Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass

One of my favorite parts about playing in the mountains is planning the next trip. I love staring at maps, reading trip reports, drawing lines on Caltopo, and generally geeking out about all the possibilities.

But sometimes a last-minute opportunity presents itself and you just gotta go with it. On Wednesday, Michael Havrda asked if I could help with transport for a backpacking trip he was taking from Rainy Pass to Hart’s Pass the very next day. I knew that section of the Pacific Crest Trail was especially scenic, and that I wanted to see it eventually.  So after checking with my fam, I said yes, and Michael and I agreed to do a key/car swap. We only live 5 minutes from each other, so we met up on Wednesday night and traded cars. The next day he drove my car to Rainy Pass, and I drove his car to Hart’s Pass. Then we both started hiking towards our own vehicles.

I ended up working most of Thursday morning, and didn’t get to the trailhead until 4:15 pm, but I figured that was probably for the best. Western Washington was in the middle of a heat advisory with temps in the mid-90s. By the time I hit the trail, the sun and the temps were dropping, which made for a comfortable, lovely evening of hiking.

Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass is approx 30 miles. I’d thought about doing it in one push, but there were some long sections of trail that I actually wanted to see. Yknow, in the daylight. Plus my legs were carrying some fatigue from previous trips, and I knew they’d be grateful for a little rest part-way through the journey. Therefore I packed a bivy, sleeping quilt, and ground pad, and planned to crash for 4-5 hours during the night.

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Smoke from a fire on the horizon

I ended up timing it perfectly. I didn’t do any hiking in the heat of the day. I had plenty of daylight to appreciate all the views between Harts Pass and Brush Creek. I reached the valley of the West Fork Methow River just as it was starting to get dark, and cruised along the valley floor, enjoying the wooded trail by headlamp.

 

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Endless mellow switchbacks descending to Glacier Pass

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Sunset on my way towards Brush Creek

 

By 10:45 pm I was ~18 miles in at Methow Pass. The moon was bright white, illuminating the outline of peaks around me, and I could tell I was starting a section of trail that I’d want to see in the daylight. Plus I was getting tired. (It’s an interesting example of the mental component of endurance sport: I’ve run through the night many times. However, this time I’d packed my full sleeping kit and given myself permission to camp – and therefore I felt like I needed to stop and sleep.)

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Methow Pass in the moonlight

Anyway, I found a flat spot and snuggled into my bivy. Temps were probably in the 40s, which was refreshing after all the hot temps in Seattle lately. The moon was incredibly bright, I could see all the stars above me, and I was a happy camper, asleep by 11:30.

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Red arrow marks the bivy spot

I woke up occasionally throughout the night as the moon made its way across the sky, and finally decided to get up for good at 4:30 am. I took my time making coffee, eating oatmeal, and enjoying the fact that I had Methow Pass all to myself. Finally around 6 am I started hiking again.

Snowy Lakes are a short detour off the PCT right after Methow Pass. I’d heard they were a must-see, plus I was pretty sure Michael’s group was camped up there, so I decided to head up to the lakes as the sun rose.

The detour to Snowy Lakes was indeed worth it. It’s only 1/2 mile to the first lake, and although the spur trail is steeper than the PCT, it’s really not bad. The lakes were gorgeous, and as I was taking photos of Lower Snowy Lake I even saw Michael on a ridge above me taking pics from Upper Snowy Lake! I made my way up to their camp and chatted with Michael and his friends, all of whom were super friendly. It was a nice little “hit” of social time in the middle of a solo trip. After about 30 minutes, I headed back to the PCT and southward.

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Alpenglow on the peaks behind Snowy Lakes

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Golden Horn and Lower Snowy Lake

At this point I’d started getting a blister under a callous on the ball of my foot. It turns out that just because my feet are used to jogging long distances, doesn’t mean they are used to walking long distances. I actually started trotting a bit just to take some pressure off my feet and use different muscles. I also stopped frequently to take photos and generally Oooh and Ahhh at the views. Day 2 ended up at approx 12 miles, including the detour up to Snowy Lakes.

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My favorite time of day

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Moonset at sunrise

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More alpenglow

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Last look back at Methow Pass as the sun started to hit Mt Hardy

I was back at my car before noon, and home by 3 pm. Thanks to Michael for giving me an excuse to check out this part of the PCT!

 

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4 Responses to Hart’s Pass to Rainy Pass

  1. tropicana4 says:

    I know it’s no big deal for you, but this is awesome, and I’m so impressed. What a beautiful solo trip!

    • Thanks Ana, it was indeed a beautiful route! I don’t mean to make it sound like “no big deal” – every time I’m out in scenery like this (especially the North Cascades) I wander around with a grin on my face, and say “Holy CRAP” re: the views at least 5 times an hour.

  2. Alexei says:

    Absolutely nailed it! Great stuff, Jessica.

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