Trip: Ptarmigan Traverse -
Finally a free moment to write this report. Myself and four friends did the Ptarmigan, north to south, from July 22 to July 27. Trip was planned as a photo trip (3 of the group are photographers) around a full moonrise expected at White Rocks Lk on the 26th.
Day before we left we learned that the FS was planning on closing the Suiattle R road at milepost 3 for construction the week we'd be out, another 9 miles of road walking didn't sound great but the trip had been in the works for a year and the weather looked great so we went for it. Turned out that the FS let us through all the way to the gate so we narrowly avoided the extra walking (met a group along the route that started before us and had to parked at mp3).
The forecasted sunny weather turned into wind, rain, and whiteout conditions, from the Cascade Pass trailhead to Kool Aid Lk. Par for the course in the N Cascades but not an enjoyable way to start the trip. Cache Col had a nicely formed cornice, up through the middle proved to be the easiest way. Dropped too low on the decent down to the lake in the clouds and got cliffed out, had to retrace our steps back up till we finally found the traverse over to the lake. Lake was mostly frozen still except for a clear area near the outlet.
Bets were made that evening as to when the weather would clear. 6 am the next morning and we were still sleeping in the middle of a cloud. Then a shout went up from the other tent and we all piled out to see the clouds withdrawing into the valley, in less than an hour we had blue bird conditions. Red Ledges went by quickly, lots of snow up to the traverse proper so no scrambling needed but crampons were helpful as the snow was very firm. The view as you come around Art's Knoll was fantastic and the Middle Cascade Glacier was in great condition. After getting lost in the clouds countless times the day before, the rest of the day down to Yang Yang Lakes proved relaxing since we could actually see where to go.
Up early the next morning for sunrise shots, made a few decent pics. For some reason I had it in my mind that Beckey's alternative route over Hahlakl Pass was in fact the normal route, realized our mistake when we got to the top of the pass, decided to continue on rather than retracing our steps. The route southward from the pass wasn't hard but took some time so that we lost a couple of hours over the normal route to the La Conte Glacier. The La Conte Glacier was in prime condition and we met a group coming from the south near the top (in total we met 6 people on the traverse, 3 groups of 2 each). South Cascade Glacier is amazingly large and our group discussed the possibility of a ski equipped C47 landing on it to deliver us pizza but it was decided that the plan was impractical and after a break we moved along towards White Rock Lks.
Nights 3 and 4 were spent at White Rocks Lks. The photographers needed time to scout locations for the moonrise and the rest day was enjoyed by all. Ideas were again presented regarding a possible pizza drop, planes were sighted but none could be convinced to stop their journeys west. The clear weather continued to hold and the moon did not disappoint, both evenings provided great shots with the full moon rising directly behind Gunsight the first night. The main lake was almost entirely frozen over.
Day 5 was a long day, over the Dana Glacier (in great shape), down to Cub Lk (great swimming and big trout), and eventually down to 6 mile campground. The upper section of Bachelor Creek (the slide area) was not as bad as we had feared and we found the trail at the bottom (south side of creek) pretty quickly. From there is was straight forward until the trail breaks into the open and you encounter long sections of head high brush and slide alder, then the pace ground to a crawl. The log crossing is well flagged, hard to miss. I was expecting the trail to get a little better after crossing the log but there were still some nasty, overgrown sections. Slow going until the last mile or two before 6 mile campground. Arrived late, "campground" was full, slept under the stars.
Day 6 was uneventful except for some EA6 Prowlers which came screaming down the Suiattle R. valley and scared the crap out of everyone. The stashed 12 pack of beer which had been cleverly hidden in the river was found to be high, dry, and warm but was quickly consumed anyways. A great trip and a beautiful traverse!
More images can be found here:
Took a set of nuts, didn't use.