Here is an annotated Google Earth map with a rough overlay of the route that Colin and I took through the Northern Pickets from Hannegan Pass Trailhead to Ross Dam Trailhead. The route essentially crosses the north complex of North Cascades National Park over 47+ miles and features nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain. Click the image for an enlarged version.
The Picket Range in North Cascades National Park characterized by hanging glaciers, deep valley, and towering rock walls, all coming together to produce some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery anywhere. The region is the most remote and rugged area in the contiguous United States and the difficulty of accessing this alpine wonderland is part of the attraction. Colin Abercrombie and I traversed through fabled Luna Cirque as part of a point-to-point adventure run from Hannegan Pass Trailhead to Ross Dam featuring extensive off-trail travel on glaciers, boulder fields, scrambling, and thick brush (complete trip report here). There is no easy way to access the Northern Pickets and no easy way out. There is virtually no evidence of human impact within Luna Cirque and only a few dozen climbers pass through here each season. The whole package makes for an arduous and committing outing for a multi-day trip, let alone a single day trek through this magnificient region.
Starting at 2:17 am, the trip took us exactly 23 hours with total distance 47+ miles and over 13,500 ft of elevation gain, most of it not coming easily. Colin and I had done this traverse in 4 days in 2005 climbing Whatcom, Challenger, and Luna along the way. In 2008, we did an out-and-back to the summit of Mount Fury via Access Creek. The information we had gathered on these past trips was essential in our attempt to do the entire route in a single day. Weather conditions were idyllic and the timing was great for a trip through Luna Cirque. While travel through the Pickets took longer than expected (it always does), we did a fantastic job selecting an efficient route and making consistent progress throughout the trip. Complete trip report with many photos here and check out the video on Vimeo.
We handled the car shuttle logistics Thursday afternoon and got a few hours of rest in the Hannegan Pass Trailhead parking lot. The route began with a 17 mile run and hike to Whatcom Pass (4 hours, 40 minutes) followed by a traverse around the east side of Whatcom Peak. Once on the south side of Whatcom, we utilized a slanting, steep chute to access the Challenger Glacier and then traversed the glacier to Challenger Arm where we enjoyed spectacular views of Luna Cirque. Descending into Luna Cirque was cumbersome in spots, especially crossing deep gullies with traction-less hardpan. Eventually we made it to the bottom of the cirque and began the long climb up to Luna Pass. Utilizing as much snow as possible helped us to reach Luna Pass relatively quickly. Travel through the basin on the south side of Luna was reasonable but we were slowed by steep and hard snow in the gully leading down to Access Creek. This portion was already in the shade making it a challenging downclimb in aluminum crampons, especially my rather flimsy Kahtoola Aluminums (Colin’s Grivel Air Tech Lights were better suited for this and they weigh about the same). We eventually made it down to the headwaters of Access Creek and were able to navigate the brush of Access in the daylight, reaching a series of logs upstream of the confluence with Big Beaver Creek just as the last bit of light was fading. As usual, we were too tired to run the entire length of the Big Beaver trail and were resigned to walking the balance of the miles after 39 mile camp. One notable part of this portin of the trip was the plethora of Western Toads we saw on the trail or near the trail. We literally saw hundreds of these silent, sluggish toads and some were quite large. Typical Pickets exhaustion at the end, but great memories of one of my most awesome days in the Cascades! Complete trip with many photos here.
- La Sportiva Fireblades
- Ultimate Direction Wasp Pack and Fastdraw handholders
- First Endurance EFS and Liquid Shot
- Petzl Tikka XP headlamp and Petzl Snowracer Axe
Colin and I completed a point-to-point adventure run from Hannegan Trailhead to Ross Lake through Luna Cirque in the Northern Pickets region of North Cascades National Park. We enjoyed amazing scenery in this exceptionally rugged and wild region of the North Cascades. Here is a video of the adventure:
Many photos and a complete trip report is coming soon so stay tuned!
On our adventure run of Mount Stewart, we passed by Precipice Lake just below Kaweah Gap. Aptly named, the sheer cliffs of Eagle Scout Peak fall right into the waters of the clear blue lake. This stunning view was immortalized by Ansel Adams in 1932 with his shot “Frozen Lake and Cliffs.” Similar to the conditions Ansel Adams encountered, Precipice Lake was largely frozen and the lighting in the morning hours was very similar. Below is Ansel Adam’s photo from 1932 and my photo from 2010! The complete trip report of the Mount Stewart Adventure run with many photos and video can be found here!
Complete trip report with many photos here.
Joel Lanz and I climbed Mount Stewart via the High Sierra Trail, Hamilton Lakes, and Kaweah Gap. The 12,205 ft mountain is located on the rugged Great Western Divide and the region is one of the most remote in the High Sierra requiring 46 miles roundtrip to reach the summit (42 miles were on the High Sierra Trail to Kaweah Gap from the Crescent Meadows trailhead). We started at 4:40 am and finished at 6:50 pm for a 14 hour and 10 minute day. The 21 miles along the High Sierra Trail to Kaweach Gap from the trailhead at Crescent Meadows took about 5 hours each way. From Kaweah Gap we traversed into Nine Lakes Basin and then utilized a broad ramp to scramble to the upper slopes of Mount Stewart, which contained some snow slopes and more scrambling to the third class summit block. The panorama from the summit of Mount Stewart was outstanding with a commanding view of the Great Western Divide, the Big Arroyo River Valley, and Black Kaweah. The Hamilton Lakes amphitheater is one of the most scenic areas I have seen in the High Sierra with the towering granite faces of the Valhallas including the famous Angel Wings rock wall, Mount Stewart, and Eagle Scout Peak. Complete trip report with many more photos here.
Joel’s footage in HD:
Complete trip report with many more photos here.
Last Sunday I climbed Mount Shasta with Joel Lanz. It was a beautiful day on the mountain with brilliant sunshine, excellent clarity, relatively warm temps, and light winds up top. I enjoyed gorgeous views virtually the entire way up the mountain, which included the rugged Trinity Alps, Lake Shastina, the upper Sacramento Valley, Lassen Peak, Mt. McLauglin, Siskyou Mountains, and Oregon Cascades.
The crux of the climb was the steep stretch between Lake Helen and the top of the Red Banks, which were extremely firm and smooth ice/snow. In addition, rime ice chunks on the Red Banks rocks were peeling off and funneling into the route at exceptionally fast speeds. A helmet was an essential piece of gear and we stayed to climber’s right to avoid the bowling alley. In fact, the weekend was unprecedented with ten search and rescue operations and five helicopter evacuations on the mountain. Climbers either could not self arrest after slipping on the icy surface or were hit by the ice chunks causing them to lose balance.
The climb took 7:45 roundtrip starting at 3:48 am from Bunny Flat and finishing at 11:33 am. The ascent was 4:24, 30 minutes on top, and 2:51 down. The firm/icy snow conditions in Avalanche Gulch allowed for fast cramponing on the way up, but a painstakingly slow descent for the first few hundred vertical feet below the Red Banks. Overall, it was an awesome climb!
A complete trip report with many photos is here!
Initially when I moved to California I was skeptical the mountains would compare to the Cascades where I grew up. After many great experiences in the Sierras, I can say that I have been blown away by the beauty and ruggedness of these mountains. They are different than the Cascades, but special in their own way. The more adventures I complete in the Sierras, the more ideas I have for future runs. Here are some ideas for the High Sierra for the upcoming summer and beyond:
- Dusy Basin and North Palisade: A trip over Bishop Pass to Dusy Basin provides an awe-inspiring view of the West side of the Palisades group of extremely rugged peaks with a climb of North Palisade, the highest point in the Palisades at 14,248 ft.
- Rae Lakes Loop: I completed this amazing loop last year in early winter conditions in 12h31m. I’d like to return when the route is snow-free and I am better acclimated to improve my time by a couple hours or more.
- The Whaleback and Big Wet Meadow: One of the most remote spots in the entire range, it takes 18 miles just to reach Big Wet Meadow in order to get a glimpse of The Whaleback, but I hear the views of the sheer granite cliffs and meadows are magical. A trip here would be a good opportunity to climb peaks on the Great Western Divide, including Table, Milestone, and Midway.
- Triple Divide Peak via High Sierra Trail: It’s 72 miles from Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park to Whitney Portal, but the chance of somebody waiting to transport me back to the start is slim and I’m not about to do a 140 mile out-and-back. Thus, I came up with Triple Divide Peak as a destination while passing through the highlight area of the High Sierra Trail, namely the Valhallas cirque and Hamilton Lakes up to Kaweah Gap. This area has tremendous views and the magnificent amphitheater of rock walls has been likened to a little Yosemite Valley. The only difference is that this place is 16 miles from the nearest trailhead. Triple Divide Peak has significance as the divide between the Kern, Kaweah, and Kings Rivers.
- Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: The view of Arrow Peak from Bench Lake is one of the classic views in the Sierra. It’s quite a slog to get back there via Taboose Pass, but it’s worth it!
- Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a spectacular and wild canyon in Yosemite National Park from Tuolumne Meadows to White Wolf. Alternatively, a 45 mile loop out of White Wolf is possible to avoid car shuttle issues. Numerous waterfalls and granite everywhere!
- Great Western Divide Traverse: One of the most remote and rugged areas in the High Sierra. These peaks form a spectacular skyline from the Sierra Crest. There are many options and routes up various peaks.
- Brewer- North Guard-South Guard: A link-up of these three summits in a single day via Sphinx Canyon and Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park.
- Russell-Whitney-Muir: Fun scrambling up Russell and the north face of Whitney on this very aesthetic loop of the Whitney region.
- Mount Langley: Another great trail run up the southermost fourteener in the Sierras and one of the highest trailheads at over 10,000 feet.
- John Muir Trail: 222 miles from Whitney Portal to Yosemite Valley, the JMT is one of the most famous trails in the world. At the very least, I’d like to cover significant portions of this trail that I have not already seen to prepare for a future speed attempt.
The North Cascades are the most rugged and wild mountains in the contiguous United States. They are heavily glaciated and often difficult to access. I have been climbing in the North Cascades for many years and the breathtaking scenery never gets old. Here are some adventure run ideas I have for the Cascades this summer:
- Northern Pickets Traverse: From Hannegan Pass to Ross Lake, this traverse travels through the most rugged and remote terrain in the lower 48. Intense summit names like Challenger, Fury, Crooked Thumb, and Phantom manifest the difficulty of reaching this fabled region. There are no trails in the Northern Pickets and virtually no evidence of human impact.
- Redoubt and Spickard: I visited this spectacular area near the Canadian border way back in 2004 in a climb of Mount Redoubt via Depot Creek. It’s time to return and climb Mount Spickard, which has one of the best views in the entire North Cascades.
- Isolation Traverse: A high traverse through the seldom visited region between Snowfield Peak and Eldorado Peak with views of the rugged McAllister Glacier cirque.
- Wonderland Trail: This amazing 94 mile loop around Mount Rainier has been on my radar for a few years and while I may not get around to it this summer, it is definitely something I hope to do someday.
- Mount Shasta: Towering above its surroundings at over 14,000 feet, Mount Shasta looks impressive from miles around. This mountain is a good climb in late spring when the weather is more cooperative but snow coverage remains good.
- Sahale Peak: This is too short for an adventure run – it takes longer to drive to the trailhead then climb the mountain! What Sahale Peak does offer, however, is one of the best locations to watch sunrise and sunset in the North Cascades. The ideal for me would be to photograph the evening and morning light from atop the small summit, as I did many years ago with my father.
Since the High Sierra and Cascades are snowbound until early summer, I’ll be sticking to coastal regions until then so here is a list of adventure run possibilities for the coastal regions of California. Ideas for the High Sierra and Cascades are forthcoming.
- Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop: Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, this 11+ mile hike is known as the “best redwood hike in the world,” for good reason. The route includes a wild coastal beach, a lush fern canyon, and some of the most magnificent redwoods in existence.
- Lost Coast: Encompassing King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness, the Lost Coast is the most remote and wild stretch of coastline on the US West Coast. The northern portion in the King Range Wilderness is primarily a beach walk while the southern portion in Sinkyone is trail on top of the bluffs traversing through redwood and fern glens. The complete Lost Coast trek is nearly 60 miles.
- Look Prairie-Peavine-Thornton Loop: The biggest redwoods in the world at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
- Grasshopper Peak: A high point in Humboldt Redwoods State Park with great views.
- Cone Peak via Vicente Flat (“Sea to Sky”): A trail run from the beach all the way up to 5,155 ft Cone Peak in the Ventana Wilderness. The summit is less than three miles away from the Ocean as the crow flies so it is known as the most spectacular summit along the Central CA Coast, if not the entire West Coast. You can drive a dirt road high up the mountain leaving only ~2 miles to the summit, but the most aesthetic route is to do it right from the ocean via the Vicente Flat Trail, which has superb vistas of the rugged Big Sur coast and a nice redwood grove in Hare Canyon. Total distance is 11 miles each way, 22 miles roundtrip. This trip was completed on January 10th, check out the video and blog entry.
- Junipero Serra Peak: The highest point in the Santa Lucia Mountains with 360 degree views and a good workout of 4,000 feet of vertical climbing over 6 miles.
- Henry Coe State Park: Over 200 miles of trails are located in this huge area of protected lands, including the 23,300 acre Orestimba Wilderness Area. This area is stellar in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
- Arroyo Seco River Gorge: A point-to-point 11 mile river and canyon adventure in the Ventana Wilderness where wading and swimming in the river is the only way to go. A place of contrast, the mountainsides are arid while the river canyon is lush. An excellent route for a hot summer day!
- Pinnacles National Monument: Revisit this great park in the spring when the hills are green and do the North Wilderness Loop.
A recap of Adventure Runs in 2009 in chronological order:
- Thompson Peak: (June 17th) Located in the rugged Trinity Alps region of the Klamath Mountains, this climb entailed passing through the rugged glacier-carved Canyon Creek drainage with granite cliffs, waterfalls, and lovely alpine lakes.
- Mount Sill: (July 9th) Stellar views from the summit (known as the best viewpoint in the High Sierra) and travel on the Palisades Glacier, the largest body of ice in the High Sierra. The approach via first, second, and third lakes with Temple Crag towering above was equally impressive.
- Clyde Minaret: (July 10th) The highest of the jagged Minaret group of peaks near Mammoth Lakes. Stunning scenery on the approach via Lake Ediza and Iceberg Lake, including the Minaret Range, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak. Early season conditions made the lower chute on the Rock Route a little spicy, but the scrambling was fun.
- Mount Olympus: (July 16th) My second time up Mount Olympus via the Blue Glacier. I managed to improve my FKT from 2007 by 24 minutes, completing the round trip in 11:06. Great weather and similar conditions, although a bit softer snow conditions.
- Clark Mountain: (July 21st) The highest point in the Dakobed Range, Clark provides great views of Glacier Peak, other peaks in the Dakobed Range, and the Napeequa Valley.
- Ptarmigan Traverse: (July 28th) A new FKT of 14:36 on this classic traverse from Cascade Pass to the Suiattle River. The Ptarmigan travels along the crest of the North Cascades and includes extensive glacier travel, high passes, and alpine lakes.
- Suiattle Crest 50 mile: (August 4th) An aesthetic single large loop providing a grand tour of the region including Napeequa Valley, High Pass, Lyman Lakes, and Spider Gap. We completed this awesome loop in 13:37.
- The Stanford Loop: (September 23rd) Another single large loop with excellent views of the Southern High Sierra including Center Basin, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, and the Kearsarge Lakes area.
- Middle Palisade: (September 24th) A classic scramble of the northeast face of this fourteener passing by gorgeous Finger Lake on the approach. Awesome views of the High Sierra from the summit!
- Pinnacles National Monument: (October 20th) Only 2 hours from the Bay Area, Pinnacles is a slice of the desert Southwest with boulder caves, red rock formations, and stately gray pines.
- Rae Lakes Loop: (October 24th) One of the most popular backpacking destinations in the High Sierra, I did this 46 mile loop in 12:31 in late-season conditions with extensive snow travel from Vidette Meadows to below Dollar Lake. While the snow, particularly on the north of Glen Pass, slowed me down, the amazing views of the snowcovered peaks more than compensated.
- Carmel River: (November 17th) My first exploration in the Venetana Wilderness, which had been closed for a year due to the large fires in 2008. This point-to-point 19 mile adventure included great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a stop at Jack English’s cabin in Pine Valley, and a walk down the lush Carmel River canyon with over two dozen crossings.
- Sykes Hot Springs: (November 24th) The most popular destination in the Ventana Wilderness for good reason, the hot springs are perched above the Big Sur river in a lush redwood forest making for a zen setting. The hike includes great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and rugged Ventana Double Cone. On the way back I took the Terrace Creek Trail through a nice old-growth redwood grove and the Coastal Ridge Road with superb views of the Big Sur Coast.
- Rose Peak: (December 8th) This one wouldn’t normally qualify for an adventure run, but with 6-8+ inches of snow on the summit, this one was adventurous! The Diablo Range in the East Bay usually gets some snow at least once every winter, but the copious amounts of snow and the low elevation (1,500 ft) were rare. We enjoyed spectacular snowy scenes in the oak forest and lovely views of the Diablo Range and Bay Area. Picturesque photos from the Santa Cruz Mountains the previous day can be found here.
Excited for the many plans and ideas taking shape for 2010!