From all my travels through mountain ranges around the world and in the Cascade Mountains, Ptarmigan Traverse is something very special everyone who loves mountains should see. It is the oldest and most famous high route in the Pacific Northwest. It epitomizes remoteness, wildness, and alpine adventure. The beauty of this area – especially the central portion and the White Rock Lakes is beyond words.
I therefore invite you for this unforgettable outing.
~ Marek Wencel
The story of Ptarmigan Traverse started when four members of the Ptarmigan Climbing Club made the first crossing of this route in July 1938. For thirteen days, Calder Bressler, Bill Cox, Ray Clough and Tom Myers pioneered the entire route from Dome Peak to Cascade Pass and made many first ascents. Their route covered the Cascade Crest from Cascade Pass to a valley just north of Glacier Peak, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area. They climbed an incredible number of peaks along the way – in fast and light alpine style – and it is a widely held belief that their exact itinerary has never been repeated, especially taking into account the peaks climbed in the northern section of the traverse.
Once on the route, one can sense remoteness and total commitment, and when you mix to this typical and ever changing Northwest weather, and you have an expedition on your hands.
The entire traverse takes 5-7 days depending on party speed and if peak climbing is involved. Along the way, there are numerous opportunities to summit funky sounding mountains like; Spider, Formidable, Lizard, Le Conte, Dome, or Old Guard.
If one is doing just the traverse, the technicality of it is pretty simple under the watchful eye of Crew Treks guides.
Leader: Marek Wencel - Over 20 year experience in the mountains, previous expeditions to the Andes, Himalaya and Alaska.
Price includes one night hotel on arrival and free crampon/ice axe rental.
Difficulty: beginner to intermediate, no technical skills required, must be fit!
(July 7th reserve or fly out)
Arrival in Seattle and transfer to the hotel, later in the day we will go over the logistics and equipment check.
Early morning departure to the trailhead at Cascade Pass, along the way we will park our shuttle transport at the end of the traverse.
Once packed we will start the hike to the top of Cascade Pass and then traverse cross-country to Catch Col. On the back side, we will head down to our camp at Kool Aid Lake.
Along the way, we will cross our first glacier and have an opportunity to rope up and don crampons for the first time. After we set up camp, and if time and energy permits, we’ll hike to the top of Hurry up peak.
After early breakfast, we will surmount Red Ledges-our first obstacle of the traverse. Once above this first crux of the day, we will reach a spot called an Artist Point; from this point, vistas of theNorth Face of Mt Formidable and Spider Mountain will mesmerize us for hours.
As we’ll near Spider-Formidable Col, we’ll work our way around crevasses of Middle Cascade Glacier and down climb to the south side of Mt Formidable and our camp at Yang Yang Lakes.
Our next day of climbing will begin with ascent to Le Conte Col and gradual traverse on Le Conte glacier to high pass and climb of Old Guard; a tower with 360 degree views of surrounding mountains.
Further down, we will cross South Cascade Glacier and work our way to White Rocks Camp with lakes and streams around it.
There, we will have full on view of Dome Peak Massif including Elephant’s Head, Dome, Sinister and Gun Sight Peak.
From here, depending on team strength and desires, we will either head directly to upper reaches of Dome Peak, or up to Spire Col and our camp at Itswoot Ridge
In any case, the spectacular views will continue throughout the day signifying the beauty and remoteness of this area.
On our last day of the traverse, the group will make a steep descent to picturesque Cub Lake for a swim and cross-country walk into immense Bachelor Creek Valley.
As we go steeply down, we will walk across massive avalanche blowout, jumping over trees, brunches and on into deep forest.
Unfortunately, we will also get acquainted with plots of devil’s club and slide alder with progress slowed down to a trickle.
To make matters worse, the valley heat and mosquitos will be unrelenting until we get to the car. (Please do not plan to fly back home on this day)
Reserved for weather delays and team strength.
Crew Treks strongly recommends that you enroll with Global Rescue prior to embarking on this trip. Please click on the link below for details and quotes.
The prices are reasonable and the signup process is simple.
We strongly encourage everyone to purchase travel insurance, which covers trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, etc.
Travel insurance offers the best possible protection if you have a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or when traveling.
Here are some useful links: