The SW Ridge of the Luna Peak is the gateway to the false summit and in turn, the true summit just a few hundred feet beyond. But neither this ridge nor the difficult traverse between the summits is the real "crux" of the climb. The relatively easy +11 mile hike up the Big Beaver, the subsequent 3 mile (feels like a lot more) bushwhack up Access Creek, the mile long, scree-filled couloir out of Access Basin and wickedly steep heather slopes are what make Luna the challenge it is.
For the sake of simplicity the route described here will take you from the shore of Ross Lake at the mouth of the Big Beaver to the summit of Luna Peak...
*After the boat from Ross Lake Resort drops you off at the Big Beaver dock, you will head back into a mix of old and second growth forest. The trail is well maintained and simple to follow. No serious obstacles will bar your way for the first 11 miles. There are numerous creeks which cross the trail and therefore provide good drinking water for any group carrying a filter. Not much more than a mile after passing Luna Camp (don't get your hopes up, Luna Camp has nothing to do with your expedition
), you will begin to watch for a slab of cedar bark standing in the brush near the trail. It was clearly visible in August of 2003 but a single Winter will probably destroy this tiny marker so... good luck. However, if you are lucky, you might notice the small arrow scratched in the bark which points down towards the river just before the point where Access Creek enters the Big Beaver
. This means your bushwhacking has begun. Go through marshy underbrush for about 100 yards, find a huge downed tree and cross the Big Beaver. The climb is about to begin...
* Once on the other side of the river you can follow Access Creek back for about 300 yards. When it is practical, cross and start a steep ascent in the thick brush on the right-hand side of creek. This side of the creek will soon lead you up a steep ridge (stay near but not too close to the water) in the general direction of Access Basin. Climbing through devil's club and other various forms of vegetation may rip your legs apart but gaiters, a climbing helmet, glasses and gloves make the ordeal much more bearable. As you gain elevation the climb becomes less steep and you trudge through bands of forest (easy) and open patches of brush (hard). After several miles and hours, at around 3800 feet of elevation, cross the creek again to the left-hand side (looking upstream) and continue across huge rocks and boulders to the very terminus of the basin. You will now be surrounded by towering walls of rock with Luna right in front of you, 4000 feet above your head. You will have been moving for nearly 9 hours. Filter water, eat dehydrated rice pilaf with corn stroganoff and cilantro chicken. Hang remaining food between boulders. Sleep.
* Day Two. Leaving your camp is a fairly obvious, if steep affair. Looking towards Luna, you will see some chutes, gaps and couloirs running from the scree in the basin up and towards the left (SW). There are three well defined gaps that you will see from the basin. We decided to aim for the middle one and avoided the ones on the left (further from our desired direction once on the ridge) and the right (too high). If you are very fit, you can hit the scree early and get up into the top of the chute fairly early. We needed over and hour, but not two hours from camp to the top. The condition of this steep portion of the trip was bad but not unbearable. We did have to pay close attention to avoid kicking rocks onto each other’s heads. Ice axes were very useful on this terrain - loose dirt, extremely steep scree and small rocks. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sights in the world - The Southern Pickets. Sit down and stare.
* From this point, SE of the summit, we traversed under Luna’s South face along steep slopes of heather, crossing streams and going in and out of contours in the mountain. Without gaining or losing much elevation, we continued to cross (keeping Luna above us on our right) towards the rocks which lead to Luna Pass. Cutting up and towards the right across large slabs and rocks (all easy scrambling and hiking), you will soon find yourself nearing the saddle that will be your second camp. Once standing in the pass, the view of the Northern Pickets is almost as amazing as that of their southern counterparts. Luna Lake is located far below you and may be covered in ice (it was still half covered in late August). Looking NE, you will have have Mt. Challenger directly in front, Mt. Fury off to your far right (West; after a long, broken ridge) and Luna on your right .
* Note: Some climbers might describe this crossing in less dramatic terms. Whether or not you consider a rope to be a necessity or not is largely an indication of your
comfort level with exposure. I needed the rope. Others think a rope is just an extra hinderance. You will have to make that call. I climbed it with people who had no problem scrambling across unroped. At the time, as a new climber, I was happy to have it.
Here is my original route description from many years ago:
Drop your heavy gear and pack a summit bag at Luna Pass. You will need slings and a rope to cross to the true summit (unless you don’t mind climbing free over bad, exposed rock). We did not need any other forms of pro’ and were glad to finally be carrying lighter packs, but we had perfect weather. Keep weather conditions in mind at all times! Scramble up steep but very easy boulders for about 35 minutes to the false summit. From here it is only a question of the traverse to the true summit. If you are up there for the view, don’t worry about going to the true summit as the view is the same. However, you have come this far and it might seem hollow not to have actually “summited.” You will have to use your good judgment and make your decision on the spot. I will again include Jim Brisbine’s account of the traverse for those who wish to know the details, “...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."
Helmet, great boots (long days, big milage), rope, slings, harness, lots of good sense, etc...
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