Seeking Glacier Terminuses
and exploring Moraines
There are few places as dynamic to witness the geomorphology of the planet than the ends of great glaciers and the moraines they have left behind.
After climbing up to the Timberline Trail on the north side of Mt Hood via a misty Vista Ridge Trail, I left the trail barely more than a few hundred feet to the east, following the footpath uphill along the braids of the Clear Creek above Wyeast Basin. A foot path climbs up along the creek, gaining elevation and ascending above the timberline to where only stunted windswept pines cling to the rocky slopes. The way heads southeast, climbing up towards the prominent rocky outcrop that is Barrett Spur. I was protected from the strong wind coming out of the west until around 7000 feet where the path is exposed, and then the wind started ripping with a ferocity. If I hadn't happened to have earbuds that sealed me ears I would have turned back then from the intense whipping of wind against my eardrums, and even then I was clutching hard at my trekking poles as the wind tried to rip them away.
With the wind ripping as much as it was, I stopped at the saddle before the final ascent up the narrow spur, and spent some time sheltering behind a rock and using binoculars to get a close view of the intricacies of Ladd Glacier.
the saddle below Barrett Spur
Views of Ladd Glacier
I headed back down the way I had come until the the fork in the path where the valley starts to open up between the arms of Barrett Spur. This time I took the eastern path, descending as a layer of clouds extended out all over the lands distant, with Elk Cove opening up below me.
Just above the Timberline Trail rests Dollar Lake, the namesake of the 2011 fire that burned vast expanses of the forest to the north. The areas immediately around the lake where spared from the fires. The lake itself is small affair, of a fluorescent green hue that does not invite swimming for a mountain lake.
A view back toward Barrett Spur from near Dollar Lake
Once back on the Timberline Trail I headed east until entering Elk Cove, where I left the trail to explore the avalanche debris from this winter that have piled up over the creek- a massive mix of snow and broken trees that the creek has carved its way through.
I pressed on, past the avalanche debris, following the wildflower lined creek up the up bowl of Elk Cove with Barrett Spur towering up ahead of me and the creek flowing forth from the increasingly large scree and shards of rocky debris peeled off the face of the Spur
Looking up cliffs on Barrett Spur
Up past the snowfield that feeds the creek, I climbed the final steep ascent on the moraine forming the edge of the Elk Cove, the giant ridge of accumulated sediments ranging from the finest dust to car size boulders extending along the edge of the Coe Glacier. Upon reaching the crest of the moraine the immense Coe Glacier unfolds beneath, a long stretch of massive ice cradled between moraines, covered in debris falling off the mountain, pouring down to an abrupt ice wall end from which Coe Creek emerges at a full raging force from below this glacier terminus. In the other direction, where the glacier crawls up the mountain, it is ice exposed and broken with crevasses.
After hiking down the the knife edge of the Moraine a bit the winds started to kick back up and I descended back into Elk Cove.
After reemerging onto the Timberline Trail I headed back west, crossing my Vista Ridge entry point and continuing to Cairn Basin. The stone shelter there has a fallen tree just on top of it, but is in good condition. I proceeded to ascend the hillside behind the basin. I haven't spent much time exploring this area on the edges of Dollar Lake fire, and was delighted to find some unique features- a great stretch of large boulders scattered up the hillside and expanses of paintbrush.
I pressed on to a view of Ladd Creek, and followed the ridge up to the moraine became tight with Ladd Creek and the terminus of Ladd Glacier ahead to one side, and Gilsan Creek draining down the other side.
On the moraine here, steady waves of clouds were rolling over the ridge between Glisan and Sandy Glacier, the one that extends far above McNeil Point. The mountain was obscured off and on by dense blankets of fog that rolled over and below me. I enjoyed the action for a while before dipping down into the Gilsan creek valley, where I crossed the creek and made my way onto the McNeil Point Trail. From there it was down to the Timberline and back to Vista Ridge.