Area: Middle Fork Snoqualmie

Length: (7.0 +) 2.5

Elevation: 4620 + 1400 - 250

Condition: primitive

Solitude: very high

Appeal: highest

Features: mining relics, crystal ponds

Difficulty: difficult

Administered: North Bend RD

Trailhead: Dingford TH

Connects to:
Williams Lake
Necklace Valley

Guides: none

Maps: Green Trails Stevens Pass


 

Overview

 

This was once a relatively well-known route, now falling into disuse. You will understand once you have been there. But such exquisite misery! The crystal ponds filling ice-carved dips in the rocky platforms are glorious. Just beware of the extreme danger in the vicinity of the mining relics.

 


 

 

Details

Follow the Dutch Miller Gap trail and Williams Lake trail to the prominent lump at the southeast corner of Williams Lake. Proceed right, following the east shore of the lake along the obscure but distinct foot path dodging brush and boulders. The "obvious" route ascends from Williams Lake in the rocky gully at the northeast corner of the lake.

 

That starts well enough, but degenerates into a steep and dangerous boulder climb. Better to try to locate Dutch Miller's old route. I suggest going with this as far as you can. If you lose the way, you will be past the worst of the bad gully scramble, and you can either cut north across-slope to finish the remainder of the rocky gulch, or weave your way straight up through the last of the minor trees on a relatively mild slope.

 

On the northeast corner of the lake, scramble up to the top of the obvious gravelly tailing heap. At the top, feel free to peek into the adit, but use judgment about whether to wade through rusting broken metal in the acidic water — why ruin your hiking boots for nothing?

Just to the left of the adit, look for a faint boot trail heading up the hill, in manageable switchbacks. This was once a fairly well-developed trail, but age and possibly fallen stick-timber might obscure the way. You soon reach an open field of boulders presenting an obvious and sensible scramble the rest of the way north up to the Chain Lakes basin area.

After you round the corner of the last large rocks and get your first peek into the basin, continue curling further left up the rib a short distance to find excellent camps. Find fresh running water just below.

 

The "basin" is more of a stone slab, and the "lakes" are depressions that ancient ice left behind, now filled by annual snow melt. The deepest and largest pond, probably badly contaminated with metals, is the one on the west below the tailings that lead up to Dutch Miller's terrifying vertical mine shaft. Please stay back. There is higher ground from which you can view safely. Other than that one easily avoided hazard... explore you heart out.

Cross the flattened stone platform to the obvious pass on the north side, where you can pick up a foot path in alpine vegetation. Do not make the mistake of descending directly on the other side of the pass! This is the extremely dangerous LaBohn Gap — never mind the long history of USGS maps that put that label in the wrong place. Instead, follow the route to the right, staying high and passing to the left of a cold pond.

Continue on to the top of the small prominent lump covered by a tangle of shrub junipers, as you can see in the photo. The route seems to evaporate here; it is there, but so deeply buried in the junipers that you are not going to find it, so don't try. Stay on a line of sight down the easy open slopes to the cold and barren LaBohn Lakes. To find a connection down to Necklace valley, continue to the last lake and look for a meager trail on the south side of that lake's outlet creek.