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Ptarmigan Traverse with Mountain Madness

One of the Best Technical Traverses — Ptarmigan Traverse

Back­pack­er Mag­a­zine rat­ed the Ptarmi­gan Tra­verse one of the best tech­ni­cal tra­vers­es in the U.S. We expe­ri­enced a lit­tle bit of every­thing on an out­stand­ing climb through the beau­ti­ful North Cascades.

Our team of 4 was made up of Seat­tle locals Dean, Lau­ren, and Rich and Moun­tain Mad­ness guide Marc Rip­perg­er lead­ing the brigade through the moun­tains. The trip start­ed off with a trail hike up to Cas­cade Pass a quick look back at Boston Basin and Eldo­ra­do before we head­ed off the beat­en path tra­vers­ing snow to Cache Col. We dropped into Kool Aid Lake by sun­set and ate din­ner under clear skies and col­or­ful sky.

Cas­cade Pass. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Day 2: We ven­tured deep­er into the Cas­cade Range and tra­versed glac­i­ers and trav­eled onsnow before arriv­ing at our mead­ow camp nes­tled in at Ying Yang Lakes.

Day 3: We start­ed the day with a steep snow climb out of camp, ascend­ing up a 40 degree couloir to gain the tra­verse over to La Con­te Glac­i­er. From the ridge you can look back and see a lot of the ter­rain you climbed through the pre­vi­ous day. We made quick work ofthe La Con­te Glac­i­er nav­i­gat­ing around a few crevass­es and then enjoyed a stun­ning view look­ing across the Cas­cade Range from our high point at 7,900. We were excit­ed to get to camp and take our boots off and relax. We enjoyed our night­cap with an incred­i­ble view of the moon ris­ing over the moun­tains over hot drinks and gourmet pesto pasta. 

Day 4: We woke up that morn­ing to enjoy anoth­er clear day and had some break­fast while watch­ing a small bear race across the snow­fields above us, kind of a rare sight in such a remote place. We left camp and head­ed up the Dana Glac­i­er, our group was excit­ed about this seg­ment of the trip and we threw in the added bonus of climb­ing Spire Point. A small rock pin­na­cle sit­u­at­ed at the pass of the Dana Col. We did 3 pitch­es of rock climb­ing the tiny sum­mit of this pointy spire. The sum­mit was so small we could not even stand on top! 

Dana Glac­i­er. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Spire Point. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Day 5: We set out to do Dome Peak under crys­tal clear skies. Climb­ing with­out our back­packs was a wel­come change and we all enjoyed the excit­ing tra­verse to the sum­mit. Dome being one of the taller peaks in the range the 360 views are amaz­ing from the sum­mit! You can pick out many of the major vol­ca­noes in the North Cas­cades and look back on the dis­tance you cov­er on the Ptarmigan.

Sum­mit of Dome Peak. Marc Rip­perg­er photo

Day 6: We said good­bye the alpine envi­ron­ment and start­ed our descent down toward Downey Creek. I wish I could say that it is just a quick day how­ev­er to get to Downey Creek you must run the gaunt­let of Bach­e­lor Creek which is full of sec­tions of bushwack­ing and trail spotting. 

Day 7: Although we cov­ered almost 15 miles the last day it was nice change on good trails and the last 8 miles of road hik­ing bad us hunger for the com­forts of sit down restu­rants and warm show­ers. We closed our trip with din­ner at a Thai restau­rant and some great con­ver­sa­tion about our last 6 days together.

Marc Rip­perg­er photo