Ptarmigan Traverse (1984)

In 1984 I went on a cross-country traverse that begins in the North Cascades, ends in the North Central Cascades, and is called the Ptarmigan Traverse. We started the trip on July 27, and finished on Aug. 3. We parked a vehicle at the end of the traverse at the Downey Cr. trailhead. We then drove to the Cascade Pass trailhead. It would be a 7 day backpacking trip with myself (Wayne), Al and Gary. A couple of friends (Jim and Marshall) accompanied us to Cascade Pass. They were on a day hike, and we appreciated that they then drove my truck back to Seattle. During this trip I had the best opportunity to photograph buck deer in the high country. We also climbed Spire Point, which is 8,264 ft in elevation. This is a class 4 or low 5th class rock climb, depending upon which guide book you look at. We used a rope during the climb of Spire Point. This was the first time I rock climbed w/ Al and Gary.  After Al lead up the 1st pitch, his belay retrieve was way too jerky, and a rock was dislodged, came around a corner, and hit just above me, then passed by my left ear & shoulder. We did not have climbing helmets with us. Fortunately, it missed me, and I turned my head to watch it continue down the mountain. Gary was out of the way of the falling rock, but had a good view of it as it fell. For a moment, I felt like a major league baseball batter almost getting hit by a “bean ball”. When I reached the belay station, I asked Al: “Do you know what just happened? I almost got hit by a rock!” Al mumbled something, but didn’t adequately answer my question. When an event such as this happens, one never forgets it.

   The last night on the trail we camped at Cub Lake. The final day on the trail we hiked 12 and 1/2 miles to reach the trailhead. I was still using an external frame pack on this trip, and my shoulders were very sore on the final day. In my Journal I noted that my pack weighed approx. 70 lbs at the start, and 59 lbs at the end. It was heavy, as I carried the tent, shovel, and rope nearly all of the time.

   During the trip we crossed several glaciers. We roped up for glacier travel. I believe we were on the Middle Cascade glacier, and I could clearly see a thin crust of snow covering a crevasse. The lighting was such that I could tell it was thin. I was horrified when Al, who was leading on the rope, headed directly onto the thin crust. Sure enough, one of his legs broke through; although Al managed to get himself out of that situation, I was very surprised that he didn’t see it.


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