High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin)

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I was en route to hike the Cape Alava to Rialto Beach “Shipwreck Coast” on the Olympic peninsula end of June.

But when I dropped by the the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles on the way to the trailhead, Rangers informed me that famed High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin) was open early this year. Winter had dropped very little snow on the high peaks.

I instantly changed my plan. You can hike the Shipwreck Coast almost any time. But the High Divide Loop window is time limited. Late July to mid-October most years.

The High Divide Loop is very weather dependent. I arrived during a heat wave. Blue skies. Quite rare in the high mountains of the rainy coast.

It turned out to be a good call.

Rick Mt Olympus

AT A GLANCE

  • the jumping off point (and best finish) for the High Divide Loop is Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park
  • 20.3mi (32.6km) including sidetrips to Lunch Lake and Bogachiel Peak
  • must carry a tent and be completely self-sufficient
  • cumulative elevation 5200ft

On the advice of a Ranger, I booked 2 campsites:

  1. Deer Lake
  2. Sol Duc Park (near Heart Lake)

Circuit map

I started with the day hikers heading up to Sol Duc Falls.

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It’s a steep up,up,up from there to Deer lake. Nice campsite. But it did have mosquitos. I was happy to have carried my mesh bug shirt.

Deer lake

The Park was extremely dry while I was there. Normally you get wet feet on this hike. Boardwalk helps.

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I used the instagator technique to keep pebbles and dust out of my approach shoes.

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This was my first glimpse of Mt Olympus next morning. I was very pleased the skies stayed clear. This summit is usually cloud shrouded.

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Though the old growth forest trails are tranquil, it was fantastic to get above the tree line.

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I love the bear grass, but wildflowers were less prolific than expected.

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I stashed my pack on the ridge and dropped into  into 7 Lakes Basin for some day hiking.

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It is marvellous.

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Climbing back up to the ridge I continued to one of the most famous viewpoints in the Olympics, Bogachiel peak.

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The ridge walk above the basin is fantastic in clear weather. You look down on the many-more-than-7-lakes.

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I was exhausted and dehydrated by the time I finally dropped down towards Heart Lake.

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Rangers there told me where I could find good water. There was none on the ridge. 😦

I had been counting on melting snow. Unfortunately I found no snow.

With relief I set up my tent at Sol Duc Park campsite. Washed my feet. And took an hour siesta.

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In the late afternoon I made a long day hike past Cat Basin campground to see what my guidebook claimed was the best view of Olympus. I wasn’t disappointed. 🙂

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Next morning was an easy downhill exit through old growth. Very mellow.

If you’d like to see 7 Lakes Basin and Mt Olympus for yourself, check our new information page.

Banff Alberta in winter

I stayed a February night in Banff, one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world.

Wanting to do some day hiking, I stopped by the National Parks office for advice.

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Unfortunately, the local trails are a mess in winter. Snowy, icy and often CLOSED.

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I still managed a short afternoon walking from town to the Banff Springs Hotel.

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Shortly after I gave up. And caught the bus up the mountain to the Hot Springs.

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I’ll come back in summer. 🙂

off trail in Iceland

Hank Leukart:

Two brothers search for eternal life in the Icelandic wilderness during what may be the last time in history anyone is able to see all of Iceland’s natural, untouched beauty.

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo. (17min)

 

Because my brother and I live so far apart (he’s in New York; I’m in Los Angeles), we have agreed to reunite once every year, somewhere in the wilderness. We’ve been to Alaska’s Denali, Chilean Patagonia, and even Everest Base Camp, but, for our most recent trip, we set our sights on a hard-to-reach lake in the Icelandic wilderness called Eilísvötn, which, in Icelandic, means “Lake of Eternal Life.” …

Brian and I start by trekking two classic, connected Iceland treks: the Fimmvörðuháls and Laugavegur Trails, the first of which begins at a huge waterfall called Skógafoss on the southern coast.

We feel almost disappointed to be enveloped by the sublime, rolling, green hills and plethora of waterfalls, because it feels like we’re in the most beautiful place in Iceland already — we’re getting a fantastic payoff way too early in our trip. Soon enough, though, as we continue through the snow and glaciers near Fimmvörðuháls Hut, it becomes obvious that there’s no chance Iceland will ever disappoint us no matter where we go. …

Without Baggage – Mission Iceland: A Tale of Two Brothers

Selfoss

I’m researching a possible Aug/Sept 2015 hike. Laugavegur is very, very high on the list of treks I want to do next. 🙂

researching Fish River Canyon, Namibia

The Fish River Canyon 5 day trek is one of the best in the world.

But it’s very difficult to get a reservation, even a year in advance. I’ve been turned down for all dates in June 2015. 😦

But I may try to show up at the trailhead anyway. Hang out. And look to substitute for a hiker missing from a booked group. (You must have a minimum of 3 people to register, in any case.)

Wish me luck.

- by  Daniel Smith
– by Daniel Smith

I’ve put up a draft information page on the Fish River Canyon trek with what I was able to find out online.

Leave a comment if you have any advice.

Langtang Trek – day 1

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Kathmandu 1400m to Syabrubesi 1503m to Pairo 1800m (Landslide)

I was at the Macha Pokhari bus area in Kathamandu by 6:30am.

There did not seem to be any Jeeps at the Jeep counter, so I went directly to the bus ticket wicket. Very quickly I had in hand an assigned seat on the next Super Express for $5.

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My assigned seat was the most cramped on the rig! Tight even for a Nepali.

Happily, one of the guides offered to swap my seat for his … beside a gruff, old German client.

Super Express was not bad. Far better and smaller than most Asian buses.

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The bus did fill. With people. Luggage. And radish.

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It would end up taking 7.5hrs total to Syabrubesi. Not too bad for Nepal.

We had a terrific driver. Very skilled. Very careful.

Though a Nepali bus (killing tourists) had crashed just a few days before, our cliff edges were never scary close.

The rear view mirror may have been nudged a time or two.

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Only one landslide delayed our upward progress.

I skipped breakfast. Ate only a few Digestive Biscuits at lunch. In my experience, it’s better to ride Himalayan buses on an empty stomach. With an empty bladder.

Instead of lunch, I wandered the stopover town.

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Sections of the journey were pretty.

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My only one reservation with the driver were times when he and another bus driver played music back and forth using horn and noisy brakes. (VIDEO)

Three times en route we disembarked at checkpoints. The first only looked at our TIMS card. The next two required both TIMS and our Langtang National Park permit.

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I had paid for both in Kathmandu, but some on the bus were missing one or both. Happily, you could purchase them at the checkpoints.

We disembarked Syabrubesi 1300m at 3:30pm.

I had late “breakfast” and enjoyed free wifi before starting up the trail. Very late in the afternoon.

Everyone else spent the night in town. I was rushed to get high.

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I walked about 90 minutes up to Pairo (Landslide or Hotsprings).

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___
Marketing 101:

Good marketing is calling your lodge Hotsprings. Bad marketing is calling your lodge Landslide.
🙂
___

Great lodge. I had fun my first night chatting with a Brit and his Guide who were boozing, celebrating the end of his adventure. Sadly, the hotsprings were not available as a bridge had washed out. It was supposed to be repaired by the time I came back down trail in a week.

see all my high res photos from this day

___

Heading up trail towards Pairo is by far the most popular start to the Langtang trek. More scenic, but longer and tougher, is starting towards Khangjim 2235m instead. The mantra is “slowly, slowly” on the way up. Walking via Khangjim is slower, better for acclimatization for altitude. I should have gone that route.

day 0 | day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | day 4 | day 5 | day 6 | day 7 | day 8 | info | … Gosainkund

Colca Canyon, Peru

We’ve moved and updated our Colca information page. 🙂

A trip to Colca Canyon is recommended for all hikers, regardless of ability and experience. It offers superb day hiking and immensely popular 2-day trips.

Bruno Iglesias
Bruno Iglesias

Hard core hikers will love a unique 5-day option descending into the canyon then climbing up over a snowy 5100m (16,732ft) pass to the remote and rarely visited Valley of the Volcanos — weird cones & lava formations!

AT A GLANCE

  • canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru
  • depth of 4,160m (13,650ft) more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon

Yeti Adventure Films nailed the feel of Colca in this cute edit. 🙂

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

details on our Colca information page

Community Inca Trail Trek

guest post by Helene Cooper:

Last month I embarked on one of the most amazing experiences of my life, Peru’s Inca Trail. I took part in a five day “Community Trek”, which goes a little more off the beaten track, combining an exhilarating trek along the Peruvian Andes, with an opportunity to camp with local villagers and help with farming and community work.

En-route I enjoyed some of the most beautiful mountainous terrain I’ve ever seen, stopping at amazing ancient ruins and pushing my body to new extremes. The Community Trek gives you the opportunity to give something back to the local people, with a proportion of your fees helping with their schooling and farming activities. While you see less of the ruins than on the Classic Trek, you still see the best, while enjoying a completely different experience, too.

The trek was amazingly hard work, with high altitudes making the long hikes exhausting at times, but with the end reward of Machu Picchu just hours away, it was well worth it. The trails are less preserved than on the Classic Trek, which makes it harder work, but what’s life without a little challenge? The opportunity to spend time in local communities gave the trip an added attraction; I really recommend you try it.

Day 0:

We begin our five-day journey with a pre-trek meeting with our guides from Andina Travel. Everyone takes the opportunity to ask any questions and psyche themselves up for the next four days of walking. We’re told to prepare for the high altitudes, which can reach up to 13,900ft.

Day 1:

We’re picked up early by a minibus; it’s a beautiful clear day and the mountains are simply awe-inspiring – I can’t wait to crack on with the trek.

First stop is Saksaywaman, an incredible old ancient fortress overlooking Cusco; giant boulders are stacked as if they fell from the sky – it’s a great photo opportunity! Our guide tells us this was once a historic, religious and ceremonial place, which you certainly get a feel for.

Next we move to the Sacred Valley, a huge gorge between two steep mountains and home to hundreds of maize fields and numerous tributaries, what an amazing sight!

We trek on to the Pisac ruins and its fantastic terraces and walkways, where we get to put our feet up and give our lungs a rest. We purchase walking sticks, coca leaves and colourful plastic ponchos, the last supplies for our mammoth trek.

After lunch it’s time to start walking! We tentatively start climbing our way up the hills and slowly the scenery starts to change. The higher we climb the colder it gets, and the air starts to thin out, which is a strange feeling.

Our tents are already set up when we arrive to our first camp in the amazing Andes. We’re greeted by hot popcorn and cold drinks in the kitchen tent – very civilised! A pack of cards come out and we play and talk about today’s sights until dinner is served.

I’m starving and it was a pleasure to be served a delicious three course meal including ‘Cuy’, roasted Guinea Pig on a spit, which is really succulent and tasty, followed by a hot cup of Peruvian tea to warm us up, as its now getting pretty cold – I put socks on my hands to keep warm.

Day 2:

The morning starts with a soft knock on our tent and the voice of our guide calling: “coca tea!”

We poke our sleepy heads out to find mugs of steaming tea and a hot basin of washing water waiting for us. What luxury! The coca tea is a greenish yellow colour and has a mild bitter flavour, similar to green tea, but gives you a wake-up kick like a good cup of coffee.

Our cooks continue to spoil us with a breakfast of porridge, toast and eggs, which feels like a real treat. We pick up our snack bags, which include some local fruit and biscuits, and set off for a full day’s walking. Small steps and deep breaths is definitely the recipe for success.

En-route we meet some little old ladies running up the mountain paths without shoes, carrying heavy loads on their backs. Kids hike their way to school down the valley and we all feel a bit sheepish in our Gore-Tex hiking gear.

I feel a real respect for the people living in these harsh conditions, it’s bitterly cold and arid in places, but absolutely stunning nonetheless. We advance towards the highest point of the trek, which is surrounded by clouds and looks incredible.

The air is so thin it’s really hard to fill your lungs with oxygen and my body is getting really tired. As we reach the summit we reward ourselves with a shot of Pisco, which is quite the livener; each of us pouring a drop on the ground as a sacrifice to Pachamama (Mother Earth).

Finally we venture downhill and race towards our lunch stop. The porters and cooks overtook us a long time ago and have served up some delicious hot food, including local rice and beans.

Day 3:

More trekking, I can feel myself getting fitter as we progress, but it’s still a strain on the limbs. There are herds of alpacas and llamas on the mountain sides, which I feed with some of my biscuits; the llama is like a cross between a camel and a sheep and laps up my snacks.

We conquer another high pass and stop for a few photos of the stunning green mountain lakes on show, which shimmer in the sunlight, it’s great to be alive!

We cruise downhill for lunch at our second campsite. I have an afternoon nap while some of the guys play football. At night the stars are shining and we admire the silent stillness of the Andes; it feels like we’re the only ones in the world that are enjoying this moment.

Day 4:

We visit a local school where we work with the local children, helping with break activities, singing and poetry lessons, it’s really good fun. None of the children can speak English but they enjoy learning some useful phrases, like llama and Guinea pig!

We get Quechua lessons, the local dialect, from a teacher, who teaches me “sulpayki wayki” (thank you friend)! We then move on to a local farm and help them with planting and weeding and I buy a nice colourful hat from a local weaver.

Our last day of trekking is short and fortunately it’s all downhill, unsurprisingly nobody complains! We’re sad to say goodbye to our team of porters and cooks as we hop on a bus to Ollantaytambo.

On arrival at our lodge in Ollantaytambo we have glorious hot showers and a short rest before a guided tour of the Ollantaytambo ruins, the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti. The town is home to a large settlement, so we have dinner in a local restaurant which serves some delicious soups and stews with ‘pan de papa’, a bread made with mashed potatoes.

No sooner have we finished eating we are eager to get back to the lodge to try out those lovely looking beds, which do their job very well indeed.

Day 5:

Today we embark on the final part of our journey, towards the epic Machu Picchu; I am so excited! We have an early breakfast and jump on the train to Aguas Calientes, which has some really picturesque views on route. Unfortunately we don’t arrive at Machu Picchu until late morning, so miss the sunrise, but we still arrive earlier than the masses of tourists, which I’m pleased about.

We take a shuttle bus to Machu Picchu, which suddenly appears on the horizon, lying on a steep sunlit mountain side. We meet up with the other trekkers, who took the more traditional, “Classic” Inca Trail route; they are yet to shower and are pretty envious of our fresh smells!

We have a couple of hours of free time to look around the Machu Picchu complex, so we hike up to the Sun Gate, which offers an amazing view on what is a beautifully clear day; the others take the opportunity to have a closer look around the city’s ruins.

Machu Picchu

Soon it’s time to head back; we board the bus and train to Ollantaytambo and our transfer takes us to back to Cusco, where we tell stories about our experiences of the last five days.

We all have aching muscles, blisters and the odd tummy ache, but the amazing scenery and ancient ruins were well worth it. I can’t recommend the Inca Trail highly enough.

Helene Cooper currently writes for Dragoman, the overland adventure operator

related – our Best Hikes South America list

Tongariro Circuit, New Zealand

Tongariro Northern Circuit is the best hike in the best trekking region in the world — New Zealand.

How can that be?

Why do we like the circuit better than the dozens of other awesome Kiwi walks?

These videos make it clear. 🙂

Click PLAY or watch a wonderful GreatWalks.co.nz promo on YouTube.

And another. Click PLAY or watch Dave and Tim on a snowy Circuit on YouTube.

We’ve updated and moved our Tongariro Circuit information page. Click through if you might want to organize your own Tongariro Circuit.

Laugavegur trek, Iceland

James Handlon signed on with adventure travel company Arctic Adventures to finally trek Laugavegur.

After several hours of bumpy off-roading we finally arrived late in the day at the Landmannalaugar campsite, a weird mix of surreal landscape, Glastonbury Music Festival and refugee camp all thrown together creating the most bizarre of places to start a trek .…

Landmannalaugar campsite

Gorgeous.

weird landscape

Read his entire trip report following the links from the bottom of THE LAUGAVEGUR ICELANDIC TREK – DAY 1 page.