Jump to content

[TR] Purple Peak - West Ridge and summit ridge traverse 9/3/2010


Recommended Posts

Trip: Purple Peak - West Ridge and summit ridge traverse


Date: 9/3/2010


Trip Report:

My wife and I got married in Stehekin, and we now take our kids once or twice a year. Last week, my favorite trail run (Rainbow Loop) was closed due to a fire so I had to find something else. There is a trail directly above the cabin where we stay that climbs 5800 feet over 7.5 miles to Purple Pass, with too many switchbacks to count. But who needs a trail? The mountains surrounding upper Lake Chelan are well-suited to x-country travel. They have cliff bands that can usually be skirted, the forests are generally open, and the vegetation is pretty friendly.


My cardio fitness suffered when I focused on sport climbing this summer, so I did a warm-up on September 1st:


Started at 6:30am at first light, ascended about a thousand vertical feet on the trail, left the trail just before Purple Creek and headed up a ridge toward Purple Peak. At my turn around time of 8:30, I was about 4000ft up from the lake on a semi-detached spire.


From my high point:



I retraced my steps, knocking my cairns down along the way, until I reached the lake and plunged into its cool waters. Hot shower, eggs and pancakes, and on to help my 5 yo on her first ride without training wheels. Later in the day, I discovered I’d lost the camera somewhere on the side of Purple Peak. Ugh. But no pain so…


September 3rd:

5:30am Lake Chelan (1100 ft) – Started by flashlight and found the key ramp through the lower cliff bands.

7:30am Reached my previous high point and FOUND THE MISSING CAMERA!!!

8:30am Reached Purple Peak (7200 ft).

9:30am Finished the longer-than-expected ridge traverse to Purple Pass (6884 ft).

10am Left Purple Pass after eating, resting, and changing socks.

10:50am Finished running from Purple Pass down to the Lake Chelan (5800 feet lost in 7.5 miles).


One image you must create in your mind:

Spectacular scarlet alpenglow on the jagged summits of Devore and Tupshin at first light (before recovering the camera).


The next three shots show the route as seen from Purple Pass.


Start at the lake and ascend the obvious ridge center of the frame...




...follow the ridge up to Purple Peak...



...and traverse from Purple Peak to Boulder Butte to Purple Pass...



The following images from the journey start shortly after I found the camera.




I found an ancient poem etched in a tree.




The fallen and the survivors




View from the summit looking North




And back down the lake




X-country travel, like trail running, is meditative. You look a few of steps ahead and flow with minimal conscious input, looking up periodically to navigate on different scales (40 ft, 400 ft).




It is a time for reflection, a time to absorb the sounds, smells, and sights of nature: Ptarmigan exploding from the undergrowth, deer dancing into the darkness, falcons shrieking and riding the updrafts, trees creaking in the breeze, and Pikas squeaking.




A time to empty the head and just be in the moment in the flesh.




Sometimes I get a loop of song in my head that just goes in circles for a while.




"I’m not present, I’m a drug that makes you dream,

I’m an Aerostar, I’m a Cutlass Supreme,

In the wrong lane, trying to turn against the flow,

I’m the ocean, I’m a giant undertow,

I’m the ocean, I’m the giant undertow." (NY)




At the pass I changed into fresh socks and started running down the trail...



With change comes opportunity.




We are all connected.




This trip would mark the passage of my running shoes from "protected" status to "approach shoe", a category where footwear is well-loved and well-worn, like the velveteen rabbit, until its destruction is complete.




The lake was getting closer, the sun was warming the earth, and I felt great. I let out a whoop as I rounded a corner to see the spot where I'd left the trail earlier in the morning. Loop completed. I let my focus drift off target for a split second - and down I went, headfirst, onto the dusty trail. Pride before a fall indeed. I had a small cut on my hand that bled for the next ten minutes, but I was otherwise unhurt. Oh well, I could still claim no blisters or other damage.


10:51am Plunged in the lake.



The wilderness is my church. As a boy, I climbed trees, caught critters in creeks, and built endless forts in the woods of central New Jersey. In college, I ran around the Sierras and added rock climbing to my toolkit. After grad school, I spent nearly a year exploring remote jungles and mountains in Southeast and central Asia. With three kids and a job it’s hard to get time for extended outings, but I still find a way to connect.


It's wonderful to see our kids starting down the same path.



Gear Notes:

Running shoes


Approach Notes:

Ferry or floatplane because there are no roads to Stehekin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 14
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

I have heard of most peaks but this one if a new one for me. Great area and looks like a fun peak.


I know the feeling watching our young ones following in our foot steps. My boy has been hiking with me since he was 2 month old. He is now 7 and done several small peaks and tons of hikes and camping. He loves it! Too much fun! great report. thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...