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