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[TR] Primus and Tricouni Peaks - East and West Ridges 07/23/2020

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Trip: Primus and Tricouni Peaks - East and West Ridges

Trip Date: 07/23/2020

Trip Report:
While poking around Google Earth last winter, I came across the Borealis Glacier and its little lake and my eyes got very large. I had to at least go there to spend a night! Further investigation revealed easy routes up the two peaks that cradled this basin, Primus and Tricouni. 
 
And so I somehow convinced Aaron to join me, and we went on a fine Cascadian outing Wednesday to Friday. We went in with little research and the adventure was complete with logjam navigation and dirt clod/root ball problem, steep schwacking, faint climber's trail, amazing camp spot, easy glacier travel, lots of wildflowers, and some class 2/3 travel on average rock and two summits! 
 
Wednesday morning we had a backpack weigh-off, and I was the smug winner. 26 pounds with a liter of water, two nights' food, tent, stove/pot, fuel, glacier gear, and tiny alpine rack! I haven't weighed my backpack in many years, and I was happy with the number. We left Seattle and stopped by Marblemount for permits, then got out to Colonial Creek Campground. Even the first bit of easy trail along Thunder Arm was beautiful.
 
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We continued along the mostly flat Thunder Creek trail for about six miles, past the washed-out bridge and then began scouting for logs across or possible not-certain-death fording opportunities or cairns for help. A bit over a quarter-mile past the old bridge, Aaron spotted some bootprints down the mossy duff off the trail, and we followed.
 
Unfortunately, our "this looks trail-ish" senses were not fully engaged at this point, and we spent longer than necessary battling brush to get to the river. When we did, we saw that we needed to go upstream to access the logjam extravaganza and shallow water to the key log and root ball to get onto the western shore of Thunder Creek. 
 
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That all went fine and then we readied ourselves for the steep AF ridge climber's trail (about 4,000' in less than 2.2 miles). Decision time: schwack up steep hillside that didn't look too thick and intersect the climber's trail (direct route) or schwack-traverse around to the climber's trail and take it from there? I have a tendency to always want to go direct.... which I often realize is not the best way, yet I have a hard time learning this lesson! Although we think the time spent would have been about equal between, the steep bushwhack was certainly much more mentally taxing.
 
We intersected the trail and followed it up and up.... in places it was obvious, other places very faint, and in some places absolutely nonexistent. Not bad overall, though! We got up to the heather slopes and the mosquitos got really bad -- oof.
 
About 7 hours from leaving the trailhead, we got up to the camp spot. Super mega primo! The 360 views are incredible.... north to the Hozomeens and Jack, across McAllister Creek to Snowfield, up Fisher Creek to Kimtah and Mesahchie, and then the framed and majestic LOGAN massif! The glacial lake actually isn't visible from the spot, but the giant banded gneiss cliffs and remnants of Borealis Glacier are!
 
Dinner for me was an alpine burrito complete with avocado, a lot of cheese, rehydrated refried beans, and sriracha. MUCH better than ramen and tuna.... The sunset was outstanding, and later that night, the bare sliver of moon made the Milky Way pop.
 
We woke up to sustained winds and a mostly-cloudy sky with solid clouds to the north and west, including some dark ominous ones. Primus was almost completely socked in. D'oh! We had brought a 60m half/twin and tiny alpine rack with the plan of ascending Primus via the N Ridge (low 5th), descending down the east side, then going up the west slope of Tricouni. Alas, our stoke was not there for the technical route and so we left the gear at camp. We made our way around the basin up to the snow and roped up for the simple glacier travel across toward Lucky Pass, and made our way up the slopes of Primus.
 
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This turned out to basically be a talus walk up to the broad, flat top. Unfortunately the views weren't very open when we were up there, but the weather was improving...
 
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What is this flower called?! I love it...
 
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Tricouni was much more fun, some options for solid 3rd and 4th class scrambling with easy walking, and the views opened up for Austera, North Klawatti Glacier, Klawatti Lake, Eldorado, Forbidden and Forbidden Glacier, Buckner and Boston Glacier.... WOW. And Goode! And Logan! 
 
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Made our way back to camp (about 9.5 hours round trip)...
 
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and about twenty minutes later, four climbers come (dare I say staggering) up the climber's trail! I was floored to see anyone else up there, especially on a weekday. We chatted for a bit, but they really just needed to find a spot to camp....I hope the rest of their Inspiration Traverse went well! (I asked, and two said that they were consistent lurkers of CC... so I hope you guys see this and let us know how your trip went!). Views of Logan in the afternoon were fantastic:
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The exit was straightforward and we got to downclimb the fourth class dirt and trees. We took the climber's trail all the way down the ridge as far as possible, ran into a family of ptarmigans, then Aaron spotted a lizard creature.
 
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We followed a faint but easy half-schwack back to the creek crossing (on the approach, stay right after you climb over the root ball, and stay along the creek below the cliffy section!).
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From there it was an easy time back up to the trail, and then lots of huckleberries and blueberries were eaten and we picked about 3/4 liter to take home! In the parking lot, we met Arthur and Annie, a very sweet older couple with fun stories and their new Winnebago van. Oh, and we saw a fat ground squirrel. 
 
A lovely trip! I'm already excited about the Isolation Traverse and exploring this area earlier in the season, and on skis!
Gear Notes:
Glacier things, light axe. I used aluminum crampons on approach shoes and it worked for me in the fairly soft conditions we found.

Approach Notes:
See above.
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On 7/25/2020 at 2:41 PM, Alisse said:

and about twenty minutes later, four climbers come (dare I say staggering) up the climber's trail! I was floored to see anyone else up there, especially on a weekday. We chatted for a bit, but they really just needed to find a spot to camp....I hope the rest of their Inspiration Traverse went well! (I asked, and two said that they were consistent lurkers of CC... so I hope you guys see this and let us know how your trip went!).

Alisse, it was nice running into you and Aaron at your camp on Thursday. We were staggering, yes, and possibly not completely coherent. By that point of the approach we were pretty spent and tired of the mosquito swarms.

The rest of our trip went great. We climbed Tricouni, Primus, and Austera on Friday, Klawatti on Saturday, Dorado Needle on Sunday, and then staggered out to the Eldorado trailhead.

Stephen

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13 minutes ago, sugiyama_ss said:

then staggered out to the Eldorado trailhead.

For future reference, doing the traverse in the other direction is pretty pleasant!  Just don't expect a quick hitch from the Colonial CG.  The tourists seem quite afraid of climbers, or maybe it is just how bad I smell after a trip.

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On 7/27/2020 at 8:51 AM, Kameron said:

Nice! Let's go on skis

I'm down 😎

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On 7/27/2020 at 10:39 AM, JasonG said:

For future reference, doing the traverse in the other direction is pretty pleasant!

I second this!  A few (well, less than 10 anyway? god I'm a geezer) years back we spent a leisurely four days going from Eldorado TH to CCCG via Eldo, Klawatti, Austera, Primus, and Tricouni.  It was one of the highlights of the summer. Soooo pretty up there.  Recommended for sure.

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I was going to post a trip report for the Inspiration Traverse July 17-20 from North to South, but the important approach beta would seem redundant.  I will just add to the visual stoke and affirm that this is one of the better traverses that I have done in the Cascades. 

 

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Yeah @Matt_Alford!  And I hope that wasn't your heel.  Ouch.  One word: Leukotape.

Interesting how that traverse is getting a lot of attention this year.  I remember thinking I was WAY off the beaten path on the North side of Primus as we came down to camp from Tricouni a few years back.  Good thing nobody came by to ruin my impressions. :wink:

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