Turns All Year Trip Reports

2013 Backcountry Trip Reports => June 2013 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: Kyle Miller on 06/20/13, 01:16 PM



Title: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Kyle Miller on 06/20/13, 01:16 PM
I can't say I am responsible for this dream. This one goes wholeheartedly to Lowell and Carl Skoog and Jens Kieler who dreamed up such an ambitious trip through the heart of the North Cascades Crest in one continuous push. It seemed like a grand adventure, but far beyond my abilities and desire to pull off. For numerous years Jason would joke about trying to attempt it and I would simply laugh it off. Well, until I received a email in mid May that would change my perspective.

Here is a informative and well written TR from Lowell explaining it (http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=7640.0).

(http://i565.photobucket.com/albums/ss95/Kylemiller411/map_zpsfc65122a.jpg) (http://s565.photobucket.com/user/Kylemiller411/media/map_zpsfc65122a.jpg.html)

I received an email from Forest asking what Jason and my plans were for the month of June. He was looking for partners crazy enough to attempt the traverse, but for the first few days I wanted nothing to do with it. However, after a lot of thought my perspective changed. What changed, you ask? The allure of having a splitboarder, Cascade born and raised, pulling it off held an incredible amount of value to me, not to mention that my family has deep roots in the Skagit valley (Sedro Wooley and Marblemount). I didn't think I could pull it off but I would put my blood, sweat and tears into it. I had never been in most of the terrain and couldn't think of a better way to check it out. In the end Forest bailed leaving only Hummel and I. We felt comfortable with the group dynamics as we have been at it for years now, and so I packed with only 48 hours before the trip.

(http://i565.photobucket.com/albums/ss95/Kylemiller411/Fortress_zps69ec4f98.jpg) (http://s565.photobucket.com/user/Kylemiller411/media/JH1_0514-2_zpsb5cf9187.jpg.html][img width=1000 height=700]http://i565.photobucket.com/albums/ss95/Kylemiller411/JH1_0514-2_zpsb5cf9187.jpg[/img][/url]

This is a generalized breakdown and a far more detailed report will come out in the hopefully near future.

The Isolation Traverse

It was a mixture of rain and new snow as we made our way up and over the Isolation area. Travel was smooth sailing for the most part until we got to Backbone ridge, which was a sluff nightmare. Our ski tracks caused wet slides that would run below us and made travel both slow and insanely cautious. But in the end we made our way up and over Dorado Needles and at the end of the 4th day we made our way to the Eldo Trailhead where James Rowe (our hero) waited with our food for the second round of the trip.

[url=http://s565.photobucket.com/user/Kylemiller411/media/JH1_9216_zps12a197d2.jpg.html][img width=1000 height=700]http://i565.photobucket.com/albums/ss95/Kylemiller411/JH1_9216_zps12a197d2.jpg[/img][/url]

The Ptarmigan Extended.


We walked from the Eldo trailhead to Cascade Pass before making our way into the Ptarmagin Traverse. We were fortunate that we ran into Trevor Kostanich and partner at the 21 mile mark parking lot. They were kind enough to put in the bootpack across the Mix Up Arm Traverse, but after that we were on our own. Our packs were huge but we slowly followed the main route, putting in the path on Red Ledges and making our way out to White Rocks Lake over 3 days. From there we had no specific path to follow and would make up our own. We dropped to the valley below the Chikamin Glacier and made our way up to the Sinister/ Gunsight col and camped fearing the crux of the section, the NE side of Bannock Lakes. The next day we wrapped around and followed Ross Pass all the way to Bannock via a mellow slope and celebrated with hours of resting in an area that sees little traffic. The next morning we went up and over a low col and rode down to within a few hundred vert above the PCT trail. I persuaded Jason to hike down into the Agnes Valley but upon arriving we realized it was a bad mistake and got back into the alpine, traversing around Sitting Bull Mountain and riding the SE flank down to Agnes valley once again but at a higher elevation. From there we skinned up and over Cloudy Pass and camped at Lyman Lake for the night before ditching our gear and making our way down to Holden where we had mailed our last cache.

[url=http://s565.photobucket.com/user/Kylemiller411/media/JH1_0306_zps6f03a256.jpg.html][img width=1000 height=700]http://i565.photobucket.com/albums/ss95/Kylemiller411/JH1_0306_zps6f03a256.jpg[/img][/url]

Holden

Construction has changed the valley temporarily, but Holden is still Holden. It's nice going to a small town where people recognize you and are happy to hear of your adventures. We were insanely fortunate that they were kind enough to feed us and recharge the occasional battery before kicking us out of town as visitors are against the rules during summer months for the next 3 years. Our packs were filled with gear and it was time for the final push to Glacier Peak.

Suiattle High Route

We left Holden Campgrounds early in the morning, making our way up to Upper Lyman Lake in the early afternoon. It was raining and I wondered why in the hell we had left Holden, but we had to work with the weather. The forecast wasn't looking good BUT was calling for two good days of weather so we had to push it and get out before things went bad. The next morning we woke up to whiteout, followed fortunately by blue skies and knew we had to go while we had the chance. We climbed up the NE face of Chiwawa and rode down the SE face before heading up Fortress and summiting via the spicy east ridge. We descended the west face via a route Jason had not-so-fond memories of and camped right off the Buck Creek Pass trail. The next day we went over the high country of High Pass down into the one area I was familiar and fond of, the Dakobeds. Finally, we were in my zone and we made good time up the Napeequa Valley before camping under the NW side of Ten Peak in a  campsite we had been at 3 years prior. The final day in the alpine was spent climbing up the Honeycomb Glacier, then the Suiattle and Cool standard south route.

Ever since I went out to Glacier Peak in March and had to turn back on the Sitkum Glacier I wanted to return to do it. I knew the trail was destroyed but felt I could deal. We summited as an electrical storm was heading in from the east. With our gear buzzing, I thought “If I did die from lightening that would be one hell of a way to go...” Once we stepped foot on the summit the sun came out and we celebrated for a few minutes before making our first turns down the Sitkum. It was pow and it was pollen but most importantly it was 5000 vertical feet of riding before we would be transitioning to hiking for the final time.

[url=http://s565.photobucket.com/user/Kylemiller411/media/Fortress_zps69ec4f98.jpg.html)

The Exit

The storm came in as we started bushwhacking down steep forest looking for the old climbers trail. It was raining hard and thunder was going off above our heads. I loved it and found it fitting. That night we camped on the river side in the zone that used to be the Kennedy Hot Springs, stoked that we had 4 miles of easy exit ahead of us. The next morning we awoke to sunshine and started making our way downstream. Landslides have taken out the most complex of areas and made it a total pain to make our way back. A lot of the areas have huge consequences for a slip but we carefully bushwhacked our way down valley at a pace of around a mile an hour before making it out to the Whitechuck road. Jason hitched 3 rides back to his car at Pyramid Lake trailhead and drove back to pick me up merely minutes before a rainstorm hit. We were back home in the early morning hours, celebrating our achievement with fast food and warm showers.

In total, our trip was 16 days, 120 miles and 60K of climbing. Thank you Lowell, Jason, James, Cori and the people of Holden for making this dream/fear a reality.

Well.... The weather is bad, so until it improves I will be around. If there are any questions feel free to fire away!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: silaswild on 06/20/13, 01:37 PM
Well done and well written, thanks for sharing.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Jason_H. on 06/20/13, 01:42 PM
Awesome adventure Kyle. Crazy times. Thanks for being a good sport and putting up with so much 'traversing'. It was an epic for sure. Loved that you put up with my route over the summit of fortress mountain. That was among the best days for me. 

Excited to edit through all the imagery, too. Since I'm long winded, it will likely take me a month to put a trip report together.

Thanks for the inspiration Lowell.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Pete A on 06/20/13, 01:42 PM
wow guys.... wow.  what a gigantic trip!  


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: AlpineRose on 06/20/13, 01:44 PM
Wow. Wow.  Wow.  Congratulations on an epic achievement.  Over many years, I've visited most of that terrain.  But on foot and involving six or seven weeklong outings.  So I realize on a visceral level what you have accomplished.

You have reason to be proud of this accomplishment and for us to be proud as well.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: mikerolfs on 06/20/13, 01:59 PM
Kyle your adventures make me want to quit my job.  Congratulations and well done to you both.  Amazing!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: bs. on 06/20/13, 02:08 PM
bad ass.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: dberdinka on 06/20/13, 02:28 PM
That's living the dream.

But what does this mean.....

"visitors are against the rules during summer months for the next 3 years"

Can you still catch a bus there?  Or is it simply you can't dine and overnight in their infrastructure?


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Kyle Miller on 06/20/13, 02:42 PM
I know they can't stop through visitors but the bus only goes two days a week now and is filled to the brim with volunteers.

Things are different but it is still the same old Holden.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: jordansahls on 06/20/13, 02:50 PM
Now that is one impressive trip!  This is like old west, Sahara desert, Ernest Shackleton-esk adventuring!  It's so easy to believe that everything has been done and there are few adventures left to be had.  Thankfully, that is not the case.  Thanks for the inspiration boys.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Marcus on 06/20/13, 04:36 PM
Holy crap -- hell of a trip Jason & Kyle, nicely done!  Very, very inspiring.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: runningclouds on 06/20/13, 06:10 PM
What a trip! Congratulation on pulling off this impressive feat.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: chieftaffy on 06/20/13, 07:57 PM
Awesome work as always - You two put the A in adventure...


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: danpeck on 06/20/13, 08:48 PM
Woohoo!  Stuff like this makes me want to celebrate.  This is truly a great thing.  I look forward to hearing more about this and seeing more pictures... it is quite historic.  My admiration for the two of you grows with each of your adventures.  Nicely done.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 06/20/13, 09:13 PM
Congratulations on your trip, Kyle and Jason.

It's too bad that Forest wasn't able to go when the time came.

To James... you are a saint for supporting the trip like you did.

I remember being obsessed with this trip. But I made peace with my obsession after I completed my Baker-to-Rainier project.

A single push proved to be a poor fit for my lifestyle. It's terrific that you've been able to seize this time in your lives to achieve a more demanding goal.

To those who aren't able to bite off such a big project, it's still a wonderful route when broken into three segments:

http://alpenglow.org/skiing/isolation-1994/index.html
http://alpenglow.org/skiing/ptarmigan-2000/index.html
http://alpenglow.org/skiing/suiattle-1989/index.html

(I'll need to update the third story to mention your successful trip.)


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 06/20/13, 10:00 PM
FWIW - I always considered the American Alps Traverse to have two major variants. The other one starts at Rainy Pass and follows the Mt Logan High Route to Cascade Pass. Then it goes south to Glacier Peak. That was the trip that Carl and I attempted in 1991. We bailed out near Mt Logan due to crummy weather (photos below). That variation would be worthwhile as well.

(http://www.alpenglow.org/misc/2013/0476-049-AmAlps-bailout.jpg)


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: alecapone on 06/21/13, 08:13 AM
SISU!

Well done Klye ans Jason.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Chamois on 06/21/13, 08:16 AM
Holy shite Kyle.  Again!  Quite impressive.  Please - give us a presentation and the details somewhere, sometime.  Would love to see it and congratulate you and team personally.  A very fine adventure.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: JimD on 06/21/13, 08:26 AM
Yowza! Goodunonya boys!!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: jtack on 06/21/13, 10:11 AM
You guys are too tough for words, that is a suffer fest of spectacular proportions.  When you finish an adventure like that, a big trip takes on a whole new meaning.  Thanks for the report, and congrats!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: cornRIDE on 06/21/13, 10:37 AM
words aren't enough sometimes! i'm sure you can relate as you type a TR. :)

atta boy!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Griff on 06/21/13, 10:51 AM
WOW!!! Inspirational to say the least.

I love these stories. Just a couple bros doing something big!! Far out!!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Zap on 06/21/13, 12:57 PM
Your great TR reminds me of a comment I made after Lowell's Dream Payoff in July 2007.

"It's interesting to see how plans and goals change as you move along the journey of life.    :) "


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: ErikT on 06/21/13, 01:20 PM
Thanks for the story, stoke and motivation!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: garyabrill on 06/21/13, 08:33 PM
That is quite an adventure. You guys really put yourselves out there. I'll bet the weather was a nearly constant object of conversation.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: avajane on 06/21/13, 11:20 PM
Way to make the most out of a June in the Northwest. You'll always remember this one! Great job. Inspiring...


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Trevor Kostanich on 06/22/13, 06:00 AM
Congrats guys!

It was great running into you and I'm stoked to see that you made it over Fortress.

Cheers!

Trevor


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: JCR on 06/22/13, 08:35 AM
So glad you guys had a safe rest of your trip and that I could help out. I'm also thankful you came out a day early and I didn't have to put your stinky asses in my car. You guys were already ripe after only 5 days....Can't wait to see some more pictures especially the comparison of organizational style shots!


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: ryanl on 06/25/13, 01:56 PM
heck of a trip you two! Makes me proud to be a Cascadian....


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: jesski on 06/25/13, 02:13 PM
Strong work, you two.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Splitboard Graham on 06/25/13, 10:18 PM
thanks for paving the way, kyle.


Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Kyle Miller on 06/27/13, 12:16 PM
WOW!! Thank you so much for all the kind comments they are truly appreciated.

As with Ryan I am proud to be a Cascadian as our small mountain community has some of the nicest, most approachable people I have ever met.

At this moment we are working out some kinks to get a slideshow of the adventure together as well as a few other potential formats. This was an amazing experience and I am still wrapping my head around it as I watch the rain fall over the city skies.

Lowell the Logan high route has always interested me and I have scoped it from many different angles and dreamed of pulling it together.
Quote from: Zap on 06/21/13, 12:57 PM
"It's interesting to see how plans and goals change as you move along the journey of life.    :) "


Zap I couldn't have said it any better.

Gary you are totally right we were always concerned about weather but somehow we got a rare June weather window that closed down the day we got out.

Marcus and Charles we are all forever in debt to you guys for pulling together such an amazing community, I remember some of my early gibberish TRs on here where people were telling me that I was crazy, some things never change.  ;)


As I have said before "I am a rich man with a poor persons bank account"

or as Ale said James said SISU and Ale I was able to not lose my boot liners this time. :)



Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 08/15/13, 09:11 AM
Amazing turnout at Jason and Kyle's program at The Mountaineers (http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=29015.0) last evening, especially for a ski slideshow in August.

Here's a transcript of my introductory remarks. They provide more details on the background of this trip:
Quote:
Backcountry skiing in the Northwest has been booming for the past decade or so. Better gear and more information have made the sport attractive to many more skiers.

But a smaller boost happened over thirty years ago with the rediscovery of the telemark turn.

A milestone at that time was the publication of the book, Cross-Country Downhill, by Steve Barnett, who now lives near Bellingham. [I invited Steve to the presentation, but unfortunately he was not able to make it.]

Steve Barnett’s book was first published in 1978. But Steve did more than just help revive a forgotten ski technique. With a small group of friends, he envisioned using skis in the Cascade and Olympic mountains in ways they hadn’t been used before. Steve and Bill Nicolai were the first to try skiing the Ptarmigan Traverse, back in 1977. Steve’s early attempts were hampered by weather and avalanche conditions, but he spread the word, and by 1981 the Ptarmigan Traverse had been successfully crossed by telemark skiers.

My friend Gary Brill knew some of Steve’s friends, and Gary invited me to ski the Ptarmigan in the spring of 1982. We had a fantastic trip, and the following year Gary organized a ski traverse from Snowfield Peak to Eldorado Peak, a trip we dubbed the Isolation Traverse. Two of the skiers on that trip were on telemark gear, and the other two were on alpine skis using Ramer bindings and climbing boots.

I got hooked on trips like this, and in 1985 I traversed the Picket Range on skis with Jens Kieler and my younger brother Carl. I started to think about linking some of these trips together, but to be honest, I didn’t think the idea was very practical.

Again, Steve Barnett provided the spark.

In 1987, Steve published The Best Ski Touring in America. While his earlier book was mostly about ski technique, this one was about inspiration.

Writing about the Ptarmigan Traverse, Steve said: “The North Cascades are the most rugged, the most wild, and the most heavily glaciated mountains in the lower 48 states. [...] It's the only place in the lower 48 where real glacial traverses are possible, like those commonly done in the Alps. These are trips where you climb one glacier, cross a pass, ski down another glacier, and then climb up yet another... Along the way you can climb and ski the great peaks from which the glaciers flow.”

Steve continued: "Only in the last few years have skiers started doing the Ptarmigan. Some of those who have done it have gone on and explored similar high traverses nearby. [...] So the pathfinding is almost complete for a ski route covering the entire glacial crest from the North Cascades Highway to south of Glacier Peak. We await our Orland Bartholomew."

Orland Bartholomew was a ski pioneer who traversed alone from Mt Whitney to Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1929. His adventure was described in the 1987 book, High Odyssey, by Gene Rose. Bartholomew was one of a kind, and his accomplishment has inspired hard-core backcountry skiers ever since. Steve Barnett had laid out an adventure in the North Cascades that was worthy of Orland Bartholomew. So I took the bait, and the hook sank deep.

In 1989, my brother Carl and I skied from Sulphur Mountain to Glacier Peak, along a route we called the Suiattle High Route. With this trip, we had scouted most of the route outlined by Steve Barnett. I lobbied Carl and my friend Jens Kieler to try the entire trip in a single push.

To boost our motivation, I decided the route needed an inspiring name. “The American Alps Traverse,” I called it. Jens and I placed caches during the fall of 1990, one of them near Cascade Pass and the other near Lyman Lake. I had in mind an ideal trip, a continuous 100-mile high route where we never had to descend below timberline to resupply.

During the spring of 1991, we made several false starts (foiled by weather), and Carl and I made one full-blown attempt. But it was a terrible spring for long trips. Wet and consistently cloudy and incredibly frustrating. We had a soggy bailout, and none of us could generate much interest in the trip for several years after that.

In the year 2000, I returned with Bruce Goodson and Matt Firth to extend the Ptarmigan Traverse from Dome Peak to Holden. With this trip, I had skied every foot of the American Alps Traverse. But with a family and a regular job, I doubted that I’d try a continuous push again. It wasn’t a good fit for my lifestyle. After I told Matt about my faded dream, he recruited his friend Bob Nielsen to give it a try. In 2002, they skied from Diablo to Holden in eight big days. About two-thirds of the total distance. It was a really strong effort.

My brother Carl got into steep skiing, pioneering several important descents in the Cascades. But the sport cost him his life in 2005 after a fatal fall in South America. In Carl’s memory, I returned to the traverse we had attempted together, but instead of trying to do it in a continuous push, I decided to extend it—in segments. In the spring of 2007, I completed a 25-year linkup of trips from Mt Baker to Mt Rainier, a distance three times as long as the American Alps Traverse. Breaking the trip in pieces was a better fit for me.

After completing my Cascade Crest ski project (http://alpenglow.org/skiing/cascade-crest/index.html), I finally went back and removed the caches that I had placed 17 years earlier. The American Alps Traverse was over for me, but I shared the idea on the turns-all-year website, and this got Jason and Kyle thinking about the trip.

I’m thrilled to see that they actually pulled it off. And I’m looking forward to hearing their story this evening. As Steve Barnett wrote over twenty-five years ago, we await our Orland Bartholomew....



Title: Re: June 1st though 17th, The American Alps Traverse
Post by: Kyle Miller on 08/15/13, 11:17 AM
Thank you so much for the kind words Lowell, Once again it was an honor to be presenting next to you. :)

and thank you so much everyone for attending. It was a blast!


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