Colin Abercrombie and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 14:36 from the Cascade Pass parking lot to the Downey Creek trailhead, a new FKT (fastest known time). In 2008, Colin and I did the traverse in 18:10 so we were extremely happy to do it 3 hours and 34 minutes faster this time.The prior FKT was by Joe Stock and Andrew Wexler, who completed the traverse in 15:40 on September 4, 2004 (or 2001? Or 2002?). A complete trip report with detailed splits, comparisons, and photos is here.
Alternatively, the movie can be watched on Vimeo (faster stream).
Since the upper part of Cascade River Road was closed for repairs due to a washout from severe thunderstorms we got an extra warm-up period and set out from Eldorado TH at 3 am reaching Cascade Pass TH in 55 minutes (the road should be repaired by now). We started the watches at 3:55 am at Cascade Pass TH and reached the Suiattle River Road at 6:31 pm. This was followed by an additional 8.5 mile walk along the road due to the old washout on the Suiattle River Road bringing the total mileage for the day upwards of 50 miles and nearly 13,000 ft of elevation gain. A big concern was the potential for extreme heat along the traverse and descent through Bachelor Creek. Seattle set the all time temperature record of 103 degrees the day after our traverse and it has been HOT in the lowlands. Fortunately, there was a cool breeze on all of the glaciers and cumulus clouds provided some shade as we descended Bachelor and Downey Creeks.
Check out the complete trip report!
Several factors contributed to the faster time this year. First, we had even more experience on the traverse allowing us to take the most efficient route and avoiding time and energy consuming errors we made last year on the way to Kool Aide Lake and the Middle Cascade Glacier (stay climbers left of the center of the glacier to avoid large crevasses). Experience and knowledge of the route is essential. Second, we were more consistent with our pacing and took shorter breaks. Third, we significantly improved our “transitions,” which is the time it takes to put crampons on and off – there were at least a half dozen transitions along the traverse. Finally, we applied more ultrarunning hydration and nutrition methods. We used hand holders which made filling up water easy (there is water everywhere on the traverse) and we primarily consumed gels and shot bloks. Check out the complete trip report!
Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time
Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 03:55
Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 47:47 / 47:47 / 04:43
Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:50:18 / 1:02:31 / 05:45
Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:39:54 / 1:49:35 / 07:35
Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:26:06 / 46:12 / 08:21
LeConte-Sentinel Saddle (7,200 ft+) : 6:10:46 / 1:44:40 / 10:06
White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 7:11:00 / 1:00:14 / 11:06
Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 8:54:06 / 1:43:05 / 12:49
Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 10:15:47 / 1:21:40 / 14:11
Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 12:48:15 / 2:32:28 / 16:43
Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 14:36:10 / 1:48:00 / 18:31
Comparison: 2009 vs. 2008 (difference)
Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0
Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 48 / 55 (- 7)
Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:50 / 2:13 (- 23)
Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:40 / 5:00 (- 1:20)
Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:26 / 6:20 (- 1:54)
White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 7:11 / 9:51 (- 2:40)
Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 8:54 / 11:55 (- 3:01)
Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 10:16 / 13:42 (- 3:26)
Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 12:48 / 16:30 (- 3:42)
Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 14:36 / 18:10 (- 3:34)