The beautiful Ptarmigan Traverse and a formidable choss pile
The photo on the left shows the north side of Mt. Formidable under a starry night from camp. The map on the route shows the route we took on our 3-day adventure on the first part of the Ptarmigan Traverse. We hiked from the Cascade Pass trailhead to a beautiful camp just south of Red Ledge (we did this in 6 hours of hiking at a relatively relaxed pace). We then climbed the south side of Mt. Formidable the next day, and hiked out the day after that.
When I arrived home from my trip to the our Bugaboos (click to see trip report and photos from that amazing area), my mom was all geared to take advantage of the good forecast and go into the mountains. She was interested in spending a couple of nights on the first part of the Ptarmigan Traverse, which we had done as a family backpack in 2003; my parents had also done this beautiful and relatively moderate traverse in 1979. It’s always kind of special to do a hike with my mom, so I removed the heavy climbing gear from my backpack, photocopied some route descriptions for Mt. Formidable, and was ready to go!
My mom and I had a fun trip. That area of the North Cascades is so beautiful, and I was glad to be able to exercise the camera a bit more. We camped at a beautiful knoll just past Red Ledge, and climbed Mt. Formidable (via a traverse to the south side) the next day. It was a fun climb, even though my mom decided to wait for me about 800ft below the summit, and I had to settle for a peaklet just east of the true summit (due to a routefinding error leading us up the wrong gully, see photos below). If you like climbing formidable Class 3 choss, than the south side of Mt. Formidable is just for you! Otherwise, there are plenty of other peaks in the area that have more solid rock.
Keep on scrolling down for plenty of photos from the climb and from the hike.
PHOTOS FROM THE CLIMB
Looking across the glacier to Cache Col. The upper photo was taken when my parents hiked the Ptarmigan Traverse in 1979.
Taking off the crampons at Cache Col. Sometimes the upper glacier at the col can be tricky to get over, but it was quite easy this time. The east face of Mixup Peak is in the background – this looks like a fun climb, mostly Class 3/4 ledges on solid gneiss.
This photo was taken from Cache Col looking at the traverse down to Kool-Aid Lake and over to Red Ledge. There is a boot-beaten path the whole way. Hurry-Up Peak is on the left, Spider Mountain is in the center, and Mount Formidable is on the right.
These photos show the traverse over Red Ledge. The upper photo was taken during our family hike of the Ptarmigan Traverse in 2003, and the lower photo shows our camp during this 2007 trip and climb of Formidable. The snow did not quite reach up to the ledge on our more recent trip, so we had to scramble around behind the snow and up some loose rock to gain the ledge.
These photos show the traverse after the Red Ledge, and up Middle Cascade Glacier to Spider-Formidable Col. The upper photo was taken during our family hike of the Ptarmigan Traverse in 2003, and the lower photo shows our camp during this 2007 trip and climb of Formidable. We had a beautiful camp above the trail just after Red Ledge.
Our camp just past the Red Ledge. Johannesburg Mountain and Mix-up Peak are in the distance. I am really enjoying this Black Diamond Mega Light tent I got this summer (actually, this tent is a replacement for an identical one that one of my climbing partners left somewhere up Luna Creek…..
These photos give an interesting comparison of Formidable during three different trips (my parents Ptarmigan Traverse in 1979, family hike of the Ptarmigan Traverse in 2003, and the recent climb of Formidable in 2007).
A straightforward ascent of the Middle Cascade Glacier to the Spider-Formidable Col.
An easy traverse from the Spider-Formidable col to the notch at 7050’.
The route up the south side of Formidable. We ended up taking the wrong gully and I had to settle for a peaklet just east of the true summit. There as a large chasm and I would have had to do some exposed traversing on very loose rock to get over to the summit. Overall, the climb up the south side was a chossy mess, not too aesthetic, but at least the views were nice!
The view south from the summit area of Formidable.
The view north from the summit area of Formidable.
I took advantage of the more relaxed pace of this climb/hike to bring along two camera lenses, and I took plenty of photos. The spectacular North Cascades scenery (and flora and fauna, of course) more than make up for the chossy climbing on the south side of Mt. Formidable. I can’t resist adding some more photos I took during our 3-day trip into this beautiful area.
Water droplets on Pussytoes.
Water droplets on leaf.
Butterfly on Sitka Valerian.
Bee on Sitka Valerian.
A cool bug joined our lunch break at Cascade Pass.
Mountain goat above Cache Col.
A peaklet near the summit of Magic Mountain (up to the east from Cache Col).
View of Formidable from the tent. This tent as brand new for this trip, since it was a replacement for an identical one that one of my climbing partners left somewhere up Luna Creek (see my trip report for Mt. Challenger for details).
Heather shadows on the tent.
My mom reading her Bible in the evening.
Sunset from camp the first night. Mt. Baker is peaking over the ridge between the sun and Johannesburg Mountain
Sunset from camp the second night. Smoke from some fires in eastern Washington created some beautiful colors on our second night.
Another photo of the tent. Smoke from some fires in eastern Washington caused some interesting colors on our second night.
I took a bunch of night photos on this trip. This photo shows star streaks over Johannesburg Mountain and Mix-up Peak.
Mt. Formidable and starry night.
Mt. Formidable and star streaks.
Tent and Big Dipper.
Tent and star streaks.
Johannesburg Mountain peaking above the clouds (we had awesome sunny weather the first 2 days, but clouds moved in on our hike out).
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.