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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6413 | TRs
Location: kenmore
iron
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getting old
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 12:49 pm 
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summary
humbling. very humbling

extended summary
drop off bike at cascade river on FS road 1570. drive to cascade pass. begin ptarmigan traverse heading north to south. at the end of bachelor creek, cross downey creek, cross goat creek, pick up ridge to bench lake, and traverse from there to sonny boy ridge back to bike location. 8 days hiking, 1 hr biking.


background
hotpantz and i had planned to do the ptarmigan traverse this summer. we picked these dates back in march/april so we could coordinate work schedules. given that i was laid off the week prior to this trip, it afforded just enough time to get all the last minute details worked out, including getting brand new mountaineering boots the day before the trip since my previous pair failed. different brand + different size = perfect recipe for pain. plus, both hotpantz and i were dealing with nagging overuse injuries: she had IT band stuff and my achilles no longer liked me. still, we decided to push on because this trip was worth it.

but, given that the suiattle river road had questionable access to stash bikes without a long road walk or some other means of transport, i devised a plan to make a loop back to the trailhead. i looked both at sonny boy, for which there was little info, and the buckindy traverse, which was probably more involved and required more rope than i wanted to deal with. so, sonny boy it was. when looking at the map i surmised we could run the ridge for most of the route north of bench lake. how wrong i was. but, because it was a high snow year at high elevations and late in the season, easier travel was possible because of snow fields, ramps, and fingers.

day 1: cascade pass to kool-aid lake
we dropped off the bike and arrived at cascade pass around 10:30a with the parking lot nearly full on a warm saturday morning. i tried figuring out the gps i had, but gave up and left it in the car. off we went at around 11:00a. i had a queasy feeling in my stomach since my previous longest trip in the mountains was 4 days, and that was mostly on trail around glacier peak last summer.

this trip was so much larger. yes, the PT is popular, but as we would find, there would be no footprints or signs of people from cache col until we reached bachelor creek. add to that the unknown, seldom visited terrain of bench lake and beyond. we had a PLB, and emergency contacts, but that was about it. from thereon, it would just be the two of us.

our bags were heavy, for us, since we had cams, nuts, glacier rope, two pickets and pulleys each, ice screws and 8+ days (36lbs total) of food. it was the first time i appreciated the gentle grade of the cascade pass switchbacks. even still, i felt tired going up; shouldn't have done kyes two days prior i guess.

loads and loads of food
loads and loads of food
departing trailhead
departing trailhead
the bent-forward position, common with heavy packs
the bent-forward position, common with heavy packs
j-berg snow
j-berg snow
looking towards the route
looking towards the route
bootprints to follow for this stretch
bootprints to follow for this stretch
blooming heather and huckleberry
blooming heather and huckleberry
we'd see a LOT of this along the way
we'd see a LOT of this along the way
steps
steps
group of 3 on the ridge
group of 3 on the ridge

the most challenging route finding of any trip for me is when to leave the trail. i'm fine off trail and feel very comfortable there, but when there are confusing trails, i often get turned around. fortunately, that was not the case from cascade pass. in fact, the route all the way to cache col was cake. sure, there was the occasionally steep traversing, but nothing bad.

valley towards stehekin
valley towards stehekin
much deserved 2nd break, cascade pass in background
much deserved 2nd break, cascade pass in background
sahale
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sahale
ah, finally, continuous snow
ah, finally, continuous snow
cache col and en route
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cache col and en route
checking out what's over the bump
checking out what's over the bump
all smiles, all trip
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all smiles, all trip
trail was steeper than i thought it'd be
trail was steeper than i thought it'd be
somewhat steep
somewhat steep
with a bit of exposure
with a bit of exposure
breaking out the 'pons for the first of many times
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breaking out the 'pons for the first of many times
in a sea of suncups
in a sea of suncups
trail to stehekin
trail to stehekin
looking back towards cascade pass
looking back towards cascade pass
pelton creek
pelton creek
sahale and ripsaw ridge
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sahale and ripsaw ridge
approaching cache col
approaching cache col
so close to cascade pass, yet it felt very far away
so close to cascade pass, yet it felt very far away
begining of the moat
begining of the moat
runnels and a dropoff
runnels and a dropoff
forbidden and sahale
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forbidden and sahale
goats on the ridge
goats on the ridge

crevasses on the cache glacier were next to non existent. we did not rope up. there was no moat either, though the snow at the col looked imposing. i couldn't gauge whether there was a snow bridge, so i opted to do the dirty scramble route. once on top, i informed hotpantz it was okay to be on the snow the whole way.

hotpantz chose the snow option
hotpantz chose the snow option
or try the dirty scramble option
or try the dirty scramble option
sweet, made it this far!
4 labels
sweet, made it this far!
formidable terrain ahead
formidable terrain ahead
doubtful lake
doubtful lake

from here the route was obvious. we couldn't see kool-aid lakes, but knew exactly their location.

descending cache col
descending cache col
just follow the snow to the next destination
just follow the snow to the next destination
the trail is always a good sign your on-route
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the trail is always a good sign your on-route
summer just starting here
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summer just starting here
the descent from cache col
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the descent from cache col

because we wanted to make sure the red ledges had solid snow to cross, we opted to camp at the lake and wait for the snow to harden. good call as the lake was simply amazing.

a rough day and into camp by 4pm
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a rough day and into camp by 4pm
great campsite, red ledges in background
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great campsite, red ledges in background
starting 'the hobbit'
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starting 'the hobbit'
kool-aid lake outlet
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kool-aid lake outlet
still mostly frozen
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still mostly frozen
a clawed visitor
a clawed visitor
taking one of 1800 pictures
taking one of 1800 pictures
day 1 yoga
day 1 yoga
gorgeous colors
gorgeous colors

we started reading the hobbit, the prequill to the lord of the ring series. well, hotpantz read to me all trip long. i think that was the price of compensation for kicking the majority of the steps. shortly after starting, we noticed a black bear running down to our location. it was still ~.5 mi away, but was closing that gap fast, and would be upon us soon. we watched and then decided it'd be best if we didn't have a confrontation. i yelled. he paused. i yelled again. he headed uphill. we felt bad, but didn't want him to be scared or violent upon reaching us.

an all-too-friendly visitor running into the lake
an all-too-friendly visitor running into the lake
he was moving, FAST
he was moving, FAST
eventually we had to alert him of our presence to avoid an unfortunate confrontation
eventually we had to alert him of our presence to avoid an unfortunate confrontation
he looked disappointed
he looked disappointed

a great sunset and surprisingly tasty dinner rounded out the day. clouds rolled in and nighttime temps stayed warm, though the single-walled tarptent experienced some condensation. sadly, my MEC sleeping pad burst some of its baffles. by the end of the trip, it would look more like a tootsie roll than a pad. fortunately, hotpantz was able to rearrange our pads and backpacks to allow me to sleep somewhat okay after two nights on a waterbed pad.

a thinking pose
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a thinking pose
scoping out the red ledges
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scoping out the red ledges
sweet smells everywhere
sweet smells everywhere
great soothing sounds all night long from the outlet
great soothing sounds all night long from the outlet
backlit
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backlit
red ledges rib
red ledges rib
more reading til the sun went down
more reading til the sun went down
still digging the campsite
still digging the campsite
setting behind j-berg
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setting behind j-berg
billowing clouds
billowing clouds
purple ridges
purple ridges
pink clouds
pink clouds
clouds rolling in around sunset
clouds rolling in around sunset

day 2: kool-aid lake to yang yang lakes
we awoke to partly sunny skies and great temps. a family of goats stopped by for a visit and cleaned the rocks near our campsite. the kid goat was terribly cute; too afraid to lick the salt so he just stumbled around behind the elders.

morning visitors
morning visitors
a lil' one
a lil' one
curious
curious
not licking very much, more just walking around
not licking very much, more just walking around
the leader of the pack
the leader of the pack
looks like a little toy
looks like a little toy

we packed up and moved on. sun had not yet reached the red ledges. prior to getting to the ledges, we crossed what appeared to be recent avy debris; the trail was no longer apparent in this area.

snow took us directly to the ledges, which were not bad at all. the only spot that gave pause was a sliver of snow still packed into a gully. the snow was steepish (45-50*), firm, and had a horrific runout (i.e. none). we opted not to protect the crossing and booted across. crampons may have helped, but i felt more comfortable kicking in really solid steps.

crossing boulders and recent avy debris to red ledges
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crossing boulders and recent avy debris to red ledges
a ptarmigan!
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a ptarmigan!
middle fork cascade river
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middle fork cascade river
solid snow leading to the ledges
solid snow leading to the ledges
snow still filled in approaching red ledges
snow still filled in approaching red ledges
easy part of the red ledges
easy part of the red ledges
steep and exposed snow crossing
steep and exposed snow crossing
trust your feet
trust your feet
fun steps
fun steps
hotpantz' turn
hotpantz' turn
thinking happy thoughts about dirt and rock
thinking happy thoughts about dirt and rock
chopping steps for this spot
chopping steps for this spot
red ledges rib
1 label
red ledges rib

soon we rounded arts knoll's shoulder and were offered amazing views of the middle cascade glacier.

ahh, new views of the middle cascade glacier
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ahh, new views of the middle cascade glacier
a sense of scale
a sense of scale
great alpine country
great alpine country
cascade palm trees
cascade palm trees
in awe
in awe
the supposed campsite at arts knoll?
the supposed campsite at arts knoll?

we continued on through a nice basin with up close views of the glacier. awesome! then, we donned glacier gear and headed up to the spider formidable col.

modeling the glacier gear
modeling the glacier gear
yeah...
yeah...
work it
work it
spider formidable col
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spider formidable col
lots of ice
lots of ice
stark contrast
stark contrast
looking back on the route so far
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looking back on the route so far
immense
immense
wowed by the thought of where we have traveled already
wowed by the thought of where we have traveled already
gentle slopes heading up
gentle slopes heading up
crevasses lower down on the middle cascade glacier
crevasses lower down on the middle cascade glacier
opposing angles
opposing angles

we saw tracks heading up to the col. this seemed odd. where did they come from? plus, why were they so far right? it didn't appear to be the best route in terms of crevasse danger, so we stayed off it. we would later discover they were bear tracks.

we were hot on the trail of another bear
we were hot on the trail of another bear
nearing the col
nearing the col
looking over the col at le conte lakes and mountain
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looking over the col at le conte lakes and mountain
crevasse en route
crevasse en route

the view upon cresting the col was the most jaw-dropping moment i've ever had. le conte lakes and the huge glaciers above are like nothing i'd seen. the steep descent was quite easy with relatively soft snow. no ice like previous accounts have told.

descending the steep side of spider formidable col
descending the steep side of spider formidable col
le conte lakes
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le conte lakes
chilly on this side
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chilly on this side
traversing to yang yang lakes
traversing to yang yang lakes
take the lower snow finger to more efficiently get to the lakes
take the lower snow finger to more efficiently get to the lakes
such a difference between mountain slopes
such a difference between mountain slopes
yang yang lakes
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yang yang lakes
go down, go down!
go down, go down!
looking back at spider formidable col
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looking back at spider formidable col
where snow meets summer
where snow meets summer

there was no trail to see on this side of the world. we spied a route and thought it would go (it would have), but upon getting to the fork in the snow, i went middle instead of down. definitely should have gone down to get to yang yang lakes. having never been here before and still being inexperienced with traverses like this, the cliffy terrain everywhere gave me pause about whether routes would go. one thing learned by the end of the trip: if there's snow, it goes. similar to bigsteve's advice, just a different color of terrain.

eventually we found the lakes after a detour and steep and gravelly waterfall and gully descent. the lakes were awesome, perched high on a bench before dropping off sharply. campsites here appeared limited.

yang yang lake
yang yang lake
glowing skies
glowing skies
saddle above yang yang lakes
saddle above yang yang lakes
pink!
pink!

day 3: yang yang lakes to white rock lakes
this was perhaps the most breathtaking day of the trip. the huge glaciers, warm sun, blue skies, and ever-impressive views is the kind of stuff you dream about.

leaving the lakes after a cool morning dip, we headed up to the saddle and then over. this is not the standard route, but again, we did not see trail in this area, and would not, until below white rock lakes. the standard route goes left at the saddle, instead of around, but i knew that with a little more effort, we could find a route that would be safe and get us to where we needed to be.

looking back at spider formidable col from yang yang lakes
looking back at spider formidable col from yang yang lakes
just right for a swim
just right for a swim
yep
yep
looking up to saddle from yang yang lakes
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looking up to saddle from yang yang lakes
up and over we go
up and over we go
steepish near the top
steepish near the top
perched on a platform before a big dropoff
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perched on a platform before a big dropoff
rounding the corner after the saddle, buckindy, snowking, and sonny boy ridge in background
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rounding the corner after the saddle, buckindy, snowking, and sonny boy ridge in background
such simple colors
such simple colors
hotpantz digging in
hotpantz digging in
still smilin'
still smilin'
traversing talus
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traversing talus
a break before descending
4 labels
a break before descending
talus!
talus!
rejoining the good snowy terrain
rejoining the good snowy terrain
looking up the basin with le conte waiting for us
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looking up the basin with le conte waiting for us

soon we were on the lower portions of the le conte glacier and roped up again. crevasses on the route were minimal at the time we crossed, and the major crevasses were in plain sight. this area is second-to-none.

wishing we were at le conte lakes
wishing we were at le conte lakes
the bump west of yang yang lakes where the normal trail travels; we went around
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the bump west of yang yang lakes where the normal trail travels; we went around
expansive snow now!
2 labels
expansive snow now!
sentinel and old guard in the distance
sentinel and old guard in the distance
it's summer, right?
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it's summer, right?
le conte glacier
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le conte glacier
hotpantz enjoying the trek
hotpantz enjoying the trek
it's a bird-lake
it's a bird-lake
so wonderful
so wonderful
very obvious route ahead
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very obvious route ahead
it feels like a long way from the spider formidable col in this shot
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it feels like a long way from the spider formidable col in this shot
le conte ice
le conte ice
a big playground
a big playground
le conte ice
le conte ice
i think i see a viable campsite
i think i see a viable campsite
we came from THERE!
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we came from THERE!
more smiles
more smiles
for scale
for scale
simple
simple

soon we were at the saddle north of sentinel peak with breathtaking views of the south cascade glacier. the descent was gradual and easy. i try to put words to being on the south cascade glacier, but i fail; it was that amazing.

first sight of south cascade glacier
first sight of south cascade glacier
many tiny crevasses
many tiny crevasses
snow brush lines
snow brush lines
coming down from sentinel col to south cascade glacier
coming down from sentinel col to south cascade glacier
first sight of lizard mountain saddle down to white rock lakes
first sight of lizard mountain saddle down to white rock lakes
hotpantz and south cascade lake
1 label
hotpantz and south cascade lake
dome, spire, and dana glacier (all in distance)
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dome, spire, and dana glacier (all in distance)
so much snow on the south cascade glacier!
so much snow on the south cascade glacier!
south cascade crevasses
south cascade crevasses
sweeping
sweeping
snow!
snow!
turning the corner
turning the corner
love it!
love it!
down from the saddle and onto the glacier
down from the saddle and onto the glacier
baker et all in the distance
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baker et all in the distance
ice worms
ice worms

the saddle leading to white rock lakes is obvious. soon we were over into the shadowy basin. the lakes there were just starting to melt. instantly, we could tell we were in for yet another treat. we skirted the lower lake and had some nice time to "reflect."

first views of white rock lakes with sinister, dome, and spire in the background
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first views of white rock lakes with sinister, dome, and spire in the background
the three lakes
the three lakes
the route the next day
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the route the next day
still frozen white rock lake
still frozen white rock lake

we set up camp on the upper of three very obvious sites on a rib. perfect perfect spot. hotpantz took another frozen dip in the lake and we read the book late into the night. it was clear with many stars and a bright moon. a tremendously enjoyable evening.

hotpantz' footprint after a slippery, intentional dip into the lake
hotpantz' footprint after a slippery, intentional dip into the lake
feeling refreshed after a swim
feeling refreshed after a swim
gorgeous area
gorgeous area
downing pudding dessert
downing pudding dessert
alpenglow
alpenglow
doesn't get much better
doesn't get much better
accidental long exposure of moon
accidental long exposure of moon
moon over spire col
moon over spire col
ominous spire
ominous spire
ooh
ooh
great tent site
great tent site
gorgeous night
gorgeous night
sparkling twinkles
sparkling twinkles
goodnight moon
goodnight moon

day 4: white rock lakes to cub lake
we awoke to mostly cloudy skies, though still pleasant temps. here, we were faced with the decision to head for dome, or to continue on to cub lake, simply doing the traverse. most of the rock pro was carried specifically for dome since that was the main side trip we longed for. but, as we reached deeper and deeper into this remote and wild terrain, my caution factor kept rising. given that there were two of us, combined with what looked like a storm coming in, i wanted us to continue on the route. dome would have to wait. my gut read, as i am learning, is often correct.

we dropped from white rock lakes to quickly find the trail. hotpantz has eagle-eye vision, so she was able to spot it readily. this .5mi stretch proved to be the longest open stretch of trail we'd find on the PT until getting to bachelor creek.

morning yoga
morning yoga
clouds! what are those?
clouds! what are those?
filling up with water before departing
filling up with water before departing
granite
granite
talus traverse beneath many waterfalls
talus traverse beneath many waterfalls
good to be reassured with a trail
good to be reassured with a trail

we passed beneath dozens of waterfalls. i love the cascades! soon, we were on snow again and then gained the dana glacier. this glacier was in great shape on the route we took.

land of many waterfalls
land of many waterfalls
chopping down a snow bridge
chopping down a snow bridge
huge glacial moraine
huge glacial moraine
stay right and follow snow
stay right and follow snow
look at those pearly whites
look at those pearly whites
working towards snow
working towards snow
looking back at the white rock lakes basin
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looking back at the white rock lakes basin
the most trail we saw on the ptarmigan portion of the traverse
the most trail we saw on the ptarmigan portion of the traverse
wonderful smells
wonderful smells
primo bivy site near the trail with running water
primo bivy site near the trail with running water
not liking the weather looming
not liking the weather looming
white rock lakes
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white rock lakes
dana glacier
dana glacier
variable cloud cover
variable cloud cover
ice meets rock
ice meets rock
up we go
up we go
lots of spires on the way
lots of spires on the way

we followed snow to the base of spire point. too high. down we went along the arcing ridge. i popped my head over the ridge several times to see what would go. eventually, at the obvious saddle, we went over. there was a flower on the rock, which looked like spray paint, that seemed to mark the route ahead.

nearing the col
nearing the col
the clouds match the mountains
the clouds match the mountains
white rock lakes
white rock lakes
spire
spire
where we want to be
where we want to be
cheese at the col
cheese at the col
lots of snow below
lots of snow below
and lots above
and lots above
looking for a place to cross over
1 label
looking for a place to cross over
spire point
spire point
precarious perch
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precarious perch
we thought the flower was spray paint from afar; nope. but, this is the right place to cross
we thought the flower was spray paint from afar; nope. but, this is the right place to cross

upon cresting, we saw the looming storms around sloan peak and glacier peak. not good. time to book. we cruised down the steep terrain and eventually headed towards the cub lake saddle. we should have gone all the way to the saddle, but decided it was ok to drop in. wrong. it was steep and cliffy north of the saddle. going was slowed. why can't there be a trail here?!

it was too late. the rain came, as did the thunder and lightning. we dropped our packs and huddled under a tree with our rain gear, which at that point, seemed inadequate. hell was unleashed for over an hour. hail pelted us and our body temps dropped. as soon as the apparent threat of lightning diminished, we picked up our ice axes and picket-lashed packs and headed down as best we could.

the entire cirque was flooded and streams emerged from every crack, nook, and cranny. amazing. fortunately for us, temps were warm and wind dried us off a bit. by the time we set up camp atop the bump between cub and itswoot lakes, our clothes were mostly dry, minus socks and boots (my boots had been wet since day 1 anyway).

it looked as though the worst had passed and we settled in for another enjoyable night of reading the hobbit and enjoying a sunset. my dslr took on some moisture, despite being fairly protected. it stopped reliably working for a day or so after the storm. nervous was i.

beaten path after the col
beaten path after the col
we don't have much time to make it to cub lake, below right
we don't have much time to make it to cub lake, below right
run!
run!
downpour coming our way
downpour coming our way
steepish descent
steepish descent
coming down
coming down
eek
eek
spire col in the back
spire col in the back
gorged streams following the dumping
gorged streams following the dumping
happy to start drying out
happy to start drying out
rushing water everywhere
rushing water everywhere
falled tree being absorbed by the earth
falled tree being absorbed by the earth
creeks forming everywhere
creeks forming everywhere
cool rocks
cool rocks
weather has passed
weather has passed
partially frozen cub lake
partially frozen cub lake
happy we're not up there
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happy we're not up there
clear waters of cub lake
clear waters of cub lake
clearing skies on glacier peak
clearing skies on glacier peak
yet another primo campsite
yet another primo campsite
clouds obscuring moon
clouds obscuring moon
looking back at dome
looking back at dome

day 5: cub lake to bachelor creek 3400' camp
warm temps and early sunshine awoke us while on the bump. awesome. we packed up, headed down to the lake, took a swim, and proceeded up the saddle to the bachelor creek basin. while ascending, i thought i saw a goofily flying grouse. i paid little attention. 2 seconds later, hotpantz said: "mike, rock!". we both dove onto the trail and heard it whiz by not far above. yikes. should have had the helmets on there.

after the steep climb, we grabbed a bite to eat and began the descent into the brushy bachelor creek area. after some searching, we found the trail around 5000'. around this time, we ran into our first human encounter in 4 days and our last for the next 4.

drying out in the warm morning sun
drying out in the warm morning sun
nice early morning sun
nice early morning sun
perfect for a dip, route to bachelor creek over the saddle in the background
perfect for a dip, route to bachelor creek over the saddle in the background
skirting cub lake
skirting cub lake
cub and glacier peak
cub and glacier peak
heading up the steep trail; watch for flying rocks!
heading up the steep trail; watch for flying rocks!
saying goodbye to dome
saying goodbye to dome
cub lake and our campsite on the bump
cub lake and our campsite on the bump

the trail soon deteriorated in the avalanche debris zone. we lost it, gained it, lost it. going was easy, but slow. then, while in the thick greenery, the trail was easier to follow, but the overgrown nature of it proved very tiring... or maybe that was the previous several days of travel. we found the log, crossed bachelor creek, and continued down. i did my best to prune the devils club and other overgrowth, but to little gain. the greenery was striking, but my energy was depleted. i begged and reasoned with hotpantz to take an early camp. wise call.

looking into bachelor creek area from saddle
looking into bachelor creek area from saddle
found the start of the trail!
found the start of the trail!
very green
very green
start of bachelor creek and incredibly clear waters
start of bachelor creek and incredibly clear waters
awesome creek, undercutting the surface on both sides
awesome creek, undercutting the surface on both sides
good spot for some aqua
good spot for some aqua
hairy tree
hairy tree
typical travel in this part
typical travel in this part
hotpantz putting on the pant legs
hotpantz putting on the pant legs
not too bad at this point
not too bad at this point
off the beaten path and through the downed trees
off the beaten path and through the downed trees
melted chocolate in the trailmix
melted chocolate in the trailmix
yum ::)
yum smile.gif
slow going, but easy
slow going, but easy
searching for the trail
searching for the trail
more awesome waters
more awesome waters
idyllic
idyllic
back on trail, found a nice campsite
back on trail, found a nice campsite
way green
way green
lovely
lovely
getting a bit brushy
getting a bit brushy
caution, this trail is not a trail
caution, this trail is not a trail
now at shoulder height
now at shoulder height
so close yet so far
so close yet so far
into the old growth slide alder
into the old growth slide alder
hefty slide alder trunks
hefty slide alder trunks
gotta stay close or you might lose each other
gotta stay close or you might lose each other
despite the annoyance, it was gorgeous
despite the annoyance, it was gorgeous
the bachelor creek log crossing
the bachelor creek log crossing
easy to rest while crossing large logs
easy to rest while crossing large logs
yep
yep
oh joy
oh joy
a fine campsite near 3400'
a fine campsite near 3400'
nice fire ring too
nice fire ring too
nice 'n warm
nice 'n warm

the camp proved to be free of bugs and steps away from the creek. we made great progress on the book, which more and more seemed to parallel our own adventure. i knew the next day would be challenging with a steep climb up to bench, so this rest day was all too well placed.

--------------
man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6413 | TRs
Location: kenmore
iron
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getting old
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 12:49 pm 
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day 6: bachelor creek to bench lake
we woke up to overcast skies which would keep most of the day. the trail down to downey creek from our campsite was significantly easier and actually enjoyable. great forest, not unlike that along the suiattle river trail.

bachelor creek from campsite
bachelor creek from campsite

soon, at six mile shelter, we walked up along the river until a very obvious tree begged us to cross. there was even a handrail system built on the other side of the root ball to facilitate an exit from the tree to the land.

crossing downey creek
crossing downey creek
eyeing up the downey creek crossing
eyeing up the downey creek crossing
fordable, but much better on the log
fordable, but much better on the log
handrail
handrail
over the rootball and using the handrail
over the rootball and using the handrail
cairn on logs
cairn on logs
more cairns
more cairns

once across downey creek, we found a dry creek bed parallel to the creek. we followed this most of the way, occasionally heading into the woods. hotpantz found cairns and boot tread and we were on our way.

finding boot tread on west side of downey creek
finding boot tread on west side of downey creek
following dry creek bed
following dry creek bed
doing a plank pose because she can
doing a plank pose because she can
someone left me a note
someone left me a note

soon, we reached the junction of goat and down creeks where the ridge leading to bench lake would start. a flagged log crossed goat creek and we opted to cross there, despite the presence of branch stubs impeding a butt scoot. further up-creek, we saw other logs which might work; they also had bark. but, we were unsure if there'd be a trail close enough to those trees because we could see one on the other side of our tree.

we're on a trail!
we're on a trail!
junction of goat (left) and downey (right) creeks and start of ridge up to bench lake
2 labels
junction of goat (left) and downey (right) creeks and start of ridge up to bench lake
hotpantz bravely making the crossing of goat creek
hotpantz bravely making the crossing of goat creek
unpleasant crossing of goat creek
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unpleasant crossing of goat creek
looking down at creek junction
looking down at creek junction

i got 3/4 of the way across the log and found i couldn't lift myself over a branch nub without puncturing critical male parts. hotpantz handed me her axe and i chopped that thing down. phew!

now, on the north side of goat creek, we followed trail to the ridge. the trail continued past the ridge, like the map indicates, and we followed it for awhile. it did not appear to gain elevation, so we headed back to the ridge and went up. soon we were on a boot path and slowly making our way up this steep ridge.

trail becomes defined at ridgeline
trail becomes defined at ridgeline
steep
steep

the ridge was awesome. there was a huge blowdown area 1/3 or 1/4 of the way up, which involved some dancing with downed giants, but other than that, a path took you where you needed. plus, there were frequent blazes taking you where needed. at 3300', being on the trail paid off to negotiate a slabby area.

green and mossy
green and mossy
lots of blazes to follow
lots of blazes to follow
mature forest
mature forest
some blowdown to start
some blowdown to start
split and a double jog
split and a double jog
joyous rambling on big trees
joyous rambling on big trees
taking the low road
taking the low road
duck!
duck!
lichen
lichen
blowdown area
blowdown area
easy going
easy going
cantilevered trees off to nowhere
cantilevered trees off to nowhere
fun to be on top of downed trees looking down
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fun to be on top of downed trees looking down
showing off mad balance skillz
showing off mad balance skillz
back on trail
back on trail
mossy
mossy
tall trees
tall trees
mossy boulder
mossy boulder
foggy valley below
foggy valley below
lots of bark, little core
lots of bark, little core
brown or green, that's it
brown or green, that's it
healthy trees
healthy trees
nice clear understory
nice clear understory
lichened boulders
lichened boulders
signs of former trail maintenance
signs of former trail maintenance
odd place for a lupine
odd place for a lupine
ridge flattens out and leads to views of lake 4936
ridge flattens out and leads to views of lake 4936
lake 4936
lake 4936
lake 4936
lake 4936
signs of bench lake
signs of bench lake

the sun struggled to come out this day, but, it proved to be a good thing as the temps stayed moderate and made the ascent of the ridge relatively sweat-free. the only place it hurt us was in trying to find bench lake since the clouds were right on top of us. we reached the saddle in the ridge, saw the lake, and backtracked to take the west-trending ridge to the lake's outlet. we backtracked too far and found ourselves in steep forest and brush. not fun.

it tried all day long
it tried all day long
off planned route to bench lake
off planned route to bench lake
steep descent
steep descent
even steeper
even steeper
bench lake outlet
bench lake outlet

finally we found bench lake and it was awesome. it would become even more awesome the next day with sun, but still, pretty cool. for some reason, it felt isolated, desolate, and entirely ours. with a little reconnaissance, we settled on a sweet campsite on the west edge of the lake. it was posh with chairs and all. other campsites existed higher up on the bump at the SW end of the lake, but they didn't have running water like ours did.

bench lake!
bench lake!
log jam, walkable, but slick
log jam, walkable, but slick
outlet ford
outlet ford
dinner time!
dinner time!
condition of my sleeping pad, baffles nearly all disconnected
condition of my sleeping pad, baffles nearly all disconnected

day 7: bench lake to 6520+ saddle
spirits were as high as could be to start this day. the sun was so warm so early and the lake just called for a more thorough swim.

because of our camp location, we decided to head up to the saddle immediately above us to gain the south ridge of bruseth. the terrain was easy to negotiate. there were plenty of heather benches leading to the saddle north of bruseth and we gladly followed them.

campsite at bench lake
campsite at bench lake
a warm bench lake
a warm bench lake
fire ring (above 5k) and carved chairs
fire ring (above 5k) and carved chairs
looking down on bench with bruseth in the back
looking down on bench with bruseth in the back
farewell bench
farewell bench
heading up to saddle
heading up to saddle
boulders and snow take you around bruseth
boulders and snow take you around bruseth
pretty stoked about the clear weather and warm temps
pretty stoked about the clear weather and warm temps
steep heather trekking
steep heather trekking
hotpantz and bench lake
hotpantz and bench lake
easy terrain ahead
easy terrain ahead
buckindy
buckindy
quartz and granite conglomerate
quartz and granite conglomerate
snow made for much easier travel
snow made for much easier travel

at the saddle, we skirted 7103 on mostly snow. the original route i created before the trip called for many ups and downs to each point. terrain here was rugged and simply traversing was almost always the best option if you had a date by which you needed to exit.

views of the PT from this vantage were stellar. plus, the bruseth glacier wasn't too shabby either.

ridges in these parts are NOT easy to run
ridges in these parts are NOT easy to run
bruseth glacier
bruseth glacier
steep heather traverse
steep heather traverse
saddle between 7103 and 7220
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saddle between 7103 and 7220
bruseth and glacier
2 labels
bruseth and glacier
traversing around 7103
2 labels
traversing around 7103
around 7103
around 7103
eldorado in the distance
1 label
eldorado in the distance
onto the next saddle
onto the next saddle
hotpantz searching
hotpantz searching
thick tree travel
thick tree travel
still a lot of snow up here
still a lot of snow up here
heading up from saddle
heading up from saddle
ridge ahead, with sonny boy just out of sight on left
ridge ahead, with sonny boy just out of sight on left
still smiles on day 7
still smiles on day 7

at the next saddle, we dropped in a bit and followed snow for most of the way to the subsequent saddle. it was a saddle-to-saddle kind of day. i kept a watchful eye on the map to make sure we made no mistakes as this day was probably the biggest unknown of the entire trip.

coming down from saddle
coming down from saddle
looking back at le conte glacier from above bruseth glacier
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looking back at le conte glacier from above bruseth glacier
gentle knife edge
gentle knife edge
sure, run the ridge ::)
sure, run the ridge smile.gif
dropping down from saddle via zigzag; sonny boy peak on left
2 labels
dropping down from saddle via zigzag; sonny boy peak on left
crevasses on bruseth glacier
crevasses on bruseth glacier
south cascade lake
south cascade lake
finding the snow finger of deliverance!
finding the snow finger of deliverance!
sonny boy! so close, but so far...
1 label
sonny boy! so close, but so far...
good snow coming from bruseth saddle
good snow coming from bruseth saddle
tremendous relief in most of the area
tremendous relief in most of the area
huge suncups
huge suncups
snowking and kindy creek area
1 label
snowking and kindy creek area
in a wavy sea
in a wavy sea
good to be on snow
good to be on snow
cliffy along most of the ridge
cliffy along most of the ridge
heather traverse
heather traverse
flowers and le conte glacier with south cascade lake in middle
flowers and le conte glacier with south cascade lake in middle

travel to get to bench mountain was pretty straightforward. with the late snow this season, a lot of the flatter areas of these mountains still held snow and made travel WAY easier. on bench, we were pretty excited now about our prospects of completing the entire traverse.

taking a look down
taking a look down
rugged ridge
rugged ridge
falling traverse to reach saddle leading to bench mountain (right)
1 label
falling traverse to reach saddle leading to bench mountain (right)
yum, snow
yum, snow
doesn't look very appealing to stay on the west side of the ridge to sonny boy
doesn't look very appealing to stay on the west side of the ridge to sonny boy
a narrow band of practical travel
a narrow band of practical travel
basin feeding long gone lake (left, out of picture)
basin feeding long gone lake (left, out of picture)
bench bench mark
bench bench mark
a little exposure
a little exposure
looking back to bruseth and saddle we came through
1 label
looking back to bruseth and saddle we came through
bench mountain is very bench-like
bench mountain is very bench-like
long gone lake
long gone lake
upper and lower long gone lake
upper and lower long gone lake
ridge looking north from bench summit
ridge looking north from bench summit

after bench, our hopes were somewhat dashed. the terrain surrounding 6631 was rough. there were thickets of trees that would simply not allow passage. it took probably an hour to move a couple hundred feet. were we to do it again, i'd probably drop NE off bench, to snow (if still there), and go to the saddle directly east of 6631; the next day, we dropped to approximately that level anyway.

oh crap, trees
oh crap, trees
leaning to avoid snow
leaning to avoid snow
steep terrain within the trees
steep terrain within the trees
thick trees!
thick trees!
veggie belays
veggie belays
crawling to escape
crawling to escape
gasping for oxygen
gasping for oxygen
the elusive and hard-to-reach saddle we'd eventually camp at
the elusive and hard-to-reach saddle we'd eventually camp at
steep and loose if you go east to the saddle
steep and loose if you go east to the saddle
crampons more useful on dirt this day
crampons more useful on dirt this day
good ole dirt axe
good ole dirt axe

once we finally reached the saddle, we called it good. here, we'd be able to melt snow and have a mostly flat spot to camp. what lay beyond was somewhat unknown at this point.

tight space for the tent on the saddle, hotpantz organizing the sleeping system
tight space for the tent on the saddle, hotpantz organizing the sleeping system
shooting sunset from camp
shooting sunset from camp
scoping out a route for tomorrow, in crocs, while brushing teeth
scoping out a route for tomorrow, in crocs, while brushing teeth
sunset to the south
sunset to the south
crocs >>> boots
crocs >>> boots
love
love

--------------
man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 12:49 pm 
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day 8: saddle to cascade river
well, today was it. bittersweet. somewhat nerve wracking. will it go? what kind of crap would we find on the rest of the ridge? the density and difficulties of the trees had me worried. hopefully the snow route would go.

and it did!

we dropped from the camp saddle several hundred feet and began traversing. everything went. simple. our spirits soared again as we could see the ridge leading back to cascade river. unfortunately, we were too eager to get up to sonny boy and went up the wrong gully. i suspected as much in looking at the map, but i figured we'd be able to make it work regardless. it added considerable difficulty and time to the trip, but we wanted to come out in the dark anyway.

crowded tent with backpacks, pads, and bags
crowded tent with backpacks, pads, and bags
checking the map, a consistent theme this day
1 label
checking the map, a consistent theme this day
snow, how i love snow!
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snow, how i love snow!
it looks like it goes
it looks like it goes
hotpantz coming down from the camp saddle
hotpantz coming down from the camp saddle
rib in your way to start the day
rib in your way to start the day
still rugged ridge above
still rugged ridge above
traversing from the saddle
traversing from the saddle
it all feels so close now!
1 label
it all feels so close now!
wonderful
wonderful
nice walking surface which wraps around the corner
nice walking surface which wraps around the corner
hey look, a good looking gully to go up (DON'T!!!)
hey look, a good looking gully to go up (DON'T!!!)
sonny boy creek
1 label
sonny boy creek
crossing one final gully to get to sonny boy
crossing one final gully to get to sonny boy
beautiful colors
1 label
beautiful colors
hotpantz searching for a summit register (none found)
hotpantz searching for a summit register (none found)
happy times on sonny boy
happy times on sonny boy
impromptu register paper
impromptu register paper
huge drainage basin we'd later have to cross with a kindy creek ford
2 labels
huge drainage basin we'd later have to cross with a kindy creek ford
a couple points between us and the easy ridge beyond
a couple points between us and the easy ridge beyond
saying farewell to sonny boy and high alpine
1 label
saying farewell to sonny boy and high alpine
more great colors
more great colors

we spent some time on sonny boy peak and reflected on the trip. what an adventure thus far. i still couldn't believe we'd made it this far. the former register (film cannister) was shattered, so we left what we could.

on the way down the ridge, we came across more bears. this time, though, it was a momma bear and three cubs. we watched for awhile, but they started coming towards us. it was again time to alert them of our presence. we did, she stared us down, we slowly backed away, and then waited. we saw them go up and over the ridge and a few minutes later, they dashed past us just a few hundred feet below. the last thing we wanted to do was to upset momma bear.

cub tracks
cub tracks
then we saw these guys
then we saw these guys
so cute
so cute

onward and downward.

phew
phew
sonny boy lakes no. 2
sonny boy lakes no. 2
let's go thataway
let's go thataway
two more big bumps til the easy ridge
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two more big bumps til the easy ridge

one of the big bumps, 5785, proved to be more than we anticipated. upon returning to seattle, i read matt's and fwb's reports about traversing around this. we opted to go up it and it was somewhere between exposed class 3 and low 5th class climbing. at this point in the trip, i couldn't gauge.  we didn't protect, but should have. it was easily the biggest lapse in judgment on the trip.

heading up 5785 (should have traversed through trees)
heading up 5785 (should have traversed through trees)
not sure what class moves these were, but by this time, we could've gone without them
not sure what class moves these were, but by this time, we could've gone without them
crumbly
crumbly
hotpantz' turn up the exposed route
hotpantz' turn up the exposed route
traversing around the bumps didn't seem appealing for the most part
traversing around the bumps didn't seem appealing for the most part

the ridge to 5775 was straightforward. we opted to descend to the west of the bump, which proved to be a mistake. more brushy traversing. it wasn't until getting to about 5000' that a solid boot path guided us down. the ridge was sharp and defined. pretty cool. in hindsight, it nearly mirrored the ridge on the south end of bench lake.

skirting beneath 5775 to get ridge below (should have gone right)
skirting beneath 5775 to get ridge below (should have gone right)
steep, grabby traverse before the forest
steep, grabby traverse before the forest
cascade river is soooo close
3 labels
cascade river is soooo close
a little more bushwacking for good measure
a little more bushwacking for good measure
RIDGE!
RIDGE!
and on a trail!
and on a trail!
found a flag too!
found a flag too!
cool ridge with defined edge and steepish dropoffs
cool ridge with defined edge and steepish dropoffs
signs of former trail maintenance
signs of former trail maintenance
a tilted arm
a tilted arm

further down the ridge, things became quite mossy. it also became difficult to stay on the ridge or on the trail due to excessive blowdowns in every single direction. still, the ridge was super soft and you could pretty quickly find a fast way down and around.

a nice green way to exit
a nice green way to exit
logs being absorbed into the soil
logs being absorbed into the soil
sun is still shining
sun is still shining
lots of downfall on the ridge
lots of downfall on the ridge

we pushed and pushed as fast as we could. we needed to reach the river tonight or we'd be rationing water we collected with the last location of snow. nearing 2000', we took the right fall-line to run into the road. we crossed a road at about 1800' and headed closer to the ridge on a relatively brush-free path. then down again to the next road around 1600'.  we followed that east until it switch-backed to the washed out bridge. there was a good deal of devils club on the road, so it wasn't the most pleasant way to exit.

old trailhead sign on the overgrown road ~1500'
old trailhead sign on the overgrown road ~1500'

we arrived at the gorged kindy creek to find car campers on the other side. i knew of a log crossing down creek, but the water looked shallow enough to ford. we put on the headlamps, unzipped the convertibles, and headed across. it wasn't bad. somewhat slippery with a fast current. after a short road walk back to the river, hotpantz dug out the guinness she stashed in a creek and we celebrated under warm skies. after 2 drinks each, we were feeling quite good.

hotpantz retrieving the guinness
hotpantz retrieving the guinness
clutching it tightly
clutching it tightly
congrats!
congrats!

day 9: cascade river to cascade pass
while most of our days offered lazy starts, this one was the best. eventually, i rolled out of the tent, splashed some water in my face, and walked to get the bike.

once on the bike, i remembered why i like biking so much. so much speed, so little effort. that is, until the steep section at the end of the road. it was tough, but i vowed to myself not to stop pedaling no matter what.

awesome biking clothes (i'd lose the longjohns and switch to shorts)
awesome biking clothes (i'd lose the longjohns and switch to shorts)
camping near the road just east of bridge on cascade river
camping near the road just east of bridge on cascade river
bike is still stashed
bike is still stashed
on the road with good chipseal
on the road with good chipseal
biking in crocs
biking in crocs

and soon i was at my car. that's it. it's over.

made it!
made it!

and for some reason, the previous 8 days, the countless decisions, route finding, nervousness about whether or not things would go, what the weather would hold, and all the other elements... they all vanished. i felt like that entire time period was a void in my life. i know it's not a void, but on this day, it felt like it.

and as we transitioned back to the speed of life --- slow hiking, to biking, to driving down the single lane cascade river road, to driving through marblemount to darrington, and then to the madness of i5 and seattle --- i felt the clutter and stress of normalcy. it's something i don't normally feel, but after 9 days of the ultimate simplicity - eat, hike, drink, sleep - i now felt it. i didn't enjoy that transition, but i'm not sure how to avoid it.

regardless, the trip will forever be special to me and to hotpantz. it's a credit of several years of rapid learning and growth of mountaineering skillz and knowledge. i have been fortunate to meet many more experienced than myself and have gleaned much from their knowledge. i knew it was a big trip with the possibility to go off track in a hurry. but hotpantz and i work together quite well in many ways, and the mountains are no exception.

so, a big thanks to hollywood (b00) and the snolanator as they taught me the most. modern, cartman, dicey, tom_sjolseth, fwb2, matt, baddog, justus, mike collins, and many others - i have learned bits and pieces from all of you. thank you! and thanks to bigsteve, borank, matt, DHM, and steph abegg for the beta.

PS: 500 pics in this report  hmmm.gif

--------------
man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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gyngve
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 1:09 pm 
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I like the creativity of adding on Bench + Sonny Boy!
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silence
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 1:23 pm 
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i don't have time to read right now .. but i will cuz i always enjoy you trs and pix .. i was wondering when you guys would get around to the pt

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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Jason Hummel
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 1:32 pm 
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Awesome, awesome....so far. I look forward to reading about the 2nd half.

--------------
Photography: Alpine State Of Mind! | Trip Reports: Cascade Crusades! | FACEBOOK
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silence
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 1:41 pm 
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me too wink.gif

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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Man-inna-hillz
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 1:41 pm 
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Man, there's just so much snow in the Cascades right now.  This looks like a March or April Ptarmigan report.

I'm doing this trip next year if all goes according to plan.  Looking forward to the second half of your excellent report.

--------------
The God of language forgives all crimes.
-W.H. Auden
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
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Niece of Alvy Moore
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 2:14 pm 
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Excellent trip, iron.

I realize this may not be the best timing and all, but I'd rather you hear it from your friends, and not from some dirty kid on the street -

They changed the schedule re: closing the Suiattle Rd, and it's open to m.p. 12 til September.  bricks.gif

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Allison
Feckless Swooner



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Feckless Swooner
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 3:00 pm 
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Super sweet trip. The PT is so gorgeous. I hope you don't mind that I captured several lake pics for my screen saver set. dance.gif

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www.allisonoutside.com

follow me on Twitter! @AllisonLWoods
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The Angry Hiker
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SAR Blacklistee
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 3:03 pm 
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Quite an adventure!   up.gif

But I don't think you showed enough remorse for spooking the bear.
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raising3hikers
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 3:43 pm 
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I couldn't wait for your TR!

Epic adventure you two will remember forever!  I like how you made up your own way back to the TH with a different route.  Beautiful pics  up.gif  I really want to visit some of those big glaciers sometime.  Glad everything worked out fine
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostTue Jul 27, 2010 3:47 pm 
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Awesome job of route-finding and cross-country travel.  I'm looking forward to reading more thoroughly to enjoy the scope of the story.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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BarbE
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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 4:05 pm 
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iron wrote:
summary
humbling. very humbling

humbling to you -and awe inspiring to most of us.  borank.gif borank.gif
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belowfellow
Transplant



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PostTue Jul 27, 2010 4:08 pm 
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epic trip and excellent photos.   up.gif

--------------
"Wilderness is bliss"
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > the sonny ptarmigan traverse - july 17-25, 2010
  Happy Birthday JVT!
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