This mountain boasts what some call the "Best View in Washington" and after climbing it, you won't disagree. Located between the North and South Pickets in the rugged and remote North Cascades, Luna Peak is the perfect mountain for those who dream about unspoiled wilderness, roadless back-country (trailless for that matter) and an alpine panorama unlike anything in the "normal" Cascades. Happily, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the difficulty of getting to this peak is so great that only a handful of climbers even attempt it each year. The notorious weather of the North Cascades makes the odds of getting rained out too great (for most climbers) given the time and energy you need to get here. But if you do, you will never regret the labor, the bushwacking, the heather slopes, the talus fields, the boulder strewn final kilometer or any other part of this magical climb. It is also important to note that Luna has two summits. One, easily reached by those climbers who are fit and like to scramble, and a second, higher, true summit which requires either huge balls to climb free or a good rope, slings and knowledge of running belays. This traverse is the crux of Luna. Jim Brisbine, all-star climber and North Cascades afficianado, described it this way, "...possible routes to the true summit, which sits about 100 yards away along a gruesome-looking ridge. Although Beckey recommends a low traverse on the western side of this crest, I spied a higher and more direct (but more exposed) traverse on the eastern side. The traverse route turned out to be rather enjoyable, with a lot of moderately exposed Class 2-3 ledges in somewhat loose rock, and culminating in a very exposed Class 3 summit block of good rock. We signed the film-can register, took photos, posed for photos, and then traversed back over to the false summit."
And as long as you are out there, how does a little 15 hour side trip up Mount Fury sound?
After entering the North Cascades, you need to head towards Ross Lake. The folks at Ross Lake Resort run a ferry. Making a reservation for the trip across the lake to the Big Beaver Landingis vital. It is $50 per boat (round trip) regardless of how many climbers are on the boat (we were a group of 6 and with our huge packs the boat was pretty full). You should set an arranged time to meet the ferry and keep in mind that you will be parking your car up on the highway, about 20 minutes away (over easy trail) from the lake shore below.
There are limits as to how many people can enter the wilderness and group size is limited as well so please check with the rangers in nearby Marblemount. It is also safe to say that during the Summer months, open fires are not allowed. The phone at the Ranger Station is (360) 856-5700 or you can call the visitor information at (360) 856-5700.
There is no need to buy a parking pass because you are not at a trailhead when you leave your car.
The boat, while not technically "red tape" needs to be taken care of in advance as well. So call Ross Lake Resorts at (206) 386-4437.
When To Climb
When it is not raining or snowing, i.e. August (if you are lucky). Call the rangers for more details at (360) 856-5700. We had perfect weather and it made quite the difference. Bushwhacking through soaking scrub and devil's club is not many people's idea of fun and the sun made it possible to wash in the creek without freezing afterwards. Climbing the rock near the summit was also a lot easier due to the fact that the slabs were not covered in ice. Can it be climbed out of season? Of course. Would I ever want to do it? No.
Camping in Access (or Axes) Basin is wonderful and the only "problem" is the large number of critters that might flock to your gorp if you fail to hang your food (we set up a rope between two huge boulders). Bears are also an issue (or so said the ranger) but there is no place to hang food that seemed bear-proof anyway so we risked it and got lucky. Water is not a problem if you have a good filter or iodine. Be gental to the surroundings; the fact that only a half dozen parties a year travel to this area is what makes it special, so if you thrash the place, you defeated the purpose of going there.
Camping at Luna Pass was wonderful as well and thanks to a small snowfield right in the saddle, we had running water and did not have to melt snow. This saved on fuel and sped up the whole cooking process. We had some good spots for bivy sacks and I squeezed my tent in to a small, flat area but don't expect a meadow. Just rock and the best view you'll probably ever get at a campsight. Please be considerate towards other back country mountaineers and think about how you are going to dispose of your feces. We tried both the bury method and the south-facing-smear (UV rays nuke the load in a matter of days). We did not "blue bag" anything due to the other good options available.
The conditions on Luna were good in the end of August but the Pickets are known for rough weather and there is no time of year where you can count on sun. Be ready for everything. We had no ice, snow or rain of any kind but the next day we woke up in a fog bank, so hope for the best and plan for the worst. For weather go to the North Cascades website which is www.north.cascades.national-park.com and click on "weather."
The summit portion of the mountain (above Luna Saddle) was a shakey pile that seemed to be nothing more than a stack of boulders. This said however, the vast majority of the rest of the climb was an scramble with the exception of the traverse from the "false" summit to the true summit. This was by far the most exposed and demanding part of the entire climb. The ledges and holds along the right side of the ridge (facing the true summit) are not bad, just crumbly and too exposed and airy for sensible people. So if you have carried a rope all the way up the mountain anyway, use it (two of our party climbed it free while two others roped up and two stayed in the saddle).
- North Cascades National Park
This is the official page of the National Park Service for the North Cascades. "Few fully know the intense and rugged beauty of the North Cascades – jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls and over 700 glaciers. North Cascades National Park Service Complex contains the heart of this mountainous region in three park units which are all managed as one and include North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas."
- North Cascades National Park (unoffical page)
This page is good and simple to use, but not in any way conected to the government or the park service so I don't know how accurate the information is.
- Ross Lake Resort
You will need these guys to get you to the Big Beaver Landing (the real start of the climb). Call them for up-to-date beta about the area, ferry rides and any other last minute questions. Plus you can sleep here if you want to get an early start on your first morning!
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