Loc: San Carlos, CA
Trip: Northern Pickets Adventure Run - Hannegan to Ross Lake
Colin Abercrombie and I traversed through Luna Cirque in the Northern Pickets in a point-to-point adventure run from Hannegan Pass Trailhead to Ross Dam. Starting at 2:17 am, the trip took us exactly 23 hours to Big Beaver Landing, the typical finish spot. We continued another 7 miles along the Ross Dam Trail to the parking lot for a total distance 47+ miles and nearly 14,000 ft of elevation gain. Colin and I had done this traverse in 4 days in 2005 climbing Whatcom, Challenger, and Luna along the way. In 2008, we did an out-and-back to the summit of Mount Fury via Access Creek. The information we had gathered on these past trips was essential in our attempt to do the entire route in a single day. Weather conditions were idyllic and the timing was great for a trip through Luna Cirque. While travel through the Pickets took longer than expected (doesn't it always?), we did a fantastic job selecting an efficient route and making consistent progress throughout the trip.
We handled the car shuttle logistics Thursday afternoon and got a few hours of rest in the Hannegan Pass Trailhead parking lot. The route began with a 17 mile run and hike to Whatcom Pass (4 hours, 40 minutes) followed by a traverse around the east side of Whatcom Peak. Once on the south side of Whatcom, we utilized a slanting, steep chute to access the Challenger Glacier and then traversed the glacier to Challenger Arm where we enjoyed spectacular views of Luna Cirque. Descending into Luna Cirque was cumbersome in spots, especially crossing deep gullies with traction-less hardpan. Eventually we made it to the bottom of the cirque and began the long climb up to Luna Pass. Utilizing as much snow as possible helped us to reach Luna Pass relatively quickly. Travel through the basin on the south side of Luna was reasonable but we were slowed by steep and hard snow in the gully leading down to Access Creek. This portion was already in the shade making it a challenging downclimb in aluminum crampons, especially my rather flimsy Kahtoola Aluminums (Colin's Grivel Air Tech Lights were better suited for this and they weigh about the same). We eventually made it down to the headwaters of Access Creek and were able to navigate the brush of Access in the daylight, reaching a series of logs upstream of the confluence with Big Beaver Creek just as the last bit of light was fading. As usual, we were too tired to run the entire length of the Big Beaver trail and were resigned to walking the balance of the miles after 39 mile camp. One notable aspect of the walk along Big Beaver was the plethora of Western Toads out and about - we literally saw hundreds of these silent, slow moving toads on the trail or near the trail. Typical Pickets exhaustion at the end (more accurately, after finishing Access), but great memories of one of my most awesome days in the Cascades!
Luna Cirque Panorama by Colin Abercrombie
Gear Notes: Crampons, axe, Ultimate Direction Wasp Packs, La Sportiva Fireblades
Approach Notes: Long car shuttle. Brushy sections on the Chilliwack Trail before the river crossing and sections of brush on the lower part of the Brush Creek Trail.