Pitamakan-Dawson Backpack, Aug 13-15 in 2021 Oldman to No Name Lake, Dawson Pass

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Pitamakan-Dawson Backpack, Aug 13-15 in 2021 Oldman to No Name Lake, Dawson Pass

Post by tibber »

with Teapot57, my report as posted on hikearizona.com:

After a restful nite and a good breakfast, we had a big climb ahead of us. We started going about 7:45AM on a lovely morning. We walked through the silver trees for a bit before we came to a clearing where the side of the mountain about smacks you in the face as you look nearly straight up to where the Pass is. We all know there are switchbacks involved and thank the switchback Lord for them before we proceed. We will be going up about 750 feet in a mile. And once we're at the pass, we'll still have another 500 feet to the Pitamakan Overlook in about 1/2 mile.

Fortunately, this is one of the more beautiful "ups" :) one will ever hike I think. Almost as pretty as the hike to Triple Divide Pass in the valley to the north of us. As you go higher your view of the lake gets larger. And the geology and flora along the way is entertaining. When you start heading east, of course, you have a smoky view of the Dry Fork Valley. The smoke was getting pretty intense which made for a fiery sun rising into the air. And even though it's sad to see all the silver (dead) trees, it is rather artistic as we look down at the area around Oldman (Old Man) Lake.

I started counting the switchbacks, the first five were itsy bitsy. One of them I thot I was filming but I wasn't; probably number seven, "come eleven", as it was long at 1/4 mile with 300 feet of gain and not that easy. You can see number seven on the topo map. Number eight, "don't be late", actually had a bit of a downhill which didn't please us cuz our objective is UP. However, it was slightly longer than seven at 1/3 of a mile with 100 foot of gain including the downhill. Switchbacks 9 and 10 were fairly short before 11 took its time getting us to the Pass.

When Wendy (@writelots) and I were here in 2018, we did not come to this area where you almost come out at the top of the Pass. Well, the view down to the lakes is stunning; just too bad it was smoky. But still the colors of the lakes below you is impressive :D . We took the obligatory pictures before finishing off the last of this part of the hike to the signs that direct you to Cut Bank Pass, Morningstar Lake and Pitamakan Overlook. We decided to take a break where Wendy and I sat in 2018 with a view down to Oldman Lake as the views to the north were loaded with smoke. Needless to say, I was glad I got to see the Cut Bank Valley in all its glory https://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=50863.

We saw quite a few hikers and talked with a few. One of them was hiking with an artificial leg and they were doing the whole loop as a day hike. We finally decided to tackle the last of the up along the north side of Mount Morgan. It's a narrow trail for the angle, but despite the scree-look, it is not too slippery. There are a few flowers here and there sticking out of the rocks that I tried to document.

We joined up with three of the hikers we had met at the Pass and talked with them for a bit before heading on as it was a bit on the windy side which is quite normal for this area. We would be lucky that today, doing this traverse from the Overlook to Dawson Pass wasn't overwhelming with what can seem like gale force winds, except when you got up on the viewpoints and saddles along the way. This part of the hike is notorious for crazy winds and many have turned back.

Sadly the smoke would interfere with any kind of distant views. In fact, it took me awhile to find the beautiful Nyack Lakes way below us in the Nyack Valley. I almost wondered if they had dried up but eventually I found them and did some zooms. I saw some big snow patches to the NW but it was so smoky, my camera wouldn't focus :o . Even the normally spectacular views to the south were shrouded in smoke as I could barely make out Mount St Nicholas.

It's quite the trek across the west side of Mount Morgan; longer than you think. You get up on two different saddles that give you some normally fantastic views down to Oldman Lake but once again, the smoke :( . One didn't linger long on these saddles because of the wind which you would think would blow the smoke out; just too much of it. Across the way Mount Phillips looms large above the Nyack Valley. There is still a large snowfield on its side that once was Lupher Glacier. These snow masses always get my attention. Soon we were at Dawson Pass where all of a sudden the wind almost stopped; but it was just a tease as we made our way up and over the small hill before heading down a couple switchbacks to the head of the Bighorn Basin.

We stopped and had lunch within the shelter of some short rock walls that had been built so that was nice. There was still quite a bit of people traffic, at least I thot so. The last time I was here was 2013 when I took a ranger-guided hike with the notorious Ranger Pat Hagan who snowboot skied down a snowfield https://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=356771 and I have video. (FYI - Wendy and I ran into Ranger Hagan in 2018 on our hike back from Upper Two Medicine and we also saw him on this trip but at Two Medicine Ranger Station a couple days prior).

As we started again we noticed a few hikers heading over to summit Mount Helen. Looks like a fairly easy summit but pretty narrow traverse to it. Now, we had to go down about 1700 feet in 2 1/4 miles. It was smoky here too which really obstructed the views into the valley below us that included Two Medicine and No Name Lake. As we made our way down this rather steep trail in places, I constantly questioned how I got up this in 2013 as it's not very forgiving.

There were spurts of wildflowers from time to time and even saw a butterfly. As you get closer to the bottom the trees start getting much taller and then the huckleberry-lined trail begins in earnest. However, I was still full from lunch so didn't imbibe; I know, shocking isn't it! We eventually made it to the leg where I was put in charge of picking the campsite, there are three. After investigating them all, the best one was closest to the food prep area and not too far from the privy.

When I tried to set up my tent, I had a little difficulty with the shock cord but was still able to get it to work. We were able to just chill for the afternoon and kept waiting for others to join us but we had the place to ourselves which is surprising as it's not too far from a TH and a relatively easy backpack. The smoke interfered with our view of the lake so that was disappointing. There was lots of elderberry in the area and we were told there had been some bear in the 'hood and once again, we didn't see anything furry until the next morning.

Oldman Lake to Pitamakan Pass https://youtu.be/-jPEuFhnBuM
Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass https://youtu.be/J4u0apkwsvA
Dawson Pass to No Name Lake https://youtu.be/-VGuDFv_Gho

To see the photoset that includes description and IDs, click on this link (if you don't want the advertisements if they come up, register for free - no hassles from the site, just like here) https://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=63887

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