Blanca Lake Summary
Round trip to Blanca Lake: 8 miles, 2700 ft. elevation gain
Green Trails Map: Monte Cristo
High point: 4600 ft
Directions: From the East side (you city folks need to turn these directions around and go East) drive Hwy 2 to North Fork Skykomish Road #63. Take a right (North) beside the Index Lounge and Deli. Keep going for 15 miles, veering to the left when the road splits onto a gravel road. The road ends at the trailhead. Remember to register in case they need to find your body later. Also, when I went up in July there were fairly accurate trail updates posted.
Trail #1052: Start climbing immediately, because how else are you going to climb almost 3000 ft in 3 miles? This is a fairly breathtaking climb. By which I mean that I spent most of my time panting. That's right, ladies and gentlemen: it's up, up, and up some more and just when you think you've reached the top, you haven't. In fact, you've just turned around the side of the mountain to climb up some more. The guidebook counts the total amount of switchbacks at 37, plus countless wooden stairs. Finally the trail attains the ridge at a nice, flat campsite. However, during a wind or rain storm this could turn into a fairly treacherous perch, not to mention cold. Quite a few shortcuts branch off, but all the trails end up going to the same place: Virgin Lake. You can make up your own story for how this lake got its name, because I have no idea. Virgin Lake, as far as I could tell was a stagnant pond with little or no camping appeal. But for a resting spot it served its purpose. Don't stay too long or you'll get eaten alive.
Climb a little out of Virgin Lake, then start switchbacking down. That's right, down to Blanca Lake at 3972 ft. This is a beautiful lake with a clear blue glacier color, thanks to the Columbia Glacier that empties into the water. There's a campsite on the beach right next to the falls, which roar immediately down the mountain that you have just climbed. I wouldn't recommend much backpacking considering the short distance and lack of any further day hiking. The trail ends at Blanca Lake, and getting around the lake looks near to impossible, if not life-threatening.
There are three peaks if you happen to ascend on a clear day, which we did not. (Yep, it rained, and rained, and rained some more.) Kyes Peak (7227 ft) on the right, Monte Cristo Peak (7136 ft) in the middle, and Columbia Peak (7172 ft) rounding out the three. Columbia Glacier is at the base of these peaks. The guidebook says that a climb to the top of Kyes Peak is possible, but good luck with that one. The only possible way I saw would be to ascend the ridge on the east side of Blanca Lake. Since there's not much to do at Blanca Lake, I would think this would be the only reason to backpack up there. Just remember that the climb back down is just as brutal, if not more so than the hike up. I did this hike in 4 1/2 hours, which includes lunch, snacks, and plenty of time to rest and pant.
Sorry, no pictures from this hike.
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