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dawuda

What would you do for a week in the North Cascades?

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I'm from Oregon.  Been out in CO for the last few years, but I am coming back for a week at the end of this month for a climbing trip with a friend. 

My objective interests are all over the board and I can't seem to decide or figure out what would be best.  Based upon local reports of conditions, what do people think would be best?  Any issues with a specific objective within an area I have listed?

1)Spend the week in Boston Basin doing TFT, Sharksfin, Sahale, maybe Buckner?

2)Spend the week doing the peaks around Eldorado Peak, Austerra, Dorado Needle, etc.

3)Pickets?  I've never been.  I don't want to do the water taxi, so a lollipop style loop traversing either the north or south would be idea.  I think we're aiming for technical objectives with steep snow/ice and rock up to 5.6, maybe 7 for this trip to keep the loads lighter.  Also game for glacier travel with 4th class summits.  Suggestions?  I'm very familiar with Steph's page.  But curious what people think is in.

4)Ptarmigan Traverse.  Is there a way to make a loop with this?  Conditions?

5)Spend a few days on Rainier. Rest day/drive somewhere else.  Do Another peak.  Ideas?  We have 8 days.  Thinking difficulties similar to North Ridge of Baker, or the Kautz, or similar.  

6)Base camp somewhere else and tag peaks (somewhere in the PNW)

Fire away!  Thanks for the info.

-Dan

Edited by dawuda

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Boston Basin/Eldorado/Pickets all require permits from the Park Service which have become increasingly more difficult to get for anywhere.  Plan on starting your trip on a day other than Friday or Saturday and get to the Backcountry Ranger Station super early to get your number.   Ptarmigan Traverse/Dome Peak are outside the park.  Personally I'd go do NE buttress of Goode for 3 days for a full-on mega-classic NC adventure without excessive levels of bullshit (permit required).  Then 3 days for Eldorado/DoradoNeedle/Austera and out.

Edited by dberdinka

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The Pickets would make a rough introduction to the North Cascades, with the exception of Terror Basin. @dberdinka is right on the permit front, and he has good ideas for a week of ass kicking beauty.  Nothing will have the big mountain feel of Rainier though.

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Agreed with JasonG. My one trip to the Pickets (so far) was amazing, but hardly any technical climbing due to weather. It's an amazing, wild, rough place, but not easy to accomplish a lot of climbing... or 5th class climbing anyways.

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As for the Ptarmigan the first ascent party did make a loop out of it by heading east from cascade pass and south on what today is called the PCT.  I wouldn't recommend it as no one has seconded the original 13 summits in 80 years and no other party has ever made a loop out of it. Those cats were harder than a bin of coffin nails. 

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Thanks for the ideas!  Goode was definitely high on my list.   But tell me I'm not crazy for this following idea for the ptarmigan traverse:

day 1, start at South Fork Cascade River Trail and attempt to schwack our way up it and get as close as we can to South Cascade Lake.

day 2, climb over south cascade glacier and either stay at white rock lakes or push on to high camps near Dome

day 3, climb dome and sinister's north face

day 4, return to white rock lakes

day 5, German hamlet if we feel it, push on to Yang Yang lakes

day 6, over to kool aid

day 7, slog out, including descending the road to our car at the lower trail head unless some tourist gives us a ride (it'll be friday if things go well).

This gives us 1.25 day buffer  since I need to be driving toward the airport from the trailhead by mid morning on day 9.  This also allows a bailout option of not doing sinister and/or dome OR even only doing the south cascade glacier to S-N ptarmigan traverse if we're feeling slow or weather craps on us.

Also, if I read the NPS maps correct, this allows us to not have to wait in line to get a permit on day 1, a saturday, since none of our days our in the park.  Kool-aid looks close, but just west of the boundary. Correct?

Thanks in advance!

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The correct answer is to study the weather until the last minute before you decide.

If you are blessed, do the Ptarmigan as an in-and-out.  Start from Cascade Pass and go as far as you want before reversing your steps.  If you're fit and motivated, you could probably bag Dome in that time. Requires no shuttle, zero shwacking and the scenery is good enough to look at from the other direction. 

Edited by curtveld

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2 hours ago, curtveld said:

The correct answer is to study the weather until the last minute before you decide.

This is so very true.  The older I get the more I don't mind shifting last minute to something that will have more sure weather.  I usually have an east side backup.  Perhaps the Cathedral/Grimface group?

And I would not go near the south fork of the Cascade, at least based on a recon a few years ago.  You're on vacation.  Just rent another car and do it one-way, N-S like everybody else.  100% more enjoyable.  And, you don't need permits. 

 

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To sorta hijack, what are the odds that Goode is snow free right now? It's been pretty warm, but most of the TRs I've seen are July-Aug.

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7 minutes ago, AlecE said:

To sorta hijack, what are the odds that Goode is snow free right now? It's been pretty warm, but most of the TRs I've seen are July-Aug.

What do you mean by snow-free? There's a glacier at the base. You mean the rock? It's probably clear after this heat wave. I bet this is a great time to go get Goode, wish I could be there myself, though creek crossings may be cruxy.

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5 minutes ago, Rad said:

What do you mean by snow-free? There's a glacier at the base. You mean the rock? It's probably clear after this heat wave. I bet this is a great time to go get Goode, wish I could be there myself, though creek crossings may be cruxy.

Haha, fair. I assumed the glacier would still be there, was thinking about the rock. It looks mighty tempting....

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2 minutes ago, AlecE said:

Haha, fair. I assumed the glacier would still be there, was thinking about the rock. It looks mighty tempting....

Go get it and put up a report! 

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24 minutes ago, Rad said:

creek crossings may be cruxy.

We went in late June precisely because we were able to cross Bridge Creek on snow.  It was great (no real snow on route, easy to navigate the glacier), and we had a snow patch at the summit bivy to melt for water.  I agree that it should be fine.  Or, ask @John_Scurlock!

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A lot of excellent advice from very experienced climbers here.  Late June gives you a lot of options from alpine rock, alpine cragging, alpine ice, and glacier routes. I would recommend having alternate plans in case you can't get permits for your first choice or the weather is inclement.  Mountains east of the crest often enjoy good weather when the west side is raining.  Washington Pass, Stuart Range, and Enchantments offer a lot of variety, better chance of good weather, and non-permit options.  

A few specific recommendations:

Mt. Triumph.  High quality Skagit gneiss, amazing views into the Pickets, and a straight forward approach.  Permits are very limited though.  

Mt. Stuart.  Good time for the Ice Cliff Arete, North Ridge, Ice Cliff Glacier as you can still probably descend via Sherpa Glacier making the approach and descent from Mountaineer's Creek straight forward.  No permits needed other than the ones you get at the trailhead, which you do need to have.   

Mt. Shuksan.  North Face, Price Glacier both challenging and iconic routes on this most iconic of Cascades mountains. No limited permits necessary.

Mt. Baker. North Ridge, Coleman Headwall.  No limited permits necessary.

I would second the recommendation to start your trip mid week and queue up an hour before the ranger station opens to increase your odds of getting a permit.  You will very likely be challenged by a ranger in Boston Basin to see your permit.  It used to be that if a ranger caught you without a permit they could issue you one on the spot.  Too many people are enjoying our mountains for that now, the rangers have become very strict with permits.  20 years ago, I was hiking out from a day trip up Colchuck Peak with Alex.  I was breaking in a new pair of boots and developed some mighty blisters and was moving really slowly so Alex hiked ahead with our permit.  Naturally, I bumped into a ranger who asked to see my permit.  I told him Alex had it and was hiking ahead of me (a likely story).  The ranger hiked all the way out from Colchuck Lake with me to check our permit at the trail head.  I would add that in my experience back country rangers are good people and are doing their best to preserve an increasingly burdened fragile alpine environment.  They aren't rangers because they enjoy being hard asses, they love the mountains as much as climbers.

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2 hours ago, DPS said:

They aren't rangers because they enjoy being hard asses

I've run into a few that enjoy it.  Packing guns and tasers even, miles from the road, harassing people for minor things like sitting on the side of the trail.  Look at what you're doing to the heather! I must see your permit!  Don't even get me started....

But I agree that most are nice enough, doing the best they can.

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It all of course depends upon the weather.  I wouldn't do the Pickets, both because of the permit BS if you camp, and because the only easy part to reach, Terror Basin, will probably be crowded.  Boston Basin would be even more crowded.  With good weather, Goode would be a great adventure.  One thing I've looked at that might be interesting is to go in Bridge Creek and up Goode, then traverse on over Storm King to Logan and out to Rainy Pass via Beckey's cross-country route.  That puts you close enough to your car not to need a shuttle.  If you have extra time/energy, you can dayhike Eldorado to avoid the permit issue.

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I don't reccomend the trail to south cascade lake.  It unmaintained and washed out 4 to 5 times making the trail a very steep brach belay sort of affair.  Going in from cascade pass would be far easier.   Doing dome peak and sinister in a day from white rocks lake would be quite a feat. 

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