Old Guard Peak sits along the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades. Old Guard is one of two prominent peaks jutting from the Le Conte Glacier. The other is Sentinel Peak directly adjacent and to the west. Old Guard (8240') is slightly lower than Sentinel (8261'). The slopes of Old Guard generally bear less snow than Sentinel. The summit of Old Guard can be reached from the LeConte Glacier via a class 2/3 snow couloir and short rock scramble on the west side or via an 2- or 3-pitch easy/moderate class 5 route on the east side.
Old Guard is probably most commonly done as part of the Ptarmigan Traverse. See the Ptarmigan Traverse main page for a detailed route description.
There are two alternative approaches to Old Guard, Sentinel, and LeConte Glacier from Stehekin. However, both involve gnarly bushwacks that are not for the faint of heart and may take a 2 or 3 days in each direction. You may find the approach to be the most challenging part of the ascent, but the views from Old Guard and the traverse of the LeConte Glacier are well worth it.
In my opinion, the more difficult approach is via Flat Creek to the Le Conte Lake drainage. However, it does offer a very appealing campsite at LeConte Lake with the hanging toe of the LeConte Glacier just above. This site makes a nice spot from which to launch your ascent. (The calving of the glacier may interrupt your sleep at night, but it is an awesome scene in the day.) But bear in mind, you may find yourself spending a rough night in Flat Creek on your way to Le Conte Lake. Going is extremely slow through the slide alders in Flat Creek and appealing campsites are nearly non-existent. From Stehekin, take the Stehekin River trail north 6-8 miles to where Flat Creek intersects the Stehekin River from the west. This is where the bushwack begins. The north bank of Flat Creek appears to offer the easier route. There is a temptation to move high on to the north side of the valley where talus slopes appear to offer easier progress. I would advise caution on those slopes, however, because there is a persistent threat of rockfall from the cliff walls above. A good topo map is essential here.
Near the end of the broad Flat Creek valley, cross the creek and follow a steep drainage south and up to LeConte Lake. From the lake, ascend the east shoulder of the Old Guard/Sentinel massif to gain the Le Conte Glacier. The slope is gradual enough that, with some route-finding, it should be possible to avoid bergschrunds or substantial seracs. Continue southwest across the glacier to reach Old Guard. Continuing past Old Guard on the Le Conte Glacier, Sentinel is a short distance further.
The second approach involves following the Stehekin River trail to Agnes Creek. Bushwack west up Agnes Creek until you reach confluence of the West and South Forks of Agnes Creek. The Devil's Clubs are terrible in this creek, but thankfully the Slide Alders are more forgiving. Follow the West (right) Fork. You will pass three drainages on the north side of the Agnes West Fork. (Again, a good compass, topo map and knowledge of their use are essential. Because of the trees and foliage in this valley, it will be difficult to observe landmarks (e.g., peaks) from the creek level.)
Ascend the third drainage (north) until you reach the east shoulder of the Old Guard/Sentinel massif. You may be able to see LeConte Lake on the far side. Follow the instructions above to ascend to the LeConte Glacier.
See Ptarmigan Traverse main page for more detailed information on permit requirements. Sign in at the trailhead register for trips in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the Wenatchee National Forest. A Northwest Forest Pass is needed for parking vehicles at certain trailheads accessing this Wilderness area.
Contact for more information:
Wenatchee River Ranger District -- (509) 548-6977
Lake Wenatchee Ranger Station -- (509) 763-3103
Chelan Ranger District -- (509) 682-2576
Darrington Ranger District -- (360) 436-1155
External LinksWenatchee National Forest