Spider Meadow/Lyman Lakes Hike
For a couple of years now, Spider Meadow had been on my list oh hikes to do, but it was bumped up a notch when I learned of what lie beyond Spider Gap: the Lyman Lakes. I have a real penchant for glacier-milk-tinted lakes. I find them absolutely wonderous because they are a direct product of a glacier, another thing I'm so fond of. The very idea of being able to walk up to one of these beauties was too hard to pass up.
I recruited a good friend of mine to go along with me on this hike. Both of us are complete cubicle jockies, so we knew we were in for it. We left Woodinville at around 5am, and after a speeding ticket at milepost 17.5 outside of Monroe (state patrol radared me at 5:15 in the frigging morning!), we hit the trail at about 6:45. The Chiwawa river road is in fairly good shape all the way from the end of the pavement to the trailhead, but very dusty.
Up to the meadow, the trail is one of the easiest I've ever been on, a cool, gentle walk to the first clearing. I'm amazed how just how abrupt the trees ended and the meadow began. *BAM* and you're going "oooooh" at the views.
On through the meadows and up to the Phelps Basin/Spider Gap split is also a nice wander. Then from there to the base of Spider Glacier begin the steeps. After a number of switchbacks in front a very impressive cliff face you eventually make it to what I was told was called "The Knob" a popular place for setting up camp. We agreed and set up camp with an astounding view of the meadows below and the rust-tinted peaks and ridges above. After 10:30 am, we ate lunch and figured why we still had some energy, to head up to the Gap and down to Upper Lyman lake. I was determined to see that glacier.
The term "Spider Glacier", especially as of late, seems to be a stretch. Its more of a series of 5 broken icefields now. Folks along the way stated they were amazed how little was left, in1997 and 2002 by two accounts, the valley was a continuous snowfield. Its more rocks than snow now, twisted and evil. Its was a fairly stenuous scramble up through the rocks (sometimes asisted with a cairn here and there) to the rocky cirque at the top of the valley. Even here the remnants of Spider Glacier werre pathetic.
We crambled up to the gap to the right of the peak above and looked down in an extremely deep valley that was extremely lacking any lake or glacier. I consulted my map and realized we had mistakenly wandered into the headwall of the Phelps Basin. We meandered back to the Spider Glacier gully and went over the correct, left gap and found the right valley.
After a long scramble down on rocks, ice, a mix of rock and ice, and more rock, we eventually made it down to upper Lyman and the Lyman glacier. I was just astounded at the scenery. Icebergs in the water, the vast basin, the distant peaks and the green tinted water I had so longed to see.
The glacier itself was constantly dropping large (fist to head-sized) rocks from its lip into the water below (debris from a 1930 rockslide off Chiwawa Peak) which was pretty interesting to see.
After a quick feet soak in upper Lyman, we both agreed we were too pooped to even think about heading any further down the Lyman basin so we headed back up to the Gap and back down the spider gully to camp.
Both of us were so wore out that we hit the hay at 7 pm. I was so beat, that I didn't even bother to wait for alpen glow (which I think would have been delightful on Seven Fingered Jack), or even the sunrise. I walked back to the base of Spider Glacier to explore the ice caves a bit.
Then we headed out at 10pm to the car. If I said the flat parts of the valley below were easy, I swear it doubled in length for our return trip. But we made it to the car at 1:30 in time to fight the horrid, Labor Day-like traffic on highway 2 all the way to Monroe (and there wasn't even any construction). All in all, despite the aches and pains of an out-of-shape thirty-something, it was a fantastic hike, well worth every ounce of soreness.
Day 1: 10 miles in, 4700 vertical feet total (including the in-and-out of the lyman basin)
Day 2: 6 miles out