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Dave B

Team of two on the Ptarmigan??

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Howdy again - I know this is a bit of a gumby question and the answer is along the lines of "if you have to ask...", but I'm curious about opinions of doing the Ptarmigan Traverse with a team of two where one of the members (i.e. me) outweighs the other (i.e. my wife) by a solid 100 pounds. I know this route is often done as teams of two or even solo, but still I hesitate to put my wife in needless danger.

 

We have both taken crevasse rescue courses but have minimal actual glacier travel experience together as part of a team of three and zero experience as a team of two. We do have an abundance of alpine experience - it has just mostly all been in the absence of glaciers.

 

We're planning on making the trip from CO in late July or early August. How convoluted will the glacier travel likely be then (given the low snow year)? Would earlier in July be better or would waiting until later (i.e. late August) for the snow bridges to collapse be better? From what I can gather, the glacier travel is more straight forward on somewhat predictably crevassed terrain, or am I wrong?

 

This would be our anniversary trip so we're not real interested in adding a literal third wheel and would likely pursue alternative plans if the community were to think this an unwise trip given our situation.

 

Much thanks!

 

 

 

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in july the crevasse danger is all pretty obvious and strait-forward and i don't think we carried much by way of rescue gear, certainly no picketts - i actually don't recollect much of that kind of terrain getting my attention, mostly it's wilderness traveling and simple snow/scrambly terrain w/ some funky alpine issues here and there (i recall the red ledges were a pain in the ass as we headed towards cache col)

 

party of 2 is standard and fun and easy - you do want to be comfortable in the alpine environment as there certainly are places you could get yourself good n' fucked if you slipped

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We have both taken crevasse rescue courses but have minimal actual glacier travel experience together as part of a team of three and zero experience as a team of two. We do have an abundance of alpine experience - it has just mostly all been in the absence of glaciers.

 

Great! If you rope up it will be for the last bit of the Middle Cascade Glacier, perhaps for the South Cascade Glacier but I doubt it, and finally perhaps for a short jaunt up and over by Dome Peak. Most of the travel is on non-glaciated pathways. I think you will find the routefinding a lot more challenging than the actual glacier travel. The glacier travel is extremely benign by almost any standard, but the routefinding is sometimes non-obvious if you are not used to the Cascades. Getting past Cache Col takes some navigation. Getting past Yang Yang lakes takes a little bit of navigation. Getting to White Rock Lakes takes a bit of navigation. I would say there are quite a few very steep snow slopes you traverse along the route, that have no crevasse danger but if you slipped you'd be in for a very dangerous fall, that are to be taken *much* more seriously than the few crevasses you might see. I'd say be expert at ice axe arrest with a pack on. The first slopes you traverse, from Cascade Pass to Cache Col, can be very steep and exposed and hard snow.

 

We're planning on making the trip from CO in late July or early August. How convoluted will the glacier travel likely be then (given the low snow year)? Would earlier in July be better or would waiting until later (i.e. late August) for the snow bridges to collapse be better? From what I can gather, the glacier travel is more straight forward on somewhat predictably crevassed terrain, or am I wrong?

 

The Ptarmigan traverse and the alpine glaciers it crosses are nothing like the glaciers on Mt Rainier, or the Columbia Icecap (now that shit is scary!!). You wont have to cross any snow bridges. The glacier navigation will be extremely obvious, and easy to do end runs if you see a lurking crevasse of some sort. When I did the traverse (once in July, once on Labor Day weekend), we rarely roped up, if ever? I am not trying to be blasé, but it's really not that big a deal. I think we might have roped up for the final couple hundred yards to Spider Formidible Col, but perhaps nothing besides.

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I am usually the guy who is all about having a 60m rope for glacier travel, but this sounds like a good case for a 30m x 8mm glacier rope.

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I'll weigh in on this one.. I finally got to do the Ptarmigan last summer after dreaming of it for a long time. It was a big undertaking and called upon every mountaineering skill I know, but it wasn't a scary trip. I've climbed mainly in the North Cascades so I'm used to the terrain of this region. I agree with the above comments that the crevasses are not the main challenge. We did it in late July and there was plenty of snow cover. Snow cover made for easier travel in most cases, since a lot of the other walking was side-hilling on loose rock. I had my ice axe in my hand for almost the entire trip. A pole in one hand and an axe in the other is a great combination. We went North to South, which I'd recommend, since you don't have to bushwhack up Bachelor creek, and you can see the glaciers ahead of you before you cross them. There are crevasses, but navigating them is very simple in comparison to navigating the traverse as a whole.

 

As others said, every day there were one or two tricky sections that really caught our attention, where if you fell you'd get severely injured. Being comfortable navigating short sections of hard, steep snow is essential for enjoying this trip. None of these "cruxes" were on the glaciers. We usually didn't rope up for these sections - either because it wasn't really feasible or because we felt confident that we could safely get through it with some careful footwork.

 

I love this trip and want to do it again. I think it will see a lot more traffic this year because there is no longer a 9-mile road walk at the end. Oh yeah, and don't go if the weather forecast is bad. It's hard to navigate this trip in a whiteout. We got stuck in the tent for 3 days at White Rocks lake and it made it feel like much more of an expedition! :)

 

Here is my flickr gallery. I think it captures the terrain pretty well, though we didn't take pictures of all the tricky sections.

 

 

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Thanks for sharing those photos Lisa. PT is going on my list for this summer. Anybody want to go with me?

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Thanks for all the replies and thanks, Lisa, for the pictures!

 

In looking through TRs, it seems like the footwear varies by user. I don't relish the idea of spending 5-6 days hiking in my Mont Blancs so for those who have done the traverse with full-shank boots, would you wear them again? In other words, do you feel there was enough added security on the rowdy parts to make up for the lack of off-snow hiking comfort?

 

I've been thinking about getting pair of 3/4 shank boots for spring alpine here in CO (and this might be the proper motivation to pull the trigger) but am wondering if even those might be overkill?

 

Second question: aluminum crampons will likely get trashed on this route, right?

 

This forum is pretty awesome, BTW.

 

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re footwear: the Ptarmigan does have formidable terrain, incl a lot of sidehilling, scree, and snow with a pack on. The descent to White Rock Laks from S Cascade Glacier, and again the decent from Spire Point down to camp for Dome are extremely steep. Whatever works for you where your feet don't blister after 6-10 hard miles with a pack on will work fine for Ptarmigan.

 

re crampons: You should take AL crampons. You aren't going to wear them on any rock, just hard snow. They will be fine.

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Al poons is the weapon of choice for WA summer alpine. when you need steel, it is obvious before leaving home. if you have to ask, then all you need is Al poons.

 

forgo the romance and take sketchy Dan with you. He is a alpine golden good luck child. :)

 

Edited by genepires

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Depends which route you take. If you want to climb Dome you might have to cross the Chickamin which is large and pretty crevassed. Self rescue on a glacier is problematic with a team of two.

 

If you can avoid the Chickamin there's not really a lot of other big slots to cross.

 

CHICKAMIN.JPG

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For those of you who have done the traverse, what do you think are the most enjoyable/noteworthy/must not miss peaks?

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Formidab-leaux

Dome

Sinister

Le Conte is practically a freebie - just a quick side trip.

 

The Chikamin Glacier's no big deal to cross, but the schrund at the base of Sinister might be. We did some 4th rock to get around it as I recall.

 

The extra credit Hanging Gardens, Canyon Lake, Image Lake finish is worth it, but there will be steep sidehill schwacking to get it started.

 

 

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The Chikamin Glacier's no big deal to cross, but the schrund at the base of Sinister might be. We did some 4th rock to get around it as I recall.

 

I guess it depends on the time of year and the conditions for any particular year, more or less snow etc. We did the traverse from N to S in July and the Chikamin was the crux of the traverse, lots of zigzag and suspect bridges. But we went left around the Sinister schrund and through Gunsite pass.

 

Magic and Hurry Up were short and fun

Spider was choss

LeConte and Formidable seemed long

Dome was the easiest.

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My favorite was Dome. We did Sentinel? Old Guard? Junk rock but just an hour 3rd classing detour on the day from Yang Yang to White Rock Lakes.

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take sketchy Dan with you. He is a alpine golden good luck child. :)

 

What he said. I had realized a while ago if you want to get up the routes, find a partner(s) named Dan.

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"We do have an abundance of alpine experience - it has just mostly all been in the absence of glaciers."

 

How does that work? Seems kind of like having a lot of ice climbing experience, mostly in the absence of ice.

 

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Dan, I think one could make an argument that lots of above-treeline experience in Colorado, Wyoming (Wind Rivers, Tetons), and Montana, etc could equate to legit alpine experience. The Sawtooths don't seem to have much glaciation but look a lot like the Stuart Range, for example.

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I had always done my Cascade mountaineering in La Sportiva Trangos, but I blew a hole in the toe less than a week before our Ptarmigan trip. So, I wore my trusty 7-year old Asolo TPS leather boots for the trip - I believe these are classified as more of a backpacking boot. Their soles had slightly rounded edges, which wasn't the best for kicking sidehill steps in softer snow, but they ended up working just fine. I waterproofed them before the trip and was careful to keep a dry pair of socks available. The two guys both had Trangos, and they were the ones with permanently wet feet. On the 9-mile road walk, they were in such agony that they walked several miles in just their socks, while I remained comfortable to the end. Our bad weather probably contributed to this. After the trip, I got them re-soled at Dave Page's Cobbler shop, and they are better than new - the edges of the new Vibram soles are much sharper and grip the snow better. I don't own aluminum crampons so I just used my strap on steel ones.

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