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omhk
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PostSun Jan 07, 2018 11:28 pm 
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I've been sitting on this report for a while, but I'd like to share it now since it was quite a memorable trip for me. A friend and I decided to make an attempt on Luna Peak over Labor Day weekend. We'd heard quite the tales from some friends who had attempted it last year, so on some level we knew we were signing up for a suffer fest. I didn't take too many photos, but I'm pretty happy with the ones I do have.

If I had to summarize this trip in one sentence, I'd say it was physically quite demanding but even more mentally demanding. My flight to Seattle was delayed, which was fine since American automatically bumped me to a different flight that would get me there on time. The only problem was they somehow sent my bags to Chicago instead. We had wanted to get a super early start on Saturday, but clearly that wasn't happening. Picked up my bags and gear, did a super awkward packing session at the Marblemount ranger station, and headed off on our death march.

First 11 miles were smooth sailing. I tend to get a little bored by long forest walks, but there was a pretty large variety of flora to keep us occupied. We weren't completely sure where to hop off the trail and head towards Big Beaver Creek, but boy was the distance much further than it seemed. We could hear the creek rushing in the background, but it seemed to take us ages to actually reach the shores. We were hoping for a logjam of sorts, but didn't find it. For me, this crossing was actually the scariest (or maybe second scariest: read on...) part of the trip.

The creek was quite deep and bottomless almost everywhere we checked, so we wisely made the choice to cross at a wider part of the creek where we could at least see the bottom. My buddy went first with the water thigh deep on him. I followed very slightly upstream but somehow stepped into a fairly deep and fast-flowing channel and found myself stomach deep. I'm pretty short to begin with, so this was quite unpleasant. With every step I tried to take, it felt like my footing would slip. I had my pack unclipped and loosened and we had checked for hazards downstream before crossing, but it was still nerve-racking. I took a deep breath, my friend came back to help act as an anchor of sorts, and I made it out of the channel. After 3 steps, it was thigh deep and I was fine. A bit embarrassing, and a lesson to be more alert.

Next was the part both of us were least looking forward to. We dove through some unpleasant slide alder before emerging in slightly thinner forest. Our navigation skills must've been on point because contrary to everything we had read, we had a relatively easy trudge up to the base of Luna Peak. Somewhere around 3000 ft, we hit 3 endless ravines surrounded by a crap ton of dense brush and devil's club. After some awkward brush belaying (in which I accidentally grabbed a Devil's club), we made it to the next creek crossing. So far, so good, and we were in great spirits to boot! We saw quite a few empty wasp nests on the ground, but managed to not disturb any live ones.



The slide alder was almost impenetrably dense the farther up we went, so we decided to make a break for it and just cross Access Creek ASAP. Ankle deep, but hilarious and frustrating trying to break through on the other side. Finally, finally, we could see Luna Peak towering above us. Was this seriously not over yet? 4000 more vertical ft?! Took a long lunch break at the headwaters before heading up the col. Now this was Labor Day weekend, so we were prepared to see other people. As we ate lunch, a group of about 8 (!!!) people passed us and headed up the gully. They were fairly spread out, and every single one of the decided to go up this treacherous-looking scree field rather than the more stable-looking gully. A couple of them turned back as we began our ascent.

The gully was a good choice. Very solid footing and we made quick progress. About half-way up, everything became a lot more loose but still fine. There were small to medium-sized talus that we didn't disturb. About 3/4 of the way to the top of the gully, 4 members of the group in front of us turned around and began their descent. It became quite clear very quickly that the two in the rear were pretty inexperienced. And I don't say this to be condescending, but it's important to what happened next. They had been sending small showers of pebbles down the entire time, but when they were about 150-200 ft above us, they let loose a laptop-sized rock that gained a butt load of speed. We looked up and suddenly saw it rolling on its side, bouncing 20+ ft in the air with each impact, heading right at us. We had about 2 seconds to quickly move and hug the cliff wall before it literally whizzed by us. Not a peep from the party above us. This is the part that floors me. If people want to venture into territory that they're perhaps not prepared for, that's their business, but have some consideration for the people around you and at least consider how your actions could affect their safety. I know they were inexperienced, but I fail to see how you don't yell out in warning to fellow hikers beneath you when you dislodge talus like that. That experience left a sour taste in both our mouths, but we still had a summit to attain and pushed on.



At the top of the gully was the very first time we had any sort of panoramic view. Ran into a friendly couple on their descent who gave us some helpful beta. The traverse was awkward at first. If class 4 heather is a thing, then this hike definitely had it. Did an awkward self-belay on grass before the terrain mellowed out a bit. Unfortunately we traversed a little too high and cliffed out. Of course, we're stubborn so we decided to descend down the mini gully and continue onwards down there. I don't have much to say about the final push except that it felt like the end of a marathon. From the col, the terrain wasn't bad, but I started getting cramps in my quads.



The view from the false summit is one of the most rewarding I've had the pleasure of seeing. Not sure words can really describe, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves. I took one look at the traverse to the true summit and said, "Nah, I'm good." My friend continued solo and made it in about 20 minutes. We caught the start of a brilliant sunset before sighing and beginning our descent. We made it back to the top of the gully by last light, which was our plan. I should note we took a snack break here since the Diamond Creek fire was raging over the horizon and the flames were seriously something out of an apocalyptic drama. We saw them from the summit as well, but in the dark it was incredible. To the south, there were two headlamps very high up the flanks of Mt. Terror, which I assume were from climbers bivying.

The descent down the gully back to camp was exhausting, but the upside was having the gully to ourselves this time. We got a solid 6 hours of sleep before our hike out the next day. Overnight, smoke from the fires moved in and the temps picked up. Coupled with the humidity made for some lousy conditions. Somehow, the bushwhack back down to Big Beaver was worse than the ascent. We weren't able to backtrack on our ascent route, which made for some frustratingly slow moving. On a brighter note, we found a much more pleasant spot to cross Big Beaver that was only knee deep, if that. The 11 mile death march back to the trailhead was soul-sucking, but hey, we did it! We had a great time despite some minor mishaps. And we saw some incredible landscapes to boot. Not sure I'll be doing this one again though...
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awilsondc
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PostMon Jan 08, 2018 6:56 am 
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Thanks for the report!  This one is high on my list for next year.  I was just looking at trip reports yesterday.  So did you do this in two days or three?  Also, what's your take on the bivy spot situation at Luna col?  Spot for a tent?
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geyer
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PostTue Jan 09, 2018 8:09 am 
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Great report! I've been seeing yours and Tobin's pictures on instagram and was wondering if you would do a write up. Same question as awilsondc: bivy situation? I'd bring a sack rather than a tent though...
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omhk
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PostTue Jan 09, 2018 3:53 pm 
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awilsondc wrote:
Thanks for the report!  This one is high on my list for next year.  I was just looking at trip reports yesterday.  So did you do this in two days or three?  Also, what's your take on the bivy spot situation at Luna col?  Spot for a tent?

geyer wrote:
Great report! I've been seeing yours and Tobin's pictures on instagram and was wondering if you would do a write up. Same question as awilsondc: bivy situation? I'd bring a sack rather than a tent though...

Thanks! You can definitely fit a small tent up there, I saw someone do it. There's probably only room for a single tent, but I didn't look too closely since we didn't stay up there (unfortunately). We did it in three days.

You can definitely bivy up on the col. We almost did it but didn't have time. Also on the sideways traverse up to the col, you may be able to stay on one of the higher ledges. There is running water lower down.
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