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Schaef

[TR] North Cascades - Ptarmigan Traverse Attempt 8/19/2015

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Trip: North Cascades - Ptarmigan Traverse Attempt

 

Date: 8/19/2015

 

Trip Report:

/CacheCol_PtarmiganTraverse2015.jpg[/img]“The dude from Wyoming says hi” these were the best words we heard all day. After a two-and-a-half day journey to the foot of the LeConte Glacier we were greeted by an insurmountable ice cliff on the broken lower glacier blocking our passage to the second half of the route. LeconteGlacierEntry082015.jpg

With limited options for travel we dug into the map contours and determined there was a probable retreat route descending High Log Creek to aptly named “Drop Creek” to the South Fork of the Cascade River trail.

 

The “trail” turned out to be flagged (by whom we aren’t sure) but hadn’t been cleared in years. Tracking game trails and connecting contours to our closely monitored topo maps we battled with our 50 lb packs through brush alder across steep contours, over and under countless blown down trees where any traces of the “trail” would be decimated.

 

At one such junction after passing the Middle Fork of the Cascade River scrambling up on to a wood pecker holed filled tree scanning for any semblance of a cairn, flag, marker, foot print. I looked down to see the first human we had come across in four days.

 

After exchanging details on the trail behind each of us (finally two miles of well-maintained National Park trails) to the trail head. He mentioned almost as an after-thought. To the three mountaineers, “the dude from Wyoming says hi.” My dad had followed our digital bread crumbs on the SPOT gps to track our route deviation. Anticipating our out point was waiting at the trail head to shuttle us back to our dropped car at the intended out put the Suiattle River road.

 

I’m sure when the stinging nettle bites, and sore muscles subside the bushwhack out will recede into distant memory leaving lasting impressions of this improbable alpine passage through some of the most breathtaking alpine scenery I’ve ever encountered.

 

The quest for the section that we were unable to complete, the upper LeConte Glacier, White Rock Lakes will linger in my mind until the route is “in” again next summer…

CacheCol.jpg

 

 

Gear Notes:

Ice Axe, 7.8 ml 40 meter rope. Glacier gear, pickett and ice screws (didn't use). 50 lb packs 5 days food, alpine clothing etc.

 

SpiderFormidableCol.jpg

 

Approach Notes:

Cascade Pass trailhead. Great shape but popular, lot nearly full on a Wednesday morning.

 

More detail, maps, photos and video coming at: http://botnw.com/2015/08/24/ptarmigan-traverse-attempt-2015/CacheCol_PtarmiganTraverse2015.jpg

Edited by Schaef

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Climate change (which doesn't exist, right GOP?) claims another great route, perhaps one of the world's best moderate alpine traverses. Get used to it.

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In a normal year, the PT is pretty boney come August.

While things are a lot worse than normal for the date, it isn't like it wasn't passable earlier in the season.

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Completed the traverse (Cascade Pass to Downey Creek) with Yale Lewis this last week. The LeConte Glacier was indeed the crux. There was some steeper glacier at the bottom that wasn't too terrible (pictured in above report) but above was a huge crevasse. We found a single thin arete of hard snow/ice that reached over the gaper that required a cheval move to get started on. Yale led it and the steep lower part with two tools and ice screws and I was able to grovel behind with a single tool. There was another party ahead of us that did the same bit but with only single (non-curved pick) ice axes and ice screws. Our crossing of it was last Tuesday. Not sure how long that arete passage will last.

 

Also present this late in a low snow year was much grovelling on loose steep talus.

 

Weather was optimal. Sunny every day and finally rained on the Bachelor Creek walk out day, which was quite welcome as we saw a big smoke plume in that general direction the day before (and smelled it during the night).

 

No bugs.

 

We bagged Formidable and Spire. Yay.

Edited by chucK

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Climate change (which doesn't exist, right GOP?) claims another great route, perhaps one of the world's best moderate alpine traverses. Get used to it.

 

Climate change does exist... it always has

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Completed the traverse (Cascade Pass to Downey Creek) with Yale Lewis this last week. The LeConte Glacier was indeed the crux. There was some steeper glacier at the bottom that wasn't too terrible (pictured in above report) but above was a huge crevasse. We found a single thin arete of hard snow/ice that reached over the gaper that required a cheval move to get started on. Yale led it and the steep lower part with two tools and ice screws and I was able to grovel behind with a single tool. There was another party ahead of us that did the same bit but with only single (non-curved pick) ice axes and ice screws. Our crossing of it was last Tuesday. Not sure how long that arete passage will last.

 

Also present this late in a low snow year was much grovelling on loose steep talus.

 

Weather was optimal. Sunny every day and finally rained on the Bachelor Creek walk out day, which was quite welcome as we saw a big smoke plume in that general direction the day before (and smelled it during the night).

 

No bugs.

 

We bagged Formidable and Spire. Yay.

 

chucK... You got pics..? would love to see current conditions in a TR

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I’m sure when the stinging nettle bites, and sore muscles subside the bushwhack out will recede into distant memory.....

 

No it won't...

 

CacheCol_PtarmiganTraverse2015.jpg

 

Wow.. the whole top of the Cache glacier is gone...

 

Props to ur dad...

 

to help hold you over till next yr...

[img:left]http://photos.imageevent.com/banos/ptarmigantraversejuly2014/huge/P1040973_Panorama.jpg[/img]

Edited by banos

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I did this with a couple of friends a few weeks back and we decided to take advantage of the broken LeConte to explore some unknown terrain. We dropped down to LeConte Lake (breathtaking), made a brief steep and exposed heather climb to reach nice alpine hiking above to Rimjob...err, RimRock, Ridge, and then accessed the eastern lobe of the glacier. From here we had to climb several hundred feet of bare glacial ice (fun in trail runners!) to get to the lower angle upper glacier and continue on our way.

 

Our original plan had been to continue after the traverse on a long XC route, eventually exiting through the Lyman Lakes. We had only 4 days total though, and the glacier conditions overall cost time so we exited via the standard exit on day 3.

 

It was, far and away, the most broken I had ever seen any of those glaciers. I had done this traverse in 2008, later in the month, and there was way more snow back then. We crossed many sections of slab where it was obvious it had been newly exposed this year after hundreds, or thousands, of years of being covered in ice. Depressing. On the upside, our re-route was the most enjoyable section for me and the varied conditions made the traverse more interesting than the normal trail and snow walk.

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Sorry it took so long. Here's some photos of the glacier, and where we slipped through.

Far view of upcoming challenges

IMG_01164.JPG

 

Zoom of previous photo.

Arrow shows the snow arete that we used to get past a huge crevasse. Snow arete probably ~25 feet high.

IMG_0116zoom.jpg

 

Yale on the lower part

IMG_01189.JPG

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Arrow shows the snow arete that we used to get past a huge crevasse. Snow arete probably ~25 feet high.

IMG_0116zoom.jpg

 

 

Wow... looks like June is the new August

 

from July '14

IMG_4746_Panorama.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by banos

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Despite inclement weather our team of 5 completed the classic "Traverse of the American Alps" in 3 nights 4 days.

 

See video and GPS: http://botnw.com/ptarmigan-traverse-2016/

 

[img:right]http://botnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/wa_map_ptarmigantraverse.jpg[/img] We shuttled cars, leaving 2 at the Suittle River Road Downey Creek Trailhead parking lot on Wednesday Evening. Choosing to stay in a trailer "cabin" near Marblemount.

 

Day 1:

 

Ptarmigan Traverse Day 1

 

Thursday morning, we got a 7:30am start waiting for the freshly baked Cinnamon Rolls at ... bakery. Fueled with creamy whiskey frosting and espresso we hit the trail at Cascade Pass by 9am. 1:40 to Cascade pass where we took a "substantial break" and chatted with hikers parting ways to the Sahale Arm camp. [img:right]http://botnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Ptarmigan2016_KickingStepsDay1.jpg[/img]

 

The trail from Cascade Pass steepens across talus and snow fields to gain the Cache Glacier where we roped up for the first time. Didn't see any crevasses open, but was good practice to get the team on rope in mellow conditions.

 

Views from the lookout above Cache Col are some of my favorite of the traverse. The cirque to the red ledge, Middle Cascade Glacier and Spider Formidable Col are all visible from here (as improbable as it looks, yes that is actually the route). A short but time consuming drop to Kool Aid Lake has a great position for Camp 1.

 

Day 2:

 

Ptarmigan2016_Day2_LeConteGlacier_Ice Navigating Crevasses and Ice on the LeConte Glacier

 

Planning on a long day 2 to get a jump start on the impending bad weather and chance of thunderstorms moving in we awoke to find ourselves in a cloud. Not the type of weather we wanted for a long day navigating multiple glaciers and passes.

 

A solitary sucker hole in the clouds fooled us in to believing the weather would lift if we kept proceeding. We found the entrance to the Red Ledges snow covered. Steep, but felt more secure than the previous year entrance on crumbly rock.

 

Roping up on the Middle Cascade Glacier at 6,400' we found much better snow conditions than the previous August. I was able to get a good measurement of visibility being last #5 on the rope. Could see 3 out of the 4 team members ahead of me. Reid once again did an amazing job navigating through crevasses in the cloud with help of the GPS Topos map on the iPhone.

 

Reaching the Spider Formidable Col fully snow covered we stayed roped up on the steep decent into the cirque that wraps left around finally descending to the Yang Yang Lakes basin. We got too low once and ended up in cliffy heather terrain. Tried to stay high connecting snowfields before connecting to surprisingly deep Yang Yang Lakes decent trail. Was much faster on snow that the previous year talus crossing.

 

Faced with thicker clouds and soupy air we took an extended lunch break at the Yang Yang Lakes camp at 1pm. Having a frank weather conversation, we decided not to camp but continue on to White Rocks Camp. We didn't want to get caught in worse weather on the LeConte Glacier. Given the difficulty of reversing the route or bailing (bushwacked out the South Cascade Glacier Drainage the previous attempt).

 

The trail from camp south is defined but disappeared in the talus. Spent some time looking for the entrance to the steep goat path in very low visibility. Were able to gain the entrance with out too many false approaches. The steep path is crucial to gaining the ledge to the LeConte snowfield. Had an extra 2,000' climb to two false entrances on the ridge last year. Were glad to have the knowledge of where to find this secret passage and keep our momentum for the day going.

 

The ridge was mostly covered with snow and traveled quickly, fortunately because we were exposed to the wind here and wet clothes were getting increasingly cold.

 

Dropping in to the LeConte snowfields around 7,000 feet for better or worse we still had 150' visibility, but were at least protected from the wind from the LeConte rocky massive above to our right. Made good time crossing the LeConte snowfield. Walked past some amazing snow sculptures formed from rolling snow balls from the higher peaked where the wind wore away the bottoms to form a surreal Stonehenge like rock garden.

 

Roping up at the base of the LeConte Glacier were glad to see a good boot pack on the steep snow entrance. Winding through some of the biggest crevasses of the trip we eventually came to a band of horizontal ice maybe 10' high where Reid placed an ice screw. Not especially technical, were able to easily front point and climbs with one axe. The cost of a fall would be high though with a large open crevasse 30 yards below.

 

Arrived at White Rocks Lake Camp, combining days 2/3 due to poor weather

 

The grade lessened eventually and we were relieved to find ourselves at the rocky band LeConte Col. Traces of bookmarks assured us we had found the correct col to descend and cross into the large flat expanses of the Upper South Cascades Glacier. Disappointed to have no view of the rarely seen south cascades glacier we slogged on over countless ice worms. Stayed roped in but there were no traces of Crevases on the upper glacier.

 

After plunge stepping another steep section we arrived at dusk to the first of the White rocks lake completely frozen over. A short rise to the south east gave us one of our first partial views of the long 14 hour slog. The bottom of the hanging Dome/Dana glacier emerged framed in by the clouds in the dusk light.

 

Found a wind protected camp by the outlet of the large White Rock Lake. Set up tents, had a hot meal and went to sleep in the rain to put an end to day 2/3.

 

Making good use of the hot water bottle in the sleeping bag trick were able to partially dry out some socks, gloves and tights.

 

[img:right]http://botnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Ptarmigan2016_Day2_LeConteGlacier_Ice.jpg[/img]

 

Day 3:

 

Crossing By Dome Peak up the long Dome/Dana Glacier

 

Started from White Rocks camp crossing right across talus and wet foliage along the Dana/Dome cirque drainage. Trail petered out past a waterfall near the den of some creature. Navigated a coular between rock bands to a high perch as the weather cleared to give dramatic views of Dome Peak with partially blue skies!

 

Soaked in the views and layered up the sunscreen for the long gradual climb up the Dana/Dome glacier. Noticed the boot pack to the left towards dome peak (we chose the direct-short variation). A few crevasse high up but mostly a long steady climb back in to the clouds. Tied up and spaced out from the team found myself drifting off daydreaming as we slogged on back up into the clouds.

 

Long decent on snow fields (would be incredible on skis). Traversing left above cliff band in Iswoot ridge to find trail that wraps back under cliffs crossing waterfall to lush lower basin of cub lake wrapped in steep bluffs and cliffs.

 

Started from White Rocks camp crossing right across talus and wet foliage along the Dana/Dome cirque drainage. Trail petered out past a waterfall near the den of some creature. Navigated a coular between rock bands to a high perch as the weather cleared to give dramatic views of Dome Peak with partially blue skies! Soaked in the views and layered up the sunscreen for the long gradual climb up the Dana/Dome glacier. Noticed the boot pack to the left towards dome peak (we chose the direct-short variation). A few crevasse high up but mostly a long steady climb back in to the clouds. Tied up and spaced out from the team found myself drifting off daydreaming as we slogged on back up into the clouds. Long decent on snow fields (would be incredible on skis). Traversing left above cliff band in Itsut ridge to find trail that wraps back under cliffs crossing waterfall to lush lower basin of cub lake wrapped in steep bluffs and cliffs. [img:right]http://botnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Ptarmigan2016_Day3_DomeGlacier3.jpg[/img]

 

Day 4:

 

Bachelor Creek Crossing into well Maintained Downey Creek Trail

 

Departed Cub Lake on tricky footing wrapping the north base of the rocky surroundings. Glacier Peak soon came into view above Cub Lake making me wish I would have brought a polarizing filter to capture the upper white glaciated flanks making them distinguishable from the sky. Short steep switch back trail to a high point descending back down into the Bachelor Creek drainage. Through blowdowns then dense folage and eventually loosing the trail for a creek crossing, short steep alder into tree stand avoiding as much slide alder as possible. Crossing ½ mile stretch of dense wet alder and foliage before finding the Bachelor Creek trail again. Continued down on the east side of the creek crossing multiple tree fall areas taking wide sweeps to refined the trail again. Eventually descending fairly steeply to the Downy Creek junction and camp area. Log crossing from Bachelor creek into Downy Creek Drainage following left contour above downy creek climbing again then traversing what seemed to be endless miles before dropping 1,000 feet in the last mile back to the Downey Creek Trail-head on the Suittle River road and our friend with the car shuttle and cold beers. [img:right]http://botnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Ptarmigan2016_BachelorCreekCrossing.jpg[/img] Gear:

 

60m 8ml dry rope for 5 people

 

Brought 3 ice screws, used 1

 

Glacier Travel Crampons with front points, Ice axes, trekking poles

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Apologies and thank you so much Jason. I see you helping people right and left. We are working on a "fix" of sorts, but its taking some time.

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