Friday, July 24, 2020
On the fourth day of our Selkirks trip we attempted to get to the summit of Roman Nose Peak. Originally today we had planned to hike to West Fork Mountain but after seeing Roman Nose from the Beehive Lake area yesterday we decided to change our plans and try the off-trail route to get up there.
Roman Nose was once the site of a fire lookout, making it all the more appealing as a destination.
The tower hadn’t been staffed for awhile when it was destroyed in a 1999 wind storm. Apparently the road that serviced the lookout was decommissioned by the Forest Service because it no longer appears on maps, although in satellite images you can still see it coming up from the east and south. (Although maybe the road self-decommissioned due to lack of use; I found this video of some ATVs driving up there and it doesn’t much resemble a road anymore.) Looking at the map the closest you could drive in a vehicle would be up Road 391 north of Dodge Peak, then park and road-walk the rest of the way up the old lookout road. It looks to be about 9-10 miles one-way, which is probably why I found nothing online about anyone doing that, although the bottom portion of the road may be drivable again since they recently clearcut that area, according to the historical imagery in Google Earth.
Nowadays people get to the top of Roman Nose Peak by taking an off-trail cross-country route from the Roman Nose Lakes area. We weren’t sure of the exact route to take but I did have someone’s GPX track on the Gaia app on my phone.
We were the first car at the trailhead at 8:40am. We stopped to admire the lower lake. It was VERY VERY windy. Camping is allowed at the middle and upper lake, but not allowed at this lake, although it’s obvious that people do it anyway. You cannot see Roman Nose Peak from here, just an unnamed 6,493′ peak:
There’s a boardwalk along part of the shoreline:
The trail split at an unsigned junction. We later realized that the trail to the left headed up to the campground and is the trail we should have taken. Instead we stayed straight:
The official trail ends at a big rockslide and we started our off-trail route across it. Hint: this is not the easiest way to go:
It was slow-going as we picked our route and scrambled over enormous boulders and through brush. Near the the top we saw some old phone line from the lookout days:
We FINALLY made it onto the ridge, an hour and 20 minutes (but just 0.6 miles) from the trailhead:
Looking down on the lower lake. The trailhead is on the far side:
We could start to see back along our crazy inefficient route:
Here’s our route on Google Earth (more details on that at the bottom of this post):
We tried to go around one section instead of over it and ended up in very steep, rocky, brushy terrain. My sunglasses got knocked off and Greg had to down-climb to get them. My morale was low. More delays. But after that we found ourselves in much easier territory. At this point it had been two hours since we’d left the lake shore at the end of the trail and we had only covered one mile. I was regretting that I had suggested we do this. Also, the blue skies were gone and the clouds were ominous:
We could see down on the switchbacking trail far below us, which connects the lower and upper lakes:
Finally Roman Nose came into view (on the far right in photo below). After more than two hours of hiking to travel this short distance, the peak still looked impossibly far away:
We saw a few wildflowers up there:
After some discussion we decided that due to our insanely slow progress so far, our lack of beta on the route ahead, and the not-so-great weather, we should not try to continue to Roman Nose. We decided to call it good at that unnamed 6,493′ peak we had seen from the lower lake. The views from here were pretty great, fortunately, and as we sat here and enjoyed a snack, the clouds started breaking up and we got some blue skies again:
Roman Nose at far left:
Close up of Roman Nose:
Looking down on the lower lake:
I decided to make another stupid suggestion: let’s just go straight down and hook up with the trail at that switchback we can see so clearly from up here. It’s a straight shot down this slope:
So we did:
The pictures above do not do justice to how difficult this was. It was quite steep and thank goodness we had trekking poles. We had to carefully pick our way along so that we didn’t fall in the steep rocky terrain. The only good part about this section is that we saw a cute pika:
Looking back up at the peak we had just come down from:
We ended up right where we aimed for, at the trail switchback. I was never so happy to be back on an established trail. It was now 3:15 and we had covered extremely little ground considering that we started hiking so early.
We wanted to see the upper lake so we headed up the trail:
We got a good view of the lower lake again:
Hiking to the upper lake (there is also a middle lake, but we were tired and we skipped it):
That hump on the left is Roman Nose Peak:
After enjoying the lake for a few minutes we hiked back to our car. Dark clouds had been gathering on our hike out, and it started raining on us as we drove away. Glad we were in the car!
A note on our route
I humbly present my mistakes in picking our route so that fellow hikers can make better decisions than I did. First of all, out route to get onto the ridge above the lower lake was definitely NOT the best way to go (in blue below). Not being familiar with the best route, I was blindly following a GPS track I had downloaded, which was not the correct thing to do. From the spot where we left the end of the trail on the lakeshore to the white X on the map below, it took us a whopping two hours.
I see on Google Earth that there is an old road or trail that curves up to the ridge from the toilet at the campground (in red below). From there one could follow the ridge line towards Roman Nose. Although we never ended up traveling this route, it has to be easier than the way we took. Even if we had taken this way I have a feeling we still wouldn’t have made it all the way to Roman Nose and still would have decided to call it good at Peak 6,493′, but we would have had an easier time of getting there.
Below is the same view but more zoomed-out. While it may LOOK like we were pretty close to Roman Nose Peak, we weren’t:
I’d be very curious to know more about a trail we saw on the east slope of the peak. Apparently I didn’t take a zoomed-in photo of it, but the trail is distinct enough that it shows up in satellite photos. I thought most people just went up that ridge at the top of the photo below, but this trail seems to indicate otherwise. Maybe there’s a way to cut across that slope on this trail, then switchback and make your way up to the summit:
Secondly, dropping straight down the slope from 6,493′ was a poor choice. We made it uninjured, but it was very steep and I highly doubt it saved us any time or effort as opposed to going back down the ridge towards the campground.
It’s too bad we didn’t make it up to Roman Nose Peak, but at least we still got some views.
The Gaia stats for this hike (including the visit to the upper lake) are totally unimpressive considering how long everything took: 4.6 miles, 1,200′ elevation gain.
See other posts from this trip: