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[TR] Ptarmigan Traverse FKT - Fastest Known Time 7/28/2009

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Trip: Ptarmigan Traverse FKT - Fastest Known Time

 

Date: 7/28/2009

 

Trip Report:

Colin Abercrombie and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 14:36 from the Cascade Pass parking lot to the Downey Creek trailhead, a new FKT (fastest known time). In 2008, Colin and I did the traverse in 18:10 so we were extremely happy to do it 3 hours and 34 minutes faster this time.The prior FKT was by Joe Stock and Andrew Wexler, who completed the traverse in 15:40 on September 4, 2004 (or 2001? Or 2002?). Since the upper part of Cascade River Road was closed for repairs due to a washout from severe thunderstorms we got an extra warm-up period and set out from Eldorado TH at 3 am reaching Cascade Pass TH in 55 minutes (the road should be repaired by now). We started the watches at 3:55 am at Cascade Pass TH and reached the Suiattle River Road at 6:31 pm. A big concern was the potential for extreme heat along the traverse and descent through Bachelor Creek. Fortunately, there was a cool breeze on all of the glaciers and cumulus clouds provided some shade as we descended Bachelor and Downey Creeks.

 

[video:youtube]

 

Alternatively, you can watch the movie on Vimeo (faster stream).

 

Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time

Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 03:55

Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 47:47 / 47:47 / 04:43

Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:50:18 / 1:02:31 / 05:45

Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:39:54 / 1:49:35 / 07:35

Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:26:06 / 46:12 / 08:21

LeConte-Sentinel Saddle (7,200 ft+) : 6:10:46 / 1:44:40 / 10:06

White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 7:11:00 / 1:00:14 / 11:06

Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 8:54:06 / 1:43:05 / 12:49

Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 10:15:47 / 1:21:40 / 14:11

Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 12:48:15 / 2:32:28 / 16:43

Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 14:36:10 / 1:48:00 / 18:31

 

Comparison: 2009 vs. 2008 (difference)

Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0

Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 48 / 55 (- 7)

Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:50 / 2:13 (- 23)

Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:40 / 5:00 (- 1:20)

Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:26 / 6:20 (- 1:54)

White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 7:11 / 9:51 (- 2:40)

Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 8:54 / 11:55 (- 3:01)

Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 10:16 / 13:42 (- 3:26)

Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 12:48 / 16:30 (- 3:42)

Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 14:36 / 18:10 (- 3:34)

 

Several factors contributed to the faster time this year. First, we had even more experience on the traverse allowing us to take the most efficient route and avoiding time and energy consuming errors we made last year on the way to Kool Aide Lake and the Middle Cascade Glacier (stay climbers left of the center of the glacier to avoid large crevasses). Second, we were more consistent with our pacing and took shorter breaks. Third, we significantly improved our “transitions,” which is the time it takes to put crampons on and off – there were at least a half dozen transitions along the traverse.

 

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The glaciers are still in good shape with few crevasses. However, despite being 2.5 weeks earlier than our trip last summer, they have noticeably less snow and more ice revealed. This hot and dry summer is taking its toll and glacier travel will become more circuitous soon.

 

Bachelor Creek seems to deteriorate a bit more every time we pass through. The heavy rains from the thunderstorms along with the high humidity appear to have generated explosive growth of the brush in the last week. We battled a bit with the brush, but fortunately it’s a relatively short section. Unfortunately, the Downey Creek trail has also deteriorated with many new blowdowns and obstructions over the trail making that section a bit slower than last year. It seems like the Downey Creek trail goes on forever and we were happy to finally reach the Downey Creek bridge and immediately put our legs in the cool waters of the stream. We didn’t relish the 8.5 mile walk along the road, but it went by pretty fast and we reached the car before dark at 9:15 pm.

 

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Many more great photos of the traverse can be found on last year's TR.

 

As usual, Colin was a great partner for this undertaking. We both had the route dialed in and shared the same goals and objectives. Colin would also like to note that in addition to covering the Ptarmigan in a new FKT, he also set the record for least calories consumed on the Traverse and the greatest caloric deficit at the end of the Ptarmigan ;)

 

 

Gear Notes:

Axe, Crampons, Trail Runners, SaltStick, ShotBloks

 

Approach Notes:

Road was gated at Eldorado TH due to a washout from the severe thunderstroms. It was slated to be opened on Wednesday morning, but we went ahead with our plans to do the traverse on Tuesday and walked the road to the start. Bachelor Creek is very brushy and Downey Creek has additional blowdowns and impediments this year.

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you're a freak of nature Leor...well done man

 

question...what shoes were you sporting this go'round?

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damn how do you take such great pictures and break speed records at the same time?!

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Holy smokes! What was your longest rest?

 

I (& a bunch of friends) did it in a week once, way back when. we thought we were HOT! The Suiattle road was washed out that year so we were treated to a nine mile road walk at the end, in the dark and with a full moon.

 

Another time I did it in about three minutes...!! then turned around and went back in about two minutes. Had Layton along for that trip. (Ok, so maybe on those two times, we cheated)

 

Now I'm wondering what the slowest time ever was..

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Holy smokes! What was your longest rest?

 

I (& a bunch of friends) did it in a week once, way back when. we thought we were HOT! The Suiattle road was washed out that year so we were treated to a nine mile road walk at the end, in the dark and with a full moon.

 

Another time I did it in about three minutes...!! then turned around and went back in about two minutes. Had Layton along for that trip. (Ok, so maybe on those two times, we cheated)

 

Now I'm wondering what the slowest time ever was..

 

yellow planes are aid

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Nice job!

 

What do you think total mileage and elevation gain was?

 

Thanks!

 

Mileage for the timed portion of the traverse from Cascade Pass TH to Downey Creek Bridge on the Suiattle River Road is around 35 miles with approx. 11,000 feet of elevation gain. Until the Suiattle washouts are repaired, the total distance is closer to 44 miles.

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hope you didn't rush in breaking that record... seems like a pretty ok place to hang around and spend some time in ;)

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So what's the milage from Eldorado TH to the Cascade Pass TH, we're just wondering how many miles are added due to the road closure. Also, are there additional miles hiking on the road on other end due to the closure of the Suiattle River road? Thanks for the detialed info and awesome pics.

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Amazing trip! Beautiful scenery, great video.

 

In the name of speed and weight, I assume you guys never roped up. As someone who is just starting to research glacier travel, I was wondering what factors you took into consideration when making the decision. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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I can't speak for them, but I will say from personal experience that this type of commitment requires full knowledge of your own abilities and limitations, as well as full knowledge and acceptance of the risks and any potential negative outcome (eg: death, or, even worse, slow, painful death, alone, in the middle of nowhere). You have no room for error, and maybe no back-up plan, so you need 100% focus and determination 100% of the time. Your decisions regarding the style you choose to employ should be made based on your goals, your expected outcome, and your experience and abilities.

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wedged in a tapering slot of ice...cold, very cold...with each breath, each contraction of the chest, I sink deeper, tigher, into the constriction....

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Amazing trip! Beautiful scenery, great video.

 

In the name of speed and weight, I assume you guys never roped up. As someone who is just starting to research glacier travel, I was wondering what factors you took into consideration when making the decision. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

 

They went into it with the full knowledge that a single error could kill one or both of them.

 

I would recommend always roping up on glacier travel until you have a full knowledge of self-rescue scenarios and are comfortable facing the consequences.

 

I am not ready to go on glacier unroped yet.

 

-Mark

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