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ManAmongstRuins

soloing the Picket Range - help!

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The Ptarmigan Traverse is a good recommendation for this individual from NYC. Taking a partner along is also a good recommendation. I'd add that it would be a good idea to do a shakedown probe into the Pickets before attempting a solo grand traverse, in order to get a feel for the level of commitment of a Pickets trip.

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Whoa. Okay. I think I may have underestimated the Pickets. This has been quite a setback..:\ or rather an eyeopener. Honestly though, gentlemen, I cannot see myself NOT going this summer. After hours upon hours of delving into the myriad of photos, I am inextricably attracted to these majestic mountains. There is something about them. Regardless of my meager level of mountaineering experience in alpine environment of the Northwest, I have to go. I can, of course, set aside my foolish ambition to complete the entire traverse and settle for something that is more reasonable as most, if not, all of you have seriously suggested.

 

 

I keep hearing great things about Luna, how do you get to the peak from the south (Goodell creek)?

 

Short answer is that you don't. Crossing Picket Pass and climbing out the headwaters of MacMillan creek up Outrigger is the crux of a Picket traverse. Take a look at http://www.mountainwerks.org/cma/2004/pickets/index.html to see exactly that that might entail, or just look at a map. Looks unlikely, because it is.

 

Far easier to 1) approach Luna via Big Beaver/Access Creek or 2) Whatcom Pass/Challenger Glacier/Luna cirque/Luna Col, and these are still not easy options! I did 1) this summer and found it to be the most taxing approach I've done, anywhere, and I've climbed a bit in the Sierra and Andes besides a lot of the usual suspects in the Cascades. I would recommend the #2 as a much more reasonable itinerary, and it's still a burly-ass traverse. But at least with easier bailing options. Just don't try to escape via Luna Creek.

 

Have you looked into the Ptarmigan traverse? Just as scenic as the Pickets and much friendlier traveling. You could easily spend 10 days back there, between the traverse and all the peaks you could bag. The car shuttle issue is much more acute, though.

So the Northern Pickets offer the best scenic views? Can I see Mt Baker, Rainier, or the Olympics from here?

 

The main attraction view-wise of the N pickets is the view onto the N faces of the south pickets, which are freakin' gnarly looking. But you also have view of other N cascade mastiffs--eldorado, Kangaroo Ridge, Snowfield, et al, and MacMillan creek really does look like it might have dinosaurs living in it still.

 

Andyrew, approach #2 sounds ideal. I’m writing this down as one my itineraries! As far as the Ptarmigan traverse, how would I get back to my car? Do I hike out-and-back? How many miles am I looking at here?

 

8-10 days to explore and conquer the mountains

 

So the Northern Pickets offer the best scenic views? Can I see Mt Baker, Rainier, or the Olympics from here?
ok now im starting to worry

 

For good reason. This is not usually a place to learn as you go. It can be a 3 dimensional hell if you dont put in your homework and/or consider joining in with a partner or team with some experience in the area. Again, I am hoping you have a great experience, i just want you to go in sober and prepared. Gps doesnt always work in the valleys , route-finding is very difficult, the terrain is very punishing. Your gear will have to be very light to race against you own capacity for exertion. These are some of the toughest mountains around, but savvy travelers have great trips here quite often. I 'll send you a pm and we chat over it if you want. Of course, you must post a tr here in return, Steph Abeggs site has some great beta as does Summitpost (again Steph the Amazing Beta Queen) and I have some helpful hints in my website too.

 

I imagine it to be menacingly tortuous but as I said, I am drawn to these mountains despite its wild and rugged nature. Rest assure, for the months leading up to this trip I will be doing my homework. No partners though. I’m a lone wolf even after 26 years of living in an overpopulated metropolis like the Big Apple. Heh. Thank you, Wayne! It’s always a blessing to have people who are willing to help a young fellow. Your website is AWESOME! I haven’t looked at everything yet b/c of the workload I have here at the office. I’m in the process of printing out everything I can about my trip (ie. Trip reports, maps, etc). Also, thought I should mention – I came across Steph Abegg’s trip reports and photos on summitpost and her very own site a few months ago by happenstance and it was then when I began to hear the Pickets calling.

 

I will shoot you an email some time this week. Thanks.

 

I'd suggest that soloing a N-S traverse of Picket range is probably not the best idea, due to the level of commitment and your unfamiliarity with the area and the northwest alpine environment. I've personally tried a N-S traverse of the range back in 1999 with a super solid partner, and we bailed back over Whatcom Pass to Hannegan Pass from around Crooked Thumb when the cornices overhanging one particular part of the route of travel were too crazy for us. This was well before the Southern Picket wall. We were both seasoned alpinists but the commitment was total, and we didnt see anyone else our entire trip.

 

As a REALLY good alternative, you could explore the Bailey Range traverse, would would fit into your timeframe and take you through some of the best country the PNW has to offer, with less danger and less commitment. Steph Abegg also has info on the Bailey Range on her site.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Thanks, Alex. I will look into the Bailey Range.

 

interesting thread. I note you are getting good advice here from the hardest of the hardcore... listen well, I'd say..

Yes, sir! And I appreciate everyone here who has taken the time out to contribute!

 

I didn't realize you're from NYC... if you've never done any routes in the Cascades I'd say a pickets traverse is a pretty bad first trip, especially solo. once you're in there the only way out can be days away. Oftentimes the only way out is the route you've planned, which may become unfeasible due to the shit weather.

 

I'd either find a partner whose climbed in the cascades before, ideally in the pickets, or do something with less of a commitment factor, like the Ptarmigan.

 

The Ptarmigan Traverse is a good recommendation for this individual from NYC. Taking a partner along is also a good recommendation. I'd add that it would be a good idea to do a shakedown probe into the Pickets before attempting a solo grand traverse, in order to get a feel for the level of commitment of a Pickets trip.

 

Ptarmigan Traverse sounds like a great 2nd option. I definitely won’t try an entire pickets traverse now that I’ve carefully listened to everyone’s advice on here, but I do want to attempt one of the “easier” approaches to the pickets, preferably the Northern Pickets (ie. Whatcom, Challenger, Luna Peak). There’s a panoramic photo of the entire Picket range that was taken from Luna (I believe by Steph Abegg) and boy is it divine. Only God knows how much I’d love to be there right now.

 

Thank you all!

 

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ManAmongst - you wouldn't be the first to underestimate the Pickets!

 

Good idea to do the Ptarmigan to get a sense of North Cascade traverses, and do a less committing trip into the Pickets (like go into Goodell Creek and climb McMillan to get a first-hand taste of the range) - or go up Access Creek and climb Luna.

 

Why not?

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All I gotta say is don't under estimate the seriousness of Washingtons Cascades. Get warmed up on something else. It doesnt sound like you quite understand what your in for. I hope your not planning on gaining your skill set for this from your rock gym in NYC. I'd like to hear a good TR later rather than some new story of a guy from NYC having mountain mishapps.

Be safe and make the smart decision whatever you do. oh and have fun.

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I plan on documenting my journey on film so to start it off with a pleasant and peaceful ride along the lake with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and thick forest, unaware of the rugged and wild nature of my journey that lies ahead...

Dude, can you somehow attach an avy beacon or a gps transmitter to the camera? Recovering it will be beneficial to the filmmakers when they make the documentary. And oh by the way, Jon Krakauer called and wants to interview you BEFORE your trip.

 

Let me get this straight... you hope to solo the pickets, but you're not comfortable with bumming a ride back to your car from a stranger? Am I missing something?

 

I'm not an alpinist of any measure. I'm just surprised others haven't dispensed this advice to you already. I'm by no means worthy of insinuating I have anywhere near the experience to advise, but it would seem to me "settling" for a solo ptarmigan traverse would be bold for an experienced alpine climber; let alone for someone eluding to there being any degree of congruency among the terms "mountaineering" and "climbing gym".

 

More important than how to get back to your car would be to ask yourself some quesions: Have you ever been on a glacier? Are you prepared to climb out of a crevasse? How'bout if you're injured? Have you ever taken a lead fall? Have you ever unzipped gear? Do you own a rope? Are you capable of carrying the stuff you'd need for a solo 10-day backpacking trip, plus a rope and all the climbing gear necessary for what you propose?

Start there.

 

The one recurring gem of advice I see offered to us newbies in here is to buy a copy of 'Freedom of the Hills'. Study it. Know it. Study it again. Then go get some gear and start pluggin' it. The gym is absolutely, in my opinion, the best venue to learn basic climbing movement. Do that for a few months then go to the 'gunks and continue your apprenticeship applying what you learned in the gym. By this point you should begin to understand a little of what this is all about. With that said, it still ain't alpinism. But it's indicative of the normal climbing progression.

 

People who've done this kind of trip did so after having climbed for YEARS roped up with parners in the alpine. You sorta sound a little like you saw the moon one time and immediately decided to go there after reading a book about astronauts. No offense, but you have absolutely no business crawling into the pickets alone.

 

For myself, the more I learn... the more I'm afraid to follow through with my own aspirations but that's just me. I came from the east coast and did a season of solo backpack patrols in the Glacier Peak and Alpine Lakes winderness areas. I had already learned to climb and spent a lifetime scrambling stuff including the rockies and thought I could handle anything. Even being as fit as ever, it still took me the better part of a day to get to Buck pass from the trailhead. The Washington backcountry is more brutal than anything I've ever seen. Go offtrail up a sidehill there and you'll begin to feel me. The N. Cascades are not the Sierras. They most certainly have very little in common with anything in the NE US. Even most of the Colorado 14'rs can be relatively safe walk-ups. You'll endure more than you ever have just approaching most any Cascadian peak. It's difficult to describe, but the middle of the pickets, from what I can tell, is no place to admit we're right. Frankly, I'm a bit astonished one wouldn't realize that from the pics. "This ain't no weenie roast"!

 

No combination of fitness and ambition alone will serve you well anywhere in the cascadian high country. My guess is you'll never make it a mile above treeline. I don't care how many laps you pull in the gym.

 

Your ambition is good and inspiring. Head west. Climb mountains. Just start smaller. Everyone here did it the same way. I'm still trying to do it. The people in here are not trying to be exclusive. They're just trying to help.

 

Keep in mind some of the climbers here would be among those risking their own lives on their own time launching the SAR efforts to haul your ass out if you don't come out on your own. And all of us here have witnessed the onslaught of ridicule, right here on this site, by the non-climbing masses and media questioning whether it be "allowed" we climb mountains at all. It happens. A lot... everytime someone dies on Hood or elsewhere out there. And it sucks.

 

It is my extrememly modest and humble opinion you do as suggested. Heed the advice of these highly experienced alpinists that you re-examine not only your goals, but more importantly, your motives.

 

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All what you say is true, woodsman.

 

That said, it IS possible for ManAmongst to reach his stated goals and not die in the process, with maybe a modification to his original plan and being conservative.

 

You want to see both the Northern and Southern Pickets solo?

 

1) Drive to Hannegan Pass TR. Northern Pickets: Hannegan Pass to Whatcom Pass to Easy Pass. Its not trivial but it's mostly on primitive trails at least. Camp there or back at Whatcom Pass whereever you find water, hang out, enjoy the views of Challenger and Blum. Don't die on the Challenger Glacier. Go out the same way you came in. 4-5 days round trip minimum.

 

2) Drive to Newhalem. Go in the standard approach for West Ridge of West MacMillian Spire. It's possible you'll figure it out solo the first time, but it isnt really "a trail", it might be followable if you are lucky or hook up with another party if you time it for a Friday or Saturday. You'll camp in one of the cruciables of Washington alpine. If you're motivated go solo West Ridge of West Mac. If not, it doesnt matter. And go back out again the same way you came. For fit people - zorastr and Erick Johnson are my yardsticks - this is a very long day trip, but you will do as an overnight or 3 day trip.

 

Now, you've just spent 9-10 days and seen the Northern and Southern Pickets, possibly even with a summit, and likely not died.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alex,

I'm scrambling for a pen as I type.

That sounds like an awesome trip.

Damn.

Now I wanna go. I got the green book and the brown book. Which one is this again?

 

ManAmngst, I'm guessin' once you get out there, become even more inspired, from what I can tell, you'll be runnin' up 'n down those peaks in no time. Wait til you see this stuff up close.

Keep in mind, however, the potentially most "dangerous" thing might be that you don't return home. Not 'cuz you hurt yourself in the backcountry, but rather just cuz thems mountains got a way'uh keepin' folks like you around. When u do yer trip, then land back in 'hatten, you'll then see what I mean.

Just be patient with them west coasters fer a while til ya make sense of things. And try not to trip over your jaw when you're on the trail. Bring some ben gay for your neck, too. It'll be sore.

 

It's a drug, man. 'N I've had the D.T.'s since I left.

Gotta get back. Gotta get back.

 

 

 

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I was going to suggest the same itinerary as Alex. Wise words.

 

Woodsman: Both of these approaches and routes are covered in the red Beckey guide and in Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield's guide 'Selected Climbs in the Cascades" although I can't remember if you would need both volumes.

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Jeepers I have done the N-S picketts in August on a normal snow year. It wasn't bad except the otto-himmelhorn col where I nearly killed my brother dislodging a 3 foot boulder on his head. Going S-N this way is a NO GO as the cliff off the mustard glacier to picket pass ridge is a rounded cliff face from the mustard glacier to Picket pass this time of the year. Could climb the ottohorn and descend the solid rock to pickett pass ridge. Do this out of the ottohorn col, not the sandy downsloping garbage on the top of the mustard glacier. I suppose one could just descend the mustard and the slabs and traverse over to picket pass but you can't get to picket pass as its a cliff. At least I know of no way to get to picket pass from the South east. I suppose high on Outrigger peak there is a way.

 

The ol' motto, the larger they are the safer they are for boulders? HA! I would say the sandy low 5th class move off the mustard glacier was not bad though as the poster upthread makes it out to be, though he is right in that you fall there, you will slide under the glacier never to be heard from again. Its not 5.7 though. Its a slightly awkward 5.5... Oh wait, there is no distinction really between the two. =)

 

Oh yea, and having to go down the barrier instead of up and over dagenhart('clean' class 4) as it was completely iced over from the storm we endured for the last day and a half on a heather 20 degree slope in cresent creek basin since we couldn't find any flat spot as we had been forced over the previously mentioned ottohorn-himmelhorn col since the weather turned foul on us and we didn't feel safe doing the N. Buttress of Tterror or the N. Buttress of McMillian either forcing us to go down the barrier and we dropped off the barrier too soon and got into cliffs and wound up rappeling through the maple trees below and then scrambling through some patches of horrid underbrush 5 feet off the ground for about a half mile. Other than that it wasn't bad at all if you didn't mind occasional 3rd class.

 

NOTE: If it is raining DO NOT go up or down the otto-himmelhorn col as this is a bowling alley for rocks. We camped off to side at its bottom in a snow/sleet/rain storm and heard/watched boulders and rocks come flying down that bugger for a day and a half.

 

If solo I would still go N-S up Big Beaver and the Eiley Wiley ridge, but Not go over otto-himmelhorn, rather I would go under the faces of the southern pickets on the north aspect and out Elephant Butte High Route also known as Steattle Ridge as it will drop you back at your car, or nearly back at your car, Ross Dam. High rambling on said ridge should be straight forward and easy. Beware lack of water on said ridge at that time of year as snow patches could very well be lacking or cross back to the Terror Creek Drainage hitting W. McMillian on the way out and the trail I might add.

 

Peaks you MUST climb.

Challenger(50' of 4th 5th),

LUNA(3rd), I think Becky calls it 4th, but not really,

Fury, getting from Luna to Fury is 3rd and a single 5th class move on the ridge. You can completely bypass the SE fury glacier, so you don't have to worry about crevasses. Expect up to 40 degree snow though.

Terror low 5th out of the col from crescent creek

McMillian 3rd from Terror Creek upper basin.

Mt. Triumph NE ridge some low 5th bunch of 4th and 3rd if you have the time of course...

 

From Fury you have the option of crossing the glacier and going to Outrigger peak and some very steep snow sections that can be iced if cool weather and down to picket pass or down the west side of E. Fury to picket pass or Go under W. Fury and to Pickett pass(NOTE two t's) Between Crowder and W. Fury, and then back perfect pass or back up the backside of challenger and back out the Eiley Wiley ridge traverse. Of course both these later options require being on the Challenger glacier solo. This is a real glacier, not the jokes in the Sierras/Colorado/Wyoming and for that matter many in Washington.

 

You gotta at least have Beckey's guide and map on page 95. Cascades Volume III. Cascade Alpine Guide climbing and high routes 3, rainy pass to fraser river second edition Fred Beckey.

 

Whatever you do, DO NOT bail out the creek drainages unless there is a known TRAIL, the slide alder/vine maple/devils club/salmon berry, moss covered rocks, stacked trees on said rocks and aforementioned alder/maple/devils club, hanging 5 feet off the ground will be impossible to go through. Its taken some parties DAYS to get out draineges like Luna creek or mcmillian creek or uppper Goodell creek of lengths of only a few miles.

 

Its not like the distances in the Pickets are great, just the route finding problems and elevation changes. I don't think its possible to get through the pickets without traversing at least minor real glaciers or directly below them waiting for the ice to break free and descend on you anyways.

 

Drool time: On ledge at Luna pass.

 

10 am so picture is slightly washed out from the sun. We jaunted up Luna peak early to get our wall hanging picture we printed 17 inches high and 60 long.

 

As other have said, go to summitpost.org search for the picketts and read the trip reports and traverses and then go to Aiden/Micheal/Theron trip report, it has the best "maps" you can print for free anyways. Otherwise I have ancient high routes map with the traverses possible on it. I could hunt it down scan it and send it I suppose, but honestly lines are just lines and get the 7.5 minute quad and go for it. Just be very wary of repelling as you can't go back up.

 

Enjoy. I would go again, if I wasn't going North to Bute, knight Waddington region again. Up there is a whole new meaning to bushwacking. Thank God for Google earth and dates on its images as you can then guess how long its been since an area has been logged.

 

Edited by Wastral

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I wouldn't suggest to anyone planning on soloing in the Pickets anything but to NOT SOLO in the pickets their first time out there.

 

Maybe try soloing West McMillan spire and then see for yourself how rugged the terrain is. Maybe once you see what you're up against, you can then plan your route accordingly. Just getting a clear weather window is 50/50.

 

I honestly don't know anyone who has been out there that didn't have a near epic adventure, no matter how experienced, how many years on rock and snow and how many trips up Rainier has prepared them.

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Why not solo? Its moderate terrain. Its not like he is planning on 5.8 belayed climbing like East McMillian north face. Even if he is, its up to ones comfort level then its fine. Its the commitment to be self sufficient. True, if I were soloing, I would bring extra food, but otherwise... Rappel rope and tat for rappelling off of and be prepared for some route finding issues, but otherwise that is just a mental condition. If route finding is the only problem. I might suggest a SPOT 911 service, but otherwise enjoy.

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Tony, he is traversing, not going multipitch climbing...

 

Have you even been in the pickets? Its not Hell incarnate at every step 5.11b climbing. For the most part its simple class 2. You can traverse the pickets without going over ANYTHING over class 3 at worst! This is how the original party did it after all... Must have had major earthquakes up there as all of the cliffs, traversing, and tales have grown in the telling.

 

Uh, grow a pair Tony? Try going out without your nanny? You don't even have to touch any real glacier when traversing the pickets. Its faster to do so though. The pig glacier in Luna cirque doesn't count nor does the E challenger arm snowfield. Would you recommend not soloing the PCT as you could trip and fall and break your arm as they don't "know" the local conditions in S. Cal? Really?

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This thread has now achieved classic thread status.really

We all linger briefly in this danger/ reality climbing romance, no one vision is better than the raw enthusiasm of the newly sickened, nurture and pass on respect for it all!!

Edited by wayne1112

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Uh Oh . ...Wastral has gone aggro. Time to set up the battle cage!!!!!! Where's the Capt'n when you need him? :pagetop:

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I get sick and tired of all these arm chair pundits touting safety first, when its LIFE first. Not safety. Living in a white padded box is not living. That is death. It sure is safe though...

 

Anyone soloing by definition is conservative. There are many occassions when Not being roped up is far safer than if you are in a team. Just like all these folks trying to claim crevasse rescue courses will magically make them learn crevasse rescue. From the folks I have seen who took said courses they didn't learn a damned thing except don't fall in the hole and be afraid of glaciers. No this is not universally true of course. Instead they could have spent $13 for a book and taught themselves as it would have forced them to learn said material instead of leaning on the group to think for them during said "course".

 

The way safety freaks would have it, everyone would need 300 courses to obtain 300 certificates to pick their nose in a nice clean environment before being allowed to go outside and pick your nose in big ol' outdoors. That way the bereaucratic minded can properly hold power over the masses. Just another form of slavery.

Edited by Wastral

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Huh?

 

Anyone soloing is by definition conservative? Logic fail.

 

Not soloing the pickets traverse = living in a padded whie box?

 

Are you high?

 

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I'm with you when it comes to the concept that death is better than not living, and I don't have a problem with taking risks.

 

But, your argument sounds retarded. :wave:

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Rob - As a certified retard I am offended by your comment.

 

But I do agreee with both of your sentiments.

 

 

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As a REALLY good alternative, you could explore the Bailey Range traverse, would would fit into your timeframe and take you through some of the best country the PNW has to offer, with less danger and less commitment. Steph Abegg also has info on the Bailey Range on her site.

 

Hope that helps.

 

The Bailey range is a really good suggestion both for its beauty and remoteness and for its history. The OP should do some research into Herb Crisler the filmmaker who explored much of the olympic high country including the bailey range but is now mostly forgotten.

 

I would actually really love to see a film that retraced his footsteps and legacy with a dose of adventure thrown in.

 

And you can take a ferry to get there.

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Not that this is necessarily relevant, but I had a funny experience on the Ptarmigan Traverse a few years ago. My brother and I were doing the traverse south to north, and we came up to Cache Col from Kool Aid Lake for our last night (we were planning on climbing Mixup in the morning). We met two climbers from the east coast who were on their third day of the traverse. They had made it to the col, and upon looking south at Formidable/Spider and the Middle Cascade Glacier and beyond they "were like Oh My God." That's a quote. So they decided to just hang out and enjoy the views at the col (which of course are stunning) and drink whiskey, which was good for us because they were generous with it. So what was my point again? Well, if I can think of it I'll let you know. Have fun, be safe? Or something like that. If you want solitude (you'll see a few people for sure though), views, lots of good "safe" solo-able climbs, head to the Ptarmigan. I could spend a week at White Rock Lakes and not get tired of looking around.

 

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You guys are A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

 

I didn't think I would generate enough responses after initially introducing my "crazy" idea.

 

Anyway,

 

I apologize for the delayed response. Been very busy lately with my societal responsibilities. But I still hear the PICKETS calling! Can’t wait to spend what will seem like eternity in the mountains.

 

ManAmongst - you wouldn't be the first to underestimate the Pickets!

 

Good idea to do the Ptarmigan to get a sense of North Cascade traverses, and do a less committing trip into the Pickets (like go into Goodell Creek and climb McMillan to get a first-hand taste of the range) - or go up Access Creek and climb Luna.

 

Why not?

 

What's it like going to Luna Peak by descending from the Challenger to Luna Cirque then up to the col?

 

I'd like to hear a good TR later rather than some new story of a guy from NYC having mountain mishapps.

Be safe and make the smart decision whatever you do. oh and have fun.

 

Thanks for your concern. I'll be back with glorious mountain stories! I'll also even throw in some video footage. And no, you won't see them on the 10 olock news!

 

I plan on documenting my journey on film so to start it off with a pleasant and peaceful ride along the lake with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and thick forest, unaware of the rugged and wild nature of my journey that lies ahead...

Dude, can you somehow attach an avy beacon or a gps transmitter to the camera? Recovering it will be beneficial to the filmmakers when they make the documentary. And oh by the way, Jon Krakauer called and wants to interview you BEFORE your trip.

 

HAH! I almost died choking on my food when I read this. Well, the next time Jon Krakauer calls, tell him not to worry he'll get the interview AFTER the trip.

 

Let me get this straight... you hope to solo the pickets, but you're not comfortable with bumming a ride back to your car from a stranger? Am I missing something?

 

I thought my personality type was evident when I mentioned this as my only concern. Naturally, I am more or less socially withdrawn. I prefer doing things alone, especially something that is very personal and sacred to me like being in the mountains. That's just me. But it's not that i'm terribly uncomfortable with the idea of hitchhiking/partnering with a fellow human. If I really had to, I'll do it.

 

I'm not an alpinist of any measure. I'm just surprised others haven't dispensed this advice to you already. I'm by no means worthy of insinuating I have anywhere near the experience to advise, but it would seem to me "settling" for a solo ptarmigan traverse would be bold for an experienced alpine climber; let alone for someone eluding to there being any degree of congruency among the terms "mountaineering" and "climbing gym".

 

More important than how to get back to your car would be to ask yourself some quesions: Have you ever been on a glacier? Are you prepared to climb out of a crevasse? How'bout if you're injured? Have you ever taken a lead fall? Have you ever unzipped gear? Do you own a rope? Are you capable of carrying the stuff you'd need for a solo 10-day backpacking trip, plus a rope and all the climbing gear necessary for what you propose?

 

Start there.

 

At the risk of sounding ridiculous I'll answer your questions: 1) Negative. I've studied all I can about glacier travel thru videos and books. It's time to put on the crampons, take out the ice axe and start trekking my ass on one myself. 2) No, but I'm prepared to meet my maker. Chances of surviving a fall into a crevasse are next to nil. If I am roped and dangling free in a crevasse I'll refer to what I've studied about self-rescue. I'm not going to pay $$$ to have a professional put me in a crevasse and show me how it's done. 4) If God forbid I break a leg or suffer some other severe injury where walking would be impossible, the only thing I can do is S.T.O.P. (stop, think, observe, and plan). In a survival situation, self-control, the will to survive, and prayer are essentially what you’ll need if you want to live to see another day. I obviously know how to use my survival kit and have basic survival skills. I wouldn’t be wandering in the wilderness alone if I did not. 5) Never really technically rock climbed so no. Self-control and the ability to make keen observations, good judgment, and decisions are my greatest tools. Without this, I might as well be dead before leading a rock climb. I won't climb anything I feel even the slightest bit out of my comfort zone. 6) Unzipped gear? I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by this. And if this is technical jargon used in mountaineering, please don't bash me for my ignorance. 7) I own a 150' parachord. obviously not a climbing rope but a rope nonetheless... used for emergency situations, lowering my pack from cliffs/steep descents, that sort of thing. I do plan on buying a climbing rope after I've talked to the trainers at my gym, of course. 8) I'll worry about that once i've studied my route thoroughly. The only concern I have at this point is whether or not I should bring my bear canister which is the bulk of my pack.

 

The one recurring gem of advice I see offered to us newbies in here is to buy a copy of 'Freedom of the Hills'. Study it. Know it. Study it again. Then go get some gear and start pluggin' it. The gym is absolutely, in my opinion, the best venue to learn basic climbing movement. Do that for a few months then go to the 'gunks and continue your apprenticeship applying what you learned in the gym. By this point you should begin to understand a little of what this is all about. With that said, it still ain't alpinism. But it's indicative of the normal climbing progression.

 

I proudly own a copy of the Freedom of the Hills, and have been reading and studying it since i bought it one year ago. I'm joining a gym solely to get a hands-on feel for the gear (self-belaying and rappelling devices, the harness, carabiners, quickdraws, knots used when tying in, etc). I doubt Ill be needing any of this stuff on my journey in the Pickets really. The climbing aspect of the class is of little importance to me, since naturally, (I believe at least) I'm a good climber. Not to boast or anything. Just saying that my FREE SOLO climbing techniques have worked efficiently for me thus far.

 

People who've done this kind of trip did so after having climbed for YEARS roped up with parners in the alpine. You sorta sound a little like you saw the moon one time and immediately decided to go there after reading a book about astronauts. No offense, but you have absolutely no business crawling into the pickets alone.

 

None taken. I may have come across to most of the people here as just another crazy, ambitious dude from New York who daydreams about escaping the mundane city life and seeks the thrill of being on a mountaintop yelling 'I'm the King of the world". The truth of the matter is I'm not a thrill-seeker nor am I as ambitious as the professional alpinist who tries desperately to climb the biggest and baddest mountains only to get his/her name in the books. I respect all mountains as if they were the thrones of the gods. They are not there for our amusement, our pleasure, or our sport. They are there for our self-sacrifice. They are there for us to ultimately liberate ourselves from worldly attachments, desires, and passions; “finding our true self” is the only real purpose when we venture off into the wild and unpredictable nature of the unknown. I believe, and no offense to you or anyone who disagrees with me, that those who pursue mountaineering purely out of pleasure or passion have missed the point. These are the people that have no business being in the mountains in the first place regardless of how technically experienced they are in alpinism. Yeah, I know, call me a Cynic but mountaineering seems like it's become more about thrill-seeking and personal achievement than the spiritual and contemplative journey to inner liberation. I could go on and on about what the mountains mean to me, but I don't want ruin the main focus of the thread. And I hope I didn't ruin people's perception of me. The Mountains humble me immensely.

 

The Washington backcountry is more brutal than anything I've ever seen. Go offtrail up a sidehill there and you'll begin to feel me. The N. Cascades are not the Sierras. They most certainly have very little in common with anything in the NE US. Even most of the Colorado 14'rs can be relatively safe walk-ups. You'll endure more than you ever have just approaching most any Cascadian peak. It's difficult to describe, but the middle of the pickets, from what I can tell, is no place to admit we're right. Frankly, I'm a bit astonished one wouldn't realize that from the pics. "This ain't no weenie roast"!

 

Cowards beware! haha.

Sounds more fascinating than frightening.

 

No combination of fitness and ambition alone will serve you well anywhere in the cascadian high country. My guess is you'll never make it a mile above treeline. I don't care how many laps you pull in the gym.

 

Well, I hope you're wrong :D. But to me, it's not about being fit or ambitious. My spirit drives me to reach a level that would otherwise be unattainable by the fittest and most ambitious.

 

Keep in mind some of the climbers here would be among those risking their own lives on their own time launching the SAR efforts to haul your ass out if you don't come out on your own. And all of us here have witnessed the onslaught of ridicule, right here on this site, by the non-climbing masses and media questioning whether it be "allowed" we climb mountains at all. It happens. A lot... everytime someone dies on Hood or elsewhere out there. And it sucks.

 

It's not a burden for those who choose to risk their own lives to save others whether or not the incident is caused by the victim's "ignorance", "lack of experience" or "naivety." And if it is, they're in the wrong profession. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that there are people out there who save lives for a living but I can't think that I'd be responsible for all the effort and time spent (not to mention risks involved) in a SAR mission to haul my ass out if something were to happen to me. Mountains will be climbed and many will die trying. Lives will be saved and many will die trying. And these stories will all be forgotten by the media and the masses.

 

It is my extrememly modest and humble opinion you do as suggested. Heed the advice of these highly experienced alpinists that you re-examine not only your goals, but more importantly, your motives.

 

Cynicalwoodsman, thank you for taking the time out to share some of your thoughts.

 

All what you say is true, woodsman.

 

That said, it IS possible for ManAmongst to reach his stated goals and not die in the process, with maybe a modification to his original plan and being conservative.

 

You want to see both the Northern and Southern Pickets solo?

 

1) Drive to Hannegan Pass TR. Northern Pickets: Hannegan Pass to Whatcom Pass to Easy Pass. Its not trivial but it's mostly on primitive trails at least. Camp there or back at Whatcom Pass whereever you find water, hang out, enjoy the views of Challenger and Blum. Don't die on the Challenger Glacier. Go out the same way you came in. 4-5 days round trip minimum.

 

2) Drive to Newhalem. Go in the standard approach for West Ridge of West MacMillian Spire. It's possible you'll figure it out solo the first time, but it isnt really "a trail", it might be followable if you are lucky or hook up with another party if you time it for a Friday or Saturday. You'll camp in one of the cruciables of Washington alpine. If you're motivated go solo West Ridge of West Mac. If not, it doesnt matter. And go back out again the same way you came. For fit people - zorastr and Erick Johnson are my yardsticks - this is a very long day trip, but you will do as an overnight or 3 day trip.

 

Now, you've just spent 9-10 days and seen the Northern and Southern Pickets, possibly even with a summit, and likely not died.

 

Alex,

I'm scrambling for a pen as I type.

That sounds like an awesome trip.

Damn.

Now I wanna go. I got the green book and the brown book. Which one is this again?

 

Same here! :D Thanks, Alex!

 

ManAmngst, I'm guessin' once you get out there, become even more inspired, from what I can tell, you'll be runnin' up 'n down those peaks in no time. Wait til you see this stuff up close.

 

Keep in mind, however, the potentially most "dangerous" thing might be that you don't return home. Not 'cuz you hurt yourself in the backcountry, but rather just cuz thems mountains got a way'uh keepin' folks like you around. When u do yer trip, then land back in 'hatten, you'll then see what I mean.

 

Just be patient with them west coasters fer a while til ya make sense of things. And try not to trip over your jaw when you're on the trail. Bring some ben gay for your neck, too. It'll be sore.

 

It's a drug, man. 'N I've had the D.T.'s since I left.

 

Gotta get back. Gotta get back.

 

Hahhaahahah! That's good stuff, man.

 

I was going to suggest the same itinerary as Alex. Wise words.

 

Woodsman: Both of these approaches and routes are covered in the red Beckey guide and in Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield's guide 'Selected Climbs in the Cascades" although I can't remember if you would need both volumes.

 

Thank you!

 

Jeepers I have done the N-S picketts in August on a normal snow year. It wasn't bad except the otto-himmelhorn col where I nearly killed my brother dislodging a 3 foot boulder on his head. Going S-N this way is a NO GO as the cliff off the mustard glacier to picket pass ridge is a rounded cliff face from the mustard glacier to Picket pass this time of the year. Could climb the ottohorn and descend the solid rock to pickett pass ridge. Do this out of the ottohorn col, not the sandy downsloping garbage on the top of the mustard glacier. I suppose one could just descend the mustard and the slabs and traverse over to picket pass but you can't get to picket pass as its a cliff. At least I know of no way to get to picket pass from the South east. I suppose high on Outrigger peak there is a way.

 

The ol' motto, the larger they are the safer they are for boulders? HA! I would say the sandy low 5th class move off the mustard glacier was not bad though as the poster upthread makes it out to be, though he is right in that you fall there, you will slide under the glacier never to be heard from again. Its not 5.7 though. Its a slightly awkward 5.5... Oh wait, there is no distinction really between the two. =)

 

Oh yea, and having to go down the barrier instead of up and over dagenhart('clean' class 4) as it was completely iced over from the storm we endured for the last day and a half on a heather 20 degree slope in cresent creek basin since we couldn't find any flat spot as we had been forced over the previously mentioned ottohorn-himmelhorn col since the weather turned foul on us and we didn't feel safe doing the N. Buttress of Tterror or the N. Buttress of McMillian either forcing us to go down the barrier and we dropped off the barrier too soon and got into cliffs and wound up rappeling through the maple trees below and then scrambling through some patches of horrid underbrush 5 feet off the ground for about a half mile. Other than that it wasn't bad at all if you didn't mind occasional 3rd class.

 

NOTE: If it is raining DO NOT go up or down the otto-himmelhorn col as this is a bowling alley for rocks. We camped off to side at its bottom in a snow/sleet/rain storm and heard/watched boulders and rocks come flying down that bugger for a day and a half.

 

If solo I would still go N-S up Big Beaver and the Eiley Wiley ridge, but Not go over otto-himmelhorn, rather I would go under the faces of the southern pickets on the north aspect and out Elephant Butte High Route also known as Steattle Ridge as it will drop you back at your car, or nearly back at your car, Ross Dam. High rambling on said ridge should be straight forward and easy. Beware lack of water on said ridge at that time of year as snow patches could very well be lacking or cross back to the Terror Creek Drainage hitting W. McMillian on the way out and the trail I might add.

 

Peaks you MUST climb.

Challenger(50' of 4th 5th),

LUNA(3rd), I think Becky calls it 4th, but not really,

Fury, getting from Luna to Fury is 3rd and a single 5th class move on the ridge. You can completely bypass the SE fury glacier, so you don't have to worry about crevasses. Expect up to 40 degree snow though.

Terror low 5th out of the col from crescent creek

McMillian 3rd from Terror Creek upper basin.

Mt. Triumph NE ridge some low 5th bunch of 4th and 3rd if you have the time of course...

 

From Fury you have the option of crossing the glacier and going to Outrigger peak and some very steep snow sections that can be iced if cool weather and down to picket pass or down the west side of E. Fury to picket pass or Go under W. Fury and to Pickett pass(NOTE two t's) Between Crowder and W. Fury, and then back perfect pass or back up the backside of challenger and back out the Eiley Wiley ridge traverse. Of course both these later options require being on the Challenger glacier solo. This is a real glacier, not the jokes in the Sierras/Colorado/Wyoming and for that matter many in Washington.

 

You gotta at least have Beckey's guide and map on page 95. Cascades Volume III. Cascade Alpine Guide climbing and high routes 3, rainy pass to fraser river second edition Fred Beckey.

 

Whatever you do, DO NOT bail out the creek drainages unless there is a known TRAIL, the slide alder/vine maple/devils club/salmon berry, moss covered rocks, stacked trees on said rocks and aforementioned alder/maple/devils club, hanging 5 feet off the ground will be impossible to go through. Its taken some parties DAYS to get out draineges like Luna creek or mcmillian creek or uppper Goodell creek of lengths of only a few miles.

 

Its not like the distances in the Pickets are great, just the route finding problems and elevation changes. I don't think its possible to get through the pickets without traversing at least minor real glaciers or directly below them waiting for the ice to break free and descend on you anyways.

 

Drool time: On ledge at Luna pass.

 

10 am so picture is slightly washed out from the sun. We jaunted up Luna peak early to get our wall hanging picture we printed 17 inches high and 60 long.

 

As other have said, go to summitpost.org search for the picketts and read the trip reports and traverses and then go to Aiden/Micheal/Theron trip report, it has the best "maps" you can print for free anyways. Otherwise I have ancient high routes map with the traverses possible on it. I could hunt it down scan it and send it I suppose, but honestly lines are just lines and get the 7.5 minute quad and go for it. Just be very wary of repelling as you can't go back up.

 

Enjoy. I would go again, if I wasn't going North to Bute, knight Waddington region again. Up there is a whole new meaning to bushwacking. Thank God for Google earth and dates on its images as you can then guess how long its been since an area has been logged.

 

Wastral, this has been very helpful. That photo at Luna Pass is awesome. Seems like you had quite an adventure. Thanks for sharing. And if you have the time can you send me the link to Aiden/Micheal/Theron trip report? Ive printed several reports but don't know which one exactly you're referring to. thanks again.

 

I wouldn't suggest to anyone planning on soloing in the Pickets anything but to NOT SOLO in the pickets their first time out there.

Maybe try soloing West McMillan spire and then see for yourself how rugged the terrain is. Maybe once you see what you're up against, you can then plan your route accordingly. Just getting a clear weather window is 50/50.

I honestly don't know anyone who has been out there that didn't have a near epic adventure, no matter how experienced, how many years on rock and snow and how many trips up Rainier has prepared them.

 

Why not solo? Its moderate terrain. Its not like he is planning on 5.8 belayed climbing like East McMillian north face. Even if he is, its up to ones comfort level then its fine. Its the commitment to be self sufficient. True, if I were soloing, I would bring extra food, but otherwise... Rappel rope and tat for rappelling off of and be prepared for some route finding issues, but otherwise that is just a mental condition. If route finding is the only problem. I might suggest a SPOT 911 service, but otherwise enjoy.

 

Because people have great ambitions that turned out pretty epic. And even with a few more trips back into the pickets in between have still come out with even bigger epics.

 

Tony, he is traversing, not going multipitch climbing...

Have you even been in the pickets? Its not Hell incarnate at every step 5.11b climbing. For the most part its simple class 2. You can traverse the pickets without going over ANYTHING over class 3 at worst! This is how the original party did it after all... Must have had major earthquakes up there as all of the cliffs, traversing, and tales have grown in the telling.

Uh, grow a pair Tony? Try going out without your nanny? You don't even have to touch any real glacier when traversing the pickets. Its faster to do so though. The pig glacier in Luna cirque doesn't count nor does the E challenger arm snowfield. Would you recommend not soloing the PCT as you could trip and fall and break your arm as they don't "know" the local conditions in S. Cal? Really?

 

Wastral is right. I'm climbing within my comfort zone. Everyone's got one. But my comfort zone could be another man's "death zone." I'm perfectly comfortable 'scrambling' up low 5th class. Approaching a 5.8 would be the threshold of imminent death. We'll see though!

 

I get sick and tired of all these arm chair pundits touting safety first, when its LIFE first. Not safety. Living in a white padded box is not living. That is death. It sure is safe though...

 

Anyone soloing by definition is conservative. There are many occassions when Not being roped up is far safer than if you are in a team. Just like all these folks trying to claim crevasse rescue courses will magically make them learn crevasse rescue. From the folks I have seen who took said courses they didn't learn a damned thing except don't fall in the hole and be afraid of glaciers. No this is not universally true of course. Instead they could have spent $13 for a book and taught themselves as it would have forced them to learn said material instead of leaning on the group to think for them during said "course".

 

The way safety freaks would have it, everyone would need 300 courses to obtain 300 certificates to pick their nose in a nice clean environment before being allowed to go outside and pick your nose in big ol' outdoors. That way the bereaucratic minded can properly hold power over the masses. Just another form of slavery.

 

Wastral, you sound like my kind of guy! I couldn't agree more. The mountains today are fast becoming commercialized. Mt. Rainier is a perfect example. Only those with the most expensive climbing gear, the most technical experiences, graduates of the top mountaineering schools, etc are welcomed. Mountain climbing has become mechanical, technical, and materialistic, all driven by bourgeois sentimentalism. It's the ultimate dumbing down of alpinism!

 

Huh?

 

Anyone soloing is by definition conservative? Logic fail.

 

Not soloing the pickets traverse = living in a padded whie box?

 

Are you high?

 

He's high on life.

 

Not that this is necessarily relevant, but I had a funny experience on the Ptarmigan Traverse a few years ago. My brother and I were doing the traverse south to north, and we came up to Cache Col from Kool Aid Lake for our last night (we were planning on climbing Mixup in the morning). We met two climbers from the east coast who were on their third day of the traverse. They had made it to the col, and upon looking south at Formidable/Spider and the Middle Cascade Glacier and beyond they "were like Oh My God." That's a quote. So they decided to just hang out and enjoy the views at the col (which of course are stunning) and drink whiskey, which was good for us because they were generous with it. So what was my point again? Well, if I can think of it I'll let you know. Have fun, be safe? Or something like that. If you want solitude (you'll see a few people for sure though), views, lots of good "safe" solo-able climbs, head to the Ptarmigan. I could spend a week at White Rock Lakes and not get tired of looking around.

 

Your point is that East Coast mountain lovers would have not the slightest inkling of what they're getting into when they come out to the mountains of the Northwest for the very 1st time.

My point is the Pickets are calling and I must go. :D

Edited by ManAmongstRuins

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Yes, conservative.

 

Those that solo and don't die do so, by being conservative. Very conservative. You don't do routes you can do belayed for starters. Otherwise you have a high probability of dieing.

 

Yes, I know I can climb 5.11 with a belayer and lots of pro in the wall. I certainly would never think of doing that solo! 5.6/5.7 solo? Sure, as I have a large reserve of trust and confidence in my abilities and know that if I have to I can downclimb said rating to a belay/rappel station and get out of there. Also you move far more methodical when soloing as you have twice as much time to make the same moves as if you lead climbed, then waited for your belayer to reach your station. Likewise, you don't do excessive mileage/elevation gain as this would come close to draining your reserves and this could lead to lack of judgement as one gets tired.

 

Wayne solo's 5.10 as his confidence level in his foot/hand placement is far greater than mine as is evidenced by his solo Mongolian ride FA on W. Fury in the pickets.

 

 

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This is their trip.

 

http://www.mountainwerks.org/cma/2004/pickets/index.html

 

I would still get the 7.5min quad if you could before going unless of course you have the ability to print off your own maps. These maps will help verses going in blind. Otherwise print off the web is decent as well though not legible generally. You have to know the intervals on the topo along with max heights generally to figure out the interceeding points etc.

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