Ptarmigan Traverse?


Original Post
Martin Mulligan · · Howell NJ · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 5

Hi all, I'm from NJ and was looking into a backpacking and/or climbing trip in the cascades and was reading about the Ptarmigan Traverse.  I have some mountaineering and ice climbing experience in the North East but generally pretty beginner, and no experience on glaciers etc. Do have all my own gear though.  I was wondering if it would be doable in mid September with my more limited skill set or should/could I link up with someone open to doing it?     

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

If you have zero experience on glaciers, you may want to reconsider a route that has extensive glacier travel.

a.blair · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 65

Very isolated, especially with no glacier skills. I'd consider something else

Zachary Winters · · Mazama, Washington · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 137

Sounds like a perfect trip to do with a guide. Perhaps a bit out of your ability level at the moment, but it'd probably be a rewarding learning experience with some quality instruction along the way. Check out North Cascades Mountain Guides - I think they're permitted for that area (but not positive). There are several other reputable guide services in the area as well. If that isn't a possibility, I can try to make some other suggestions for trips in the Cascades.

John Godino · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Hey martin, I think the comments here are fairly good ones, and that some glacier travel experience is probably needed for this trip.

One option could be that you take a one day glacier travel class from a NW guide company before your trip,  then you'll be all set to go.

If you want a free map, GPX track and Google earth KML file for this route (and more than 50 of the most popular climbs in the northwest), you can get them on on the Mazamas website. Mazamas.org > Resources > maps for climbing and hiking.

Eric Thompson · · Mountlake Terrace wa · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 125
John Godino wrote:

Hey martin, I think the comments here are fairly good ones, and that some glacier travel experience is probably needed for this trip.

One option could be that you take a one day glacier travel class from a NW guide company before your trip,  then you'll be all set to go.

If you want a free map, GPX track and Google earth KML file for this route (and more than 50 of the most popular climbs in the northwest), you can get them on on the Mazamas website. Mazamas.org > Resources > maps for climbing and hiking.

A one day glacier travel class then solo onto the Ptarmigan in late season??? Are you even remotely serious with that advice?  Please don't listen to the above comment.  

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497
Martin Mulligan wrote:

I was wondering if it would be doable in mid September with my more limited skill set or should/could I link up with someone open to doing it?     

It has been a couple weeks since your query - a great question.  And it is a fantastic high-alpine glaciated traverse - worthy objective - and so still worth a detailed reply.  :-)

We got shut down on it our first time after three or so days in fog and winter-like conditions with software getting damper and damper; a worrisome touch of hypothermia at one point after not eating / drinking enough with high output for hours; that was in the vicinity of our eventual turnaround point.  The next year the weather was perfect when we went as a three-some.  Both our trips were around early August.  September may see crevasse's more exposed and so easier to avoid.

Going solo with scant glacier skills and experience would not be wise in my opinion.

Going as a twosome and in addition to rope, crampons, and ice axes, we took a snow picket and ice screws and were mindful of who went first uphill and downhill on glaciers due to weight difference.  Should have a plan for arresting a partner's fall with full backpack on, transferring load to anchor, etc. - a bleak situation as a twosome.

Going as a threesome we went without picket and ice screws - all were very experienced with glacier travel.  Came away feeling like a party of three was optimal (i.e., shared gear such as one rope so lighter, safety in numbers, etc.).

When we retreated the first time in fog, we definitely lost the easiest way back to Cascade Pass (?) and wound up on hard snow in absolutely do-not-fall terrain in part due to still-full backpacks.  Elsewhere in our retreat in the fog, my partner fell on easier terrain and sustained minor scrapes and a big bruise not being able to self-arrest with heavy pack.  

The second trip, we found the most technical section was one ~10 foot vertical part easily overcome with the above gear on lead followed by belay from above for the other two of our threesome.  The next most-challenging section was an earlier steep descent down a gully of snow.  There are other heads-up sections as well.

Definitely demands relevant smarts and comfort on what I would call relatively moderate glacial terrain.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,045
Eric Thompson wrote:

A one day glacier travel class then solo onto the Ptarmigan in late season??? Are you even remotely serious with that advice?  Please don't listen to the above comment.  

completely agree.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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