Distance Roundtrip: 9-10 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2840 ft.
Highest Elevation: 5200 ft.
Location: North Cascades
Lettering Medium: Brush Ink
Images taken with an iPhone6
Gothic Basin is the hardest backpacking trip I’ve done before. Possibly the steepest hike I’ve done. Not in elevation, but steep as in grade. The miners who built this trail had one thought in mind – get to the top to find silver as fast as we possibly can. That thought did not include switchbacks. And to think … I could be thankful for switchbacks? ;)
The trail starts out on an old gravel road that has been washed out and rerouted in parts, before coming into the forest. The majority of the climb (and the steepest parts) are in the woods. Once you begin climbing it’s straight up until you leave the trees. Quite a calf burner.
Once you make it out of the tree line you come pretty quickly to a waterfall where we stopped to enjoy our lunch and take in the lowland views. After this you’re in and out of the shade but mostly in the sun and hiking over rocks, scrambling over boulders and crawling over or under fallen trees. The trail is less maintained at this point, bushes are slightly overgrown, brushing your calves as you walk. There’s one last large blowdown to walk under before coming into the basin and up to the first little lake. It was a 90 degree day so be sure to bring your suit or whatever you prefer to jump in the water in. There was a handful of people taking a swim so we took the opportunity to dip our toes, drink some water and look for the route up to Foggy Lake.
There’s a few routes to Foggy Lake, but the most important thing to remember is to keep your boots on rock. The vegetation up here is extremely fragile and the rocks are plenty so mind your step. After reaching the first small lake, head to the right following cairns up the rocks. At this point, it’s impossible to see Foggy Lake so keep trusting the cairns and heading up the rock fields. Eventually Foggy Lake will appear and a dotting of tents. If you’re staying overnight take your time in finding a spot. There’s lots of spots hiding behind rocks here and there. We wandered around until we decided to set up camp below the ridge that connects to Gothic Peak, with our tent overlooking the Monte Cristo peaks. After setting up camp we headed down to the lake for some relief from the heat. There’s absolutely no trees in the basin itself so don’t expect any shade – you have to make it yourself or lather up on that sunscreen. There were folks aplenty in the lake, swimming, floating on their sleeping bags, purifying water.
We spent the rest of the day sunning by the lake, sleeping in the tent and enjoying some well deserved rest. We chatted with a group of climbers on their way down from summiting Gothic Peak after a morning summit of Del Campo. Someday I’d love to take a technical scrambling class with a place like the Mountaineers and learn the ropes of peak bagging. If you’re one who enjoys summits that require more advanced scrambling, how did you learn? From a friend mentor? By taking a class?
After dinner we climbed up the ridge to a small peak to watch the sunset over the cascades, bleeding pink sky throughout the mountains. I think I’ve said this before, but this is definitely my favorite part of backpacking — getting to experience the sun setting and rising in the mountains. It’s like nothing you experience in the city.
This time when I set my alarm for sunrise all I had to do was watch it from bed. The view from our tent was incredible. Of course I couldn’t resist climbing out of my sleeping bag and getting your standard “tent in front of the mountains” pic. It was even chilly that morning – I think we woke up to 70 degrees! Overall, it was another great weekend spent in the mountains.