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2019 Backcountry Trip Reports => May 2019 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: aaasen on 05/14/19, 01:40 PM



Title: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: aaasen on 05/14/19, 01:40 PM
Matthew and skied the Ptarmigan Traverse last weekend. We avoided the worst of the mush by travelling at night and in the early morning.

Day 1: Cascade Pass TH to White Rock Lakes

Left Cascade Pass TH at 10:30pm on Friday night and worked our way up through the mush to Cascade Pass. The quiet night was punctuated by sluffs thundering off of Johannesburg. We traversed deep avalanche runnels to the Cache Glacier, where a blanket of ice worms indicated that the snow surface had finally dropped below freezing. We skinned up to Cache Col under the moonlight and the milky way. Surreal.

The snow was firm enough for efficient gliding but not firm enough to need crampons or ski crampons. We reached Spider-Formidable Col at sunrise and traversed to Yang Yang lakes. We rushed across to the Le Conte Glacier as quickly as we could, worried about the cornices above us baking in the early morning sun.

Made it to White Rock Lakes around 10:30am and passed out under the hot sun. Slept on and off until 4am the next day. Matthew’s pad blew away in the wind so he had a cold and uncomfortable night.

Day 2: White Rock Lakes to Downey Creek TH

Left camp at 5am and skinned up the Dana Glacier enjoying the spectacular sunrise.

We had plenty of time so we decided to give Spire Point a go. My great grandfather OP Dickert made the first ascent of it in May 1938, just a couple months before the Ptarmigan Traverse was established.

We climbed the E Face to about 50ft below the summit but didn’t feel comfortable continuing in trail runners with no rope. We traversed an exposed ledge system across the S Face but couldn’t find a reasonable route to the summit so we scrambled back down the E Face.

Not the first time I have been shut down trying one of my great grandparents’ first ascents. It’s incredible what they were climbing 80 years ago. Even with modern roads and gear these peaks are remote, wild, and difficult.

Skied a nice couloir filled with soft debris down to Cub Lake where we found fresh wolverine tracks. Always a treat to be in the land of wolverines.

Skied some of the best turns of the trip dropping down Bachelor Creek, jumping off logs and dodging between trees Snoqualmie Pass style. Skied to about 4,000’ where the climber’s trail crosses the creek then followed the very faint trail to Downey Creek. Long hike back to the car - glad we didn’t have to end this trip with an 8 mile road walk.

Photos:
1. Bonanza and Agnes
2. Point 8084 (Spire Point East?). Pretty sick hanging snowfield.
3. Agnes, Gunsight, Dome


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: toddball on 05/14/19, 02:47 PM
Nice!  maximusj and I did it in two days, the other way, July 1-2 2017.  Did you end up with good skiing going N-S?  S-N lets you ski 5 fall-line "runs", but has the obvious disadvantages of a low, shwhacky start and having more sun on the ascent than the descent.

We also stayed at White Rock Lakes and it was very windy!


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: aaasen on 05/14/19, 03:12 PM
Quote from: toddball on 05/14/19, 02:47 PM
Nice!  maximusj and I did it in two days, the other way, July 1-2 2017.  Did you end up with good skiing going N-S?  S-N lets you ski 5 fall-line "runs", but has the obvious disadvantages of a low, shwhacky start and having more sun on the ascent than the descent.


There isn't much fall line skiing going N-S but going up Bachelor Creek with full packs sounds pretty miserable!

When I do this again I'll wait for firmer snow and make it a much longer trip. There are some incredible lines out there that we didn't have the time or conditions to ski.


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 05/14/19, 06:05 PM
Quote from: aaasen on 05/14/19, 03:12 PM
When I do this again I'll wait for firmer snow and make it a much longer trip. There are some incredible lines out there that we didn't have the time or conditions to ski.


You could also avoid Bachelor Creek by extending the trip over Dome Peak and down to Holden. More days out, and perhaps less time to ski lines, but some nice country. When we did that in 2000, it took five days to get to Holden (and one more day to go home). We stayed west of the divide and went by Image Lake (a beautiful spot). Other parties have traveled east of the divide, in the Agnes-Spruce drainage. That's more of an early season route, I think.

http://alpenglow.org/skiing/ptarmigan-2000/index.html


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: aaasen on 05/15/19, 10:11 AM
Quote from: Lowell_Skoog on 05/14/19, 06:05 PM
You could also avoid Bachelor Creek by extending the trip over Dome Peak and down to Holden. More days out, and perhaps less time to ski lines, but some nice country. When we did that in 2000, it took five days to get to Holden (and one more day to go home). We stayed west of the divide and went by Image Lake (a beautiful spot). Other parties have traveled east of the divide, in the Agnes-Spruce drainage. That's more of an early season route, I think.

http://alpenglow.org/skiing/ptarmigan-2000/index.html


Beautiful route. I have only been to Image Lake in the summer but it sure is nice. I would really like to link the summits of Spire Point and Gunsight somehow and this could be a good way to do it. I'm not sure that hauling the necessary rock climbing gear on a week long ski traverse would be worth it though, maybe it's best to leave the summits for a summer trip.


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: Eckels on 05/15/19, 02:17 PM
The discussion of the Image lake exit got me looking at the map and found that one could also stay high from image lake and go to the sulphur mountain trail as an exit to stay on the west side.

Additionally reversing this exit and then skiing dome and exiting bachelor creek would make an excellent loop that would negate having to deal with car shenanagins. Anybody ever done this?


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 05/15/19, 09:43 PM
Quote from: Eckels on 05/15/19, 02:17 PM
The discussion of the Image lake exit got me looking at the map and found that one could also stay high from image lake and go to the sulphur mountain trail as an exit to stay on the west side.

Additionally reversing this exit and then skiing dome and exiting bachelor creek would make an excellent loop that would negate having to deal with car shenanagins. Anybody ever done this?


My brother Carl and I skied from Sulphur Mtn to Totem Pass (and on to Image Lake) in June 1989. I wrote it up here, in my description of the "Suiattle High Route":

http://www.alpenglow.org/skiing/suiattle-1989/index.html

It's possible that you could find a better route than we took. But it's not obvious to me. Our route is sketched out here:

http://www.alpenglow.org/skiing/suiattle-1989/map.html
Quote:
We parked Carl's car at the end of the White Chuck River road then drove my car up the Suiattle River road to Sulphur Hot Springs. We grunted up the Sulphur Mountain trail carrying horrendous packs, made more so by the skis strapped onto them. Then we skied along a series of basins and ridges to a camp just east of the two largest Bath Lakes.

The first day was hard but the country was enjoyable. The second day, which took us past Canyon Lake to Miners Ridge, was just hard. To get to Canyon Lake we had to traverse south facing slopes that were too steep, too close to treeline, and too thinly covered by snow to offer good skiing. The route might have been better earlier in the spring, but I doubt it would ever be very good.



Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: tabski on 05/16/19, 10:22 AM
Inspiring


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: jackal on 05/19/19, 09:03 AM
Great trip and photos!
Do you have pics of the wolverine tracks? These folks would be interested:
http://cascadeswolverineproject.org/get-involved/


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: aaasen on 05/20/19, 01:49 PM
Quote from: jackal on 05/19/19, 09:03 AM
Great trip and photos!
Do you have pics of the wolverine tracks? These folks would be interested:
http://cascadeswolverineproject.org/get-involved/



This is the best photo I got of the tracks. They were following a skin track that was probably a day or two old - hard to tell. I emailed the Cascades Wolverine Project a week ago but I haven't gotten a response. The pole basket is 10cm across for reference. Maybe someone here can confirm that these are wolverine tracks.


Title: Re: May 10-12, 2019, Ptarmigan Traverse
Post by: Eckels on 05/31/19, 12:31 PM
Thanks for the link to the info on the Bath Lake High route Lowell.

Just got back from attempting the loop but got turned around by thunderstorms. We made it to the high point East of the upper Bath lake and we're looking to drop a northeast facing chute off that summit but we couldn't tell for sure if it went and  could hear and see thunder quickly getting closer and decided against potentially getting cliffed out while the storm hit so we retreated to Bath lakes in the woods.

Beautiful country out there and plenty of snow to make the route work right now.


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