Trip Reports

Lafayette the Hard Way – 08/23/2011

  • August 23, 2011

For a long time now, I’ve always wanted to explore the ravine of Lafayette Brook, which runs straight up the western face of this great peak. I’ve been up the ravine a mile or so to visit several cliffs, as well as explored the ridges on both sides, but I’ve never continued further up the brook to the mountain itself.

On Tuesday, our small group of slightly nutty bushwhackers decided that today was the day. The plan was to head up the ravine as far as we could, with escape plans made to double back to Eagle Pass if things became too steep.

This was to be an exploration, and not a photographic journey, so not too many shots were taken along the way. The few that were faced directly into the sunlight, so I apologize in advance for the poor quality.

With a 6 AM start, and a car spotted optimistically at Lafayette Campground, we were on our way. We headed out from the Gallen Circle and across the bike path bridge, taking the old trail down to meet the brook. From there, we bushwhacked along the south bank until we reached Lafayette Brook Falls. This is a majestic 2-tier waterfall, about 30 feet high which falls into a pool near a large pothole formation carved into the cliff wall. No photo was taken today, but here is one from an earlier photo excursion:

We angled up the south bank again, around the waterfall, and continued through the woods, keeping the brook to our left. The terrain alternated between thick spruce, open woods with hobblebush, and wet forest with several feet of soft, mossy rotten ground that was easy to sink into. For a ways, we were able to follow a distinct moose path. This ended as we reached Eagle Pass – the moose path angled up to meet the pass above. We continued ahead into a thick mess of blowdowns and spruce.

After a while, we hit an old slide coming down the ridge from above. Deciding to get a bit of elevation before slabbing back to the brook, we climbed the slide a few hundred feet. The rocky path rose up and up, giving us a nice view north through the trees. When the woods thinned out a bit to the east, we left the slide, which continued upward, and plunged into the trees.

The woods were open for a while, but soon became thick and choked with twisted trees and underbrush. We decided it was finally time to drop down to the brook and chance a walk on the brookbed.

After much rock-hopping and scrambling, we finally emerged from the trees for our first views up the ravine!

The trees opened up further and further, and we were treated to some spectacular waterfall and cascade displays!

Looking back from the top of one waterfall, we could see the views starting to reveal themselves down the ravine.

Up and up! Cascades were everywhere, and the sun was glaring straight into our faces, making it difficult to navigate the slippery rocks:

Views opening even more at the top of this steep cascade:

Still more water flowing over rocks:

Way up above, the cliffs of North Lafayette emerged from the clouds:

The terrain was getting steeper, now:

More views opening up below:

Another cascade – this one was an interesting ledge to climb around:

Finally, we hit the 4000’ mark, the water flow started to dwindle, and the stream took a right fork. We opted for the drier, left fork. Heading up got steeper, and loose rock became an issue for anyone at the back of the line. We took a quick break to look back to where we had been:

Further up, the slide gets thinner and the views get broader. We can see hikers on the trail going up from Greenleaf hut:

The rocks are coming to an end and the thick alpine shrubs are closing in:

Getting a bit thicker now:

Took a few zoom shots before plunging into the shrubs:

The next hour was a nightmare of thick shrubs, dead branches, wet moss, and greasy rock cliffs. No photos were taken, as every effort was being made to move forward and upward, inch by inch. At times, we were laying above masses of twisted branches several feet deep, pulling ourselves with our hands, as there was nothing to stand on. Other times, we were squeezing between clefts in rocky cliff walls, navigating tree trunks, sharp sticks, and jagged rock. We were too close to turn back now – our navigation showed only a third of a mile to the trail above! So we pushed on, managing to find a way over the fractured and tangled landscape, until we emerged from the mess on a rocky outcrop.

From our perch, far to the right we could see a narrow rocky gully that paralleled the tortured path we had taken. 50 yards to the right, and we would have had a clear shot for most of that distance! Such is the fun of bushwhacking!

From our new perch, we could see a lonely stone face monolith staring out into the distance:

From here it was a relatively easy scramble up to hit the trail, where there was much rejoicing! Sadly, not one hiker was here to witness our emergence from the scrub! A few more minutes and we were at the summit for a well deserved rest!