Alpine Lakes Wilderness Mini Thru Hike // Pratt Mountain, Mount Defiance, Putrid Pete’s Peak, Dirty Harry’s Balcony, Web Mountain, Granite Lakes

Video Summary

Itinerary

  • Pratt Mountain (with stop at Ollalie Lake)
  • Camp at bald above Island Lake 
  • Mount Defiance
  • Putrid Pete’s Peak (P3) Unestablished Trail
  • Descend P3
  • Dirty Harry’s Balcony
  • Off Trail to Web Lake
  • Off Trail to Granite Lakes
  • Hike out to the car at around 7pm.
Started at Pratt Lake TH and finished at Granite Lakes TH. These THs are paved and fairly easy to get between so a friend helped us get over to the beginning of the hike from the parked car at Granite Lakes TH and we hiked with them for a few hours to Ollalie Lake until they turned back, we headed straight up hill and began to face all that snow!

Was so freaking fun.

Hiked June 2nd and 3rd.

Our first day was easy, hiking up Pratt Mountain and instead of descending down the basin to Pratt Lake, we gained elevation hiking up toward Island and Rainbow Lakes.  We quickly hit snow but it felt safe then, a week later probably not.  We stopped at the lakes and enjoyed the sun and beautiful scenery.  

It was a quick hike towards our eventual camp, deciding to stick with the very small amount of dry ground that we could find instead of gambling for a worse campsite down at Mason Lake (with other hikers).  We made the right choice — our view was gorgeous, we had sun exposure all evening and a long sunset, and it was all ours.

I slept well on top of a rock that night in my cuben tarp.   Pratt Mountain in the background

The next day we faced some serious challenges.  We hiked up to Mount Defiance on no water but stopped for a long time to admire Mount Rainer anyway. 

 

We decided to stay high on the ridge line as we began to head towards the traverse of Spyder Lake towards Thompson Lake.  

We looked hard for a good place to descend down towards the Spyder Lake traverse.  The snow was just way too sketchy.  We had to make a decision.

Dangerous

I’d spent a long time on caltopo trying to figure out this exact scenario and knew we could either back track and traverse the lower trail to the P3 parking lot or head up to P3 and down.  Both would let us hike low through Dirty Harry’s Balcony towards the peak, where I thought we might be able to get through to Granite Lakes (and to the car). 

I had scoped out the off trail section from the Granite Lakes side of the basin just three days earlier and felt confident that the descent would be possible.  Here’s a little clip from that hike modeling what I thought we might be able to do (and did end up doing). 

We took a solid break at the base of P3, drank water FINALLY (we did all of this with zero water), ate some food and relaxed for a bit.  Then we began our steady climb all the way back up Dirty Harry’s Peak.  While that trail doesn’t run through to Granite Lakes, I planned a route off trail heading north east instead of north west to Web Lake.  

Web Lake. A tiny pond created by snow run off from Web Mountain, a basin exclusively made of granite boulders.

We then descended on the north side of the stream from Web Lake towards Granite Lakes, knowing that was the more gradual side.  It was brutal.  Very very hard, frustrating, pokey, and time consuming.  But it was also awesome. 

Granite Lakes in view! We made sure to boulder hop when possible, despite the lichen and rain creating a slippery field of chaos, as it was preferred over being perpetually barbed and poked in the eye by brush.

We made it to Granite Lakes and then cruised 4.5 miles to the car.  

What a trip!

Conditions

The weather was wonderful at first with warm with patches of light clouds that dissipated at night for an incredible starry evening — a definite benefit of using a tarp is star-gazing.   The next day began to get progressively more dark and damp, with rain cooling us down in the open granite fields during our off trail descent into Granite Lakes.  

The offtrail was extremely challenging because of the density of the brush, the large and uneven granite fields (with HUGE, very mobile rocks), and the steepness of the initial descent.  We covered ~1.5 miles in 3 hours.  It was physically brutal, exhausting, and the amount of prickly brush added to the smackdown.  One of those “type 2 fun” experiences.  Truthfully, it’s a wonderful thing to be so caught up in the moment, solving problems, one literal step at a time.  I was really proud of myself for doing the research before hand (see GIF above) and a lot more research on maps to feel confident that we could pull it off.  We did without any genuine problems.  It was just hard as hell.

The post hike burgers were incredible.  

Gear Performance Recap:

MYOG 13.3oz quilt –> was great but wasn’t warm enough for 34* alone.   I paired it with a 2oz butt warmer, my mely, and a pataguicci quarter zip fleece and was SWEATING.  Too hot.  The quilt, when closed up tight, is definitely narrow at the end, narrower than my EE 20* bag.  This was a design choice and I’m glad I made it.  Keeping my legs together saves me adding extra insulation below the hips.  It was warm but not as comfortable as my EE quilt.  I’m fine with this trade off for a freaking 13.3oz quilt.  I do notice how bulky apex is compared to down.  I’m now glad my bag is as large as it is.  

MYOG 5.8oz bivy –> If I made it again, I’d have the top layer fold even farther down and add another two KAM snaps.  If I had to use a normal bivy without the modular flap design, I’d hate it.  This design really maximizes the best of all available options (ratio of warmth to comfort).  I was able to start the night with the top layer folded over and as things got cold around 4am, I snapped the top layer back into place.  Slept like a dream.  The pyarmid bug net wasn’t used at all as it was quite cold at night.

MYOG 3.8oz tarp –>  With a high pitch, this thing is wonderful.  It kept dew and residual condensation off me.  Frankly it wasn’t really necessary.  Also, the stars were amazing in the cuben tarp — I could pop my head out to look very easily.  Downside is that the moon was so bright at night and I was too much in sleep haze to use my eye mask.  That definitely effected my sleep. 

For whatever reason I don’t feel exposed in this setup.  I think I’ve simply gotten more comfortable sleeping out in the wilderness.  

MYOG 1.9oz butt warmer –> Clutch.  This thing added at least 3* of warmth wherever I needed it.  That evening in camp I wore it on my back like a turtle shell (with my wind jacket over it) and it was so warm.  For such a light piece of gear, it’s amazing.  I love that I can use it wherever my body is cold.  You can also make it look like a UL wizard’s hat for internet points.

MYOG 10.5oz backpack –> I normally wouldn’t review gear that has been serving me well for many trips but I hadn’t yet taken this backpack bushwhacking (like true, you can’t see in front of you bushwhacking) and it was a dream.  No rips in the lycra mesh, no tears, everything as good as new.  The liteskin fabric seems very slippery and abrasion resistant.  I feel a lot more confident taking this pack into gnarly situations.  

All of my other gear for this trip:

If you enjoyed this trip or found it useful and want to share it with a friend who might enjoy it, please do.  I had a ton of fun planning, doing, filming, and creating all the video and written content for this trip.  See you on the next one!

-Denny

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