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ManAmongstRuins

soloing the Picket Range - help!

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Hello, folks.

I am planning for a 10-day solo excursion to the mountains in August and would really love to hear your thoughts on how to make the most of it. I would really love to see both the Northern and Southern Pickets. For now I just have a few questions:

 

What would be the best route/approach for someone who plans on traversing thru the entire Picket Range? I realized that i would need to do a 'loop' in order to get back to my car unless there's another alternative. Maybe if i leave my car at Ross Lake, entering thru Big Beaver via water taxi ride then exiting the Pickets at Goodell Creek, would it be wise to troop it back to Ross Lake, in other words, walk along the highway "x" number of miles to where I parked the car? (I'm not sure what the distance is between Gooddell Creek and Ross Lake.)

 

Do I need a backcountry permit/to make reservations with the park? What's the weather like mid-end Aug thru early Sept? What are some recommended peaks to bag? Mt. Fury, Terror, Challenger,etc.? Do I absolutely need a bear canister? Lastly, are there any good maps/books out there? Please! Any help/advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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The only big issue I can see is getting over Otto-Himm col that direction, that time of year. It is almost impossible . if you went the other way you can rap it and continue the journey into the n picks. Gives you a big level of commitment once you rap though. bear canister is only desired in the low valleys, just hang you food for that night or 2. you are going at the right time for weather

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I ve done some soloing and it can be very rewarding but Ive never been that out their. Good luck,and be prepared as best you can. obviously theirs some amount of risk no matter how well youve prepared but hell thats what part of climbings about. the unknown adventure of it. waynes a good one to talk to

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we went north to south last summer. there is a 5.7 30 foot thing to get out of the moat on the north side of the ottohorn/himmelhorn col. really exposed and you would die if you fell soloing it but it is only 5.7... going north you would have some tricky bits going towards outrigger from picket pass... I would suggest going North to south and either being confidant soloing 5.7 in boots with a pack or carry along a lightweight self belay system.

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last summer got me hooked too, I'm planning to do the N buttress of fury in july or at least during the earliest weather window... maybe see you in there!

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If you have never been there, I would think it might be difficult to find your way out gooddell creek exits, either from the Mac Spires or chopping block area - much easier going south to north as Wayne suggested. Not sure of your climbing skills, but the entrance and exit up and over Whatcom is quite nice, safe and easy. long trail hiking and potential for bears but nothing too severe. Access creek also works and goes quite easily, although it helps to finds the log jam to cross on. I would not recommend wiley/eiley.

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W Mac, Fury, and Challenger seem like mandatory ticks for a soloist traversing the range. Depends on your comfort level soloing that stuff. Bring along some light cord for rappelling. You might even use it for your approach and exit haha.

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wiley isn't that bad. a plus with it is you avoid having to traverse challenger glacier solo. going out goodell is not hard either. plus there is some serious shit that you would have to climb up to get through outrigger, descending it's just a short rap but going up it would be a long scary death gully on climbers right with loose chockstones of death. My dad talked to Fred Beckey back in the day about it and all he said that the north to south traverse is easier. I tend to agree with him.

 

how hard is descending Access Creek? my plan for this summer is in wiley and then out access. as we were hiking in we ran into a party who had spent 2 days trying to thrutch up access but had given up as it was raining and upward progress was impossible due to alder and turned around...

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Access Creek is not bad exiting. There is some slick heather to traverse (used crampons, even) from Luna Col and possibly some steep neve to downclimb the shoulder of Luna. After that it is an alder jungle gym for a bit then steep forest down to big beaver, where hopefully a log crossing can be found. Then it's the long grind to the boat dock, or worse, the dam.

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It is possible to slut along on another parties boat. They are so cool with this, they have pulled into the office to refund my $ when I came out with another party!

 

Access and Goodell are both easy by Pickets standards, but make sure you are on the right route, Oh the stories I have heard and created by experience...

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Thank you all very much for your input. I’d like to do a North to South traverse b/c I hear the boat ride to the trailhead is a great way to start a long and arduous adventure; and also, 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, would look good “cinematically”. But I’m a bit confused. If I park my car in the lot at Ross Lake and exit via Goodell Creek, how would I get back to the car? Walk along the road? I believe it’s a little over 10 miles between Goodell and Ross Lake. Is there a shuttle bus I can take or do I just stick my thumb out and hitch a ride with a stranger? I’m not entirely comfortable with the latter. But what are your thoughts? How do I solve this car dilemma?

 

Regarding the obstacles involved at certain points along the range (ie. Otto-himmel col etc), I have not familiarized myself with a detailed map of the area so I can’t comment on some of the routes you guys mentioned/suggested. As far as my level of experience is concerned, I wouldn’t quite say that I am an “experienced climber” in the technical sense but I wouldn’t say that I’m just a beginner either. I’ve free solo climbed the Kaweah Peaks in the Sierra, rock walls in the Grand Canyon, other peaks here in the Northeast – Adirondacks in NY and White Mountains in NH that I believe, few will ever dare trying without a rope. I know the Picket Range will be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, so knowledge on technical mountaineering is a must, which is why I’ve joined a rock gym here in NYC and have signed up for classes, etc.

 

Keenwesh, you mentioned Fred Beckey. Which of his alpine guides would I need to pick up for this trip? Thanks!

 

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No shuttle bus, and seriously, the 10 miles between Goddell creek and the Ross lake trail should be the very least of your concerns. If you don't want to whore yourself out on the road to hitch, you can walk a mile or so to the visitor center and try shoulder tapping someone who looks friendly for a ride, or lock a bike up somewhere and ride back to your car.

 

The route you propose is ambitious for a first trip to the range. Technically, there are certainly harder peaks/routes in the sierra and elsewhere, but it's hard to imagine anything with a greater commitment level, and greater constant navigation/routefinding difficulties than a Picket traverse. I would look carefully at my route to see what my escape options are in case I ended up biting of more than I could chew, because there are sections that you will probably not want to have to reverse.

 

Anyway, good luck. It's an awesome section of mountains, sublime and utterly humbling.

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The route you propose is ambitious for a first trip to the range.

Advice worth listening to – if anything, this is an understatement!

 

You might consider hiking one of the Beaver valleys to Whatcom Pass and bag Whatcom Peak and maybe Luna on the way. If that goes well, the views will give you a decent idea of what the step up to a full traverse might be like for next time.

 

And no, your mom didn’t pay me to say this, just trying to point you toward a successful trip. ;)

 

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Standing at Luna Col should be on every Cascade climber's bucket list. Just an amazing place to spend a night!

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No shuttle bus, and seriously, the 10 miles between Goddell creek and the Ross lake trail should be the very least of your concerns. If you don't want to whore yourself out on the road to hitch, you can walk a mile or so to the visitor center and try shoulder tapping someone who looks friendly for a ride, or lock a bike up somewhere and ride back to your car.

 

The route you propose is ambitious for a first trip to the range. Technically, there are certainly harder peaks/routes in the sierra and elsewhere, but it's hard to imagine anything with a greater commitment level, and greater constant navigation/routefinding difficulties than a Picket traverse. I would look carefully at my route to see what my escape options are in case I ended up biting of more than I could chew, because there are sections that you will probably not want to have to reverse.

 

Anyway, good luck. It's an awesome section of mountains, sublime and utterly humbling.

 

Andyrew, thanks! You’re right. it should be the least of my worries. I’ll probably try to catch a ride from the visitor center. But then again, after reviewing photos, maps, topo, trip reports, etc for the past couple of days traversing the entire range is incredibly ambitious for a first-time visit to the pickets. I might have to reconsider…but I really want to do this. I have 8-10 days to explore and conquer the mountains. I’d like to make the most of those days. Spending more than a week in one section doesn’t sit well with me, you know. Thanks, andyrew!

 

Vol. 3 in the beckey guide. get in there, the pickets are the shit.

 

Awesome! Just placed an order.

 

The route you propose is ambitious for a first trip to the range.

Advice worth listening to – if anything, this is an understatement!

 

You might consider hiking one of the Beaver valleys to Whatcom Pass and bag Whatcom Peak and maybe Luna on the way. If that goes well, the views will give you a decent idea of what the step up to a full traverse might be like for next time.

 

And no, your mom didn’t pay me to say this, just trying to point you toward a successful trip. ;)

 

Hah! You know my mother thinks I’ve lost my mind after my first solo trip to the mountains a couple of years ago. She says thrill-seekers live a short life. I tell her it’s not about thrill seeking but rather soul searching. And then she tells me to go to church.

 

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

 

Standing at Luna Col should be on every Cascade climber's bucket list. Just an amazing place to spend a night!

 

Thanks, will do!

 

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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