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Jaime

[TR] Ptarmigan Traverse - 7/20/2017

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Trip: Ptarmigan Traverse -

 

Date: 7/25/2017

 

Trip Report:

Jason, Ellie, Dylan and I did a 5-day Ptarmigan Traverse, collectively hitting up Magic, Spider, Formidable, Le Conte, and Dome Peak along the way. We actually started as a party of seven, with Lisa, Jon, and Chris, but the three of them turned around a couple days in.

 

In preparation, we put together a Caltopo map with various tracks and relevant markers, and retroactively added our own track (from Days 2-5), including tracks up Formidable and Dome: https://caltopo.com/m/10Q3. For anyone looking for route beta - check it out!

 

Day 1: Cascade Pass to Kool Aid Lake

6mi, 4000' gain, 2000' loss

 

The most notable part of this day was the heavy packs. There was also a bit of a steep traverse above cliffs on the way to Cache col from Cascade Pass, and then there was a steep step to get up Cache col.

 

Dylan, Jon, and Chris climbed Magic while the rest of us lazed.

 

Day 2: Kool Aid Lake to Formidable

3mi, 1600' gain, 600' loss (excluding Formidable)

 

The red ledge was in pretty good shape, with a snow finger all the way up to gain the ledge. The last few steps were quite steep and right above a moat, so definitely a no-fall zone.

 

We roped up for the Middle Cascade Glacier and passed by a few crevasses, but didn't have to do anything special to avoid them.

 

There are two notches at the Spider-Formidable col - the West one looks more inviting from above, but the East one is definitely better. From some slabs just below the Spider-Formidable col, our party split up with one group going to do Spider and one group (just me and Jason) going to climb Formidable.

 

Formidable Trip Report

 

The weather hadn't been great all day, and half of our party (3 of the 7) decided to turn around here and return to Cascade Pass the next day. The rest of us resigned ourselves to the damp weather and rejoiced that we wouldn't have to do the car shuttle on the other end. Jon and Dylan ran out to climb Le Conte as a parting effort.

 

Day 3: Spider-Formidable col to White Rock Lakes

6mi, 2000' gain, 2600' loss

 

Day 3 was just a bit of a slog.

 

We found the steep snow finger leading up to the ridge to Le Conte. We decided to put on crampons (might as well, since we carried them all that way) and hiked up the couloir. The snow never got above 45 degrees, so it was steepish but not too uncomfortable.

 

We roped up and put on crampons for the Le Conte Glacier, which had a bit more navigation required than the Middle Cascade, but still was relatively straightforward. Other reports mention a snow bridge across a large crevasse, but it was still covered up for us.

 

Back on the west side of the ridge, we crossed below Sentinel and seriously considered climbing it. Dylan decided to go for it, but the rest of us had had enough loose 3rd and 4th class scrambling and decided to continue on. (He didn't summit though - he only had beta from the Beckey guide which referenced a snow finger that didn't seem to be in anymore.)

 

We found some cairns that dropped us easily onto the South Cascade Glacier, which we crossed without roping up. From there we passed through Lizard col, and descended the steep snow and loose rock down to White Rock Lakes, where we made camp.

 

Day 4: White Rocks to Itswoot + Dome Peak

4mi, 2000' gain, 1800' loss (excluding Dome)

 

From camp we traversed across to Dana Glacier, following a fairly obvious trail. Jason and I wanted to climb Dome so we chose to attempt a shortcut to it by crossing the Dana glacier to the Dana-Dome col, rather than crossing through Spire and traversing back to the Dome glacier. This worked great, with just a short step of 3rd class climbing to get over the col to the Dome glacier. Here we split up, with Jason and I going off to tag Dome while Dylan and Ellie headed to make camp on Itswoot ridge.

 

Dome Peak Trip Report

 

Day 5: Itswoot to Downey Creek TH

13.5 miles, 800' gain, 5500' loss

 

The Bachelor Creek 'schwacking was surprisingly full-on given that we were following a decent trail the entire time. Or maybe I should say the trail was surprisingly good considering how full-on the bushwhacking was. It's just that most of the time you could barely see the trail at your feet through the bush and clouds of biting insects. The 'schwacking ramped down at about the same rate as the agony of feet clomping down miles of trail in mountaineering boots ramped up - by the end I could hardly walk. The less said of this day the better.

 

Gear Notes:

Ice ax

Mountaineering boots

Crampons (aluminum)

60m rope

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> hitting up Formidable and Dome Peak along the way.

 

Don't forget Magic, Spider, Le Conte, and almost Sentinel!

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Nice! Too bad you hit some mediocre weather in the midst of all this sunshine, but sounds like a good time still :)

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