks, Mt. Stuart at 9415', and multiple 5000-7000' peaks along with small marshes, several open meadows, and Lake Stuart. Coming back was a little tricky, easier to go up ice than down. Very beautiful, scenic, and solitude, the quiet noise was great. I have some pics that I will upload and post tonight. Note all major stream crossings have bridges. It got a little cold at the lake when a slight wind kicked up, then you could feel the 15 degrees plus windchill. I took trekking poles with snow baskets which helped alot, carried strap on crampons but didn't use them although instep crampons or the Yak Traks would be a definite plus. 21/2 hours to get in and 2 hours to get out with a 30 min. lunch (it's in my union contract).

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