Bare-Lennox Traverse
August 18-19, 2004

I remember looking out on the ridge that connects Bare and Lennox Mountains the first time I hiked to the top of Bare, and thinking it looked like very cool terrain to traverse. I tried to find some info on the route, and the fact that I found very little, other than that Lennox seemed to be very seldomly visited, only added to my desire to try this trip.

The plan was to leave early on the 18th and set up camp on the shores of Coney Lake, just below Lennox to the east. I'd heard this was a very pretty place, and it seemed like the only place we'd find water after leaving the south slopes of Bare Mountain. My climbing partner, Annette, wasn't able to get away quite as early as we had planned, so we ended up not hitting the Bare Mountain trailhead until 3:00. We were pretty sure we wouldn't make it all the way to the lake, and pretty unsure how tent friendly the terrain along the ridge was going to be (it seemed like it consisted mainly of granite talus blocks - not the best to sleep on!), but we were certain we could figure out something.

Knowing we had a ways to go and not much time we made short work of the trail and (way too many) switchbacks up the south side of Bare. A few very pretty places and some remaining huckleberries were the only things that slowed us down on the way up.


Annette at a pretty little basin with a slab waterfall shortly after the trailhead

The trail takes you almost to the top of the ridge before turning left to head for the summit of Bare. Here we left the trail and started scouting our way along, looking for a good spot to drop down onto the north side of the ridge and start the traverse. We headed east towards point 5310, peeking to the north when we could, until we found a reasonable class 3 gully long before the high point on the ridge that we could scramble down onto huge expanses of talus fields. Below we could see pretty little Paradise Lakes, and ahead of us was our next puzzle, getting over or around point 5449.


Paradise Lakes

When we weren't on talus, we were able to pick up faint boot path here and there, its presence letting us know we weren't the first to come this way, but its faintness confirming that this area doesn't have many visitors. The boot path became almost trail-like as the terrain forced us towards a crossing of the gully coming up from Paradise Lakes, with a view southeast to Bear Lakes. (Bare Mountain but Bear Lakes?) From the north side of the gully we started scrambling up some fun granite boulders, eventually contouring around the east side of the high point to avoid stout and tightly packed trees. Reaching the east trending ridge, we followed this a ways until another convenient class 3 gully gave us access to talus slopes facing north towards Lake Kanim and Lennox Mountain.


Talus slopes just north of point 5449

We had been watching the time elapse as we traveled, and given how long it had taken us since we left the Bare Mountain trail, and the distance left to Coney Lake, we knew we weren't going to get there this evening. When we arrived at a friendly, grassy bench about a third of the way around the basin we were traversing we decided to drop our packs and call it home for the night. We had nice views of Mt. Phelps to the west and Kanim Lake to the northwest. The way to Lennox looked obvious from here, with the only question being where we should hit the ridge proper the next day to be able to remain on the ridge without being forced down by gendarmes or thick trees.


Early morning light on our camp spot

The next morning found us moving quickly with light packs, and making several scrambles up to the ridge to see if we could continue there , rather than doing the remaining mile or so to the summit as a steep sidehill traverse. The spot on the ridge that finally worked for us was much closer to Coney Lake than we were expecting, and gave us access to the basin above the lake on the east side of the ridge. Coney Lake looked quite inviting on this hot August morning, but we decided to tag the top of Lennox first, and save the cool waters of the lake for afterwards.


Coney Lake

The final way to the top of Lennox was rather anticlimactic. Moderate heather slopes and a few patches of granite provided for a gentle walk to the summit. Once there, however, you are provided with fine views in all directions, with the next higher peak being miles away.


Annette walking the final slopes towards the summit of Lennox

After a short while playing "Name That Peak", we headed back down the slopes and talus fields to the shores of cooling Coney Lake. The lake is situated in a small, rocky granite bowl giving it beautifully clear and crystaline blue water. While we had set out to climb Lennox Mountain, I really felt that Coney Lake was the high point of the trip.


Coney Lake perched in its granite bowl

The way back was hot and tiring, covering almost two miles of west facing granite talus fields in the afternoon August sun. None the less, once reaching the Bare Mountain trail we took a quick side trip to the top of that peak as well, reaching that summit almost exactly 24 hours after we had started the trip.


Matt and Annette on top of Bare Mountain

From there it was just a long, hot descent back to the trailhead. The many little stream crossings on the way down were most welcome both as water breaks and for a chance to dip my bandana in cold water to help alleviate the heat.

This turned out to be a challenging, but rewarding, trip. The route finding was a bit more interesting than I was expecting, and the side hill traversing of all that talus required a significant focus to avoid a twisted or broken ankle. The route goes through seldomly visited terrain, and there were several pleasant surprises along the way. While not a beginner's trip by any means, it provides the experienced off trial scrambler a chance for solitude, beauty and challenge, all while being able to catch glimpses of the Seattle skyline from the high points along the way!


A few more links:
A stitched together shot showing all the pools of Coney Lake
The traverse looking back south from Lennox Mountain
The traverse looking north from the summit of Bare Mountain

If these links are still good, here's some other info:

A ski traverse of Bare-Lennox by Phil Fortier and team
Summit Post's info on Lennox
A trip report and some fabulous pictures of Coney Lake by Dayhike Mike


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