Ptarmigan Ridge

Ptarmigan Ridge - July 29th

A pair of climbers recon’d the Ptarmigan Ridge in late July. They camped at the obvious rock bivouac (small wall) on the upper ridge around 10,100 feet, a short ways shy of the normal bivi in the snow col at 10,200 feet (below the ice cliff) which is mentioned in the route descriptions.

"found the final knife edge ridge traverse of about one quarter of a mile totally devoid of snow, extremely loose, unprotectable, and dangerous to cross. The Ptarmigan headwall itself was getting out of condition, suffering from frequent rockfall from the upper cliffbands, and showing signs of debris scars particularly at the right-to-left traverse at the top of the long snowfield (after the bergschrund) and again at the narrow snow/ice gully going thru the final rockband to gain the rock headwall at 12,800 ft {where the finish goes left (ice chute) or right (snow
ramps to an exit gully)}.
They avoided the route, and opted instead for an ascent of the Edmunds Headwall...

Photo and updates by Keith Young & Jim Cullem

July 26th

After hearing Sam's report from Ptarmigan, we decided to go out and give it a try. After 10 days of scorching temps and high freezing levels the route is much worse. We did find a descent gully to access the base of the route from. We left our camp at 10,200 and went down the gully to the right. Once we got down to the level where you would either have to rappel or down climb, we traversed right along the ridge around the corner and were able to walk down to the North Mowich Glacier.

During the entire traverse up the snow ramp leading to the dirty gully at 11,000' we were dodging rocks with every step. We tried to hug the cliffs on the far left so that we had some shelter from the rockfall. We reached the top of the snow and had to cross a steep, dirty gully as we traversed to the left. The snow turned to rotten dirty ice and steepened to about 60 degrees. We continued climbing this nasty rotten ice/dirt/scree/water for the next several pitches. It was very hard to protect and every now and then you could place a "decent" screw. We chose to take the ice variation to the left, and after the final traverse out of rotten ice, we encountered a gully of 70-degree ice that was soft and plastic. We continued up this to the base of the ice cliff and then climbed straight up through vertical water ice to reach the top of the ridge. On the ridge heading toward Liberty Cap, we had to post hole for most of the next 2,000' to the summit. We had to weave our way around several crevasses and I even broke through one bridge and fell into the crevasse about 10 feet. It was tiresome and hot up there.

All in all I think the route is in pretty poor condition right now, however with all the water running down it I would expect it to come back in the fall and be a fun climb again then.

~Andy Anderson & Adrienne Sherred

Ptarmigan Ridge - July 16th

I left the 10,200 ft camp at 6:30 am (on the lower part of Ptarmigan Ridge. I departed at 6:30 am, down climbing from camp (10,200 ft) to the North Mowich Glacier. There was a 20 foot rock step, about 5.6, that cleared out into a gully of loose rock. In all, about 150 vertical feet of 35 degree scree, with one section going at 45 degrees. Next time, I'd rappel from the top of the first rock step (though I found no rap slings) and make sure that I kept the rope out of the rocks.

Once on the glacier, I quickly moved out of the rockfall zone and then put my crampons on. From there, I traversed until I could safely climb past the Bergshrund (45 degree snow ramp) by angling left and up to the icy chute.. As the route turns left, it heads into the steeper crux pitches... Be careful of rockfall during this left-tending climbing traverse, a few grapefruit sized rocks whizzed by me!

Higher into the traverse, just below the chute, the snow turned icy. There was aproximately 400 feet of water ice to be climbed before reaching the base of the rock where the route can takes on one to two options. I choose the left option, which I felt was easier.

I climbed out left from the cliff and into the obvious ice chute. First pitch was aproximately 25 meters of 75 degree solid glacial water ice. If you kept left, the ice was softer and in some places and partially snow covered. I stayed left and gave my tools and crampons more purchase, as the area is extremely exposed! The second pitch was about 20 meters long, and maybe 70 degrees. It had softer snow and ice on the right.

After the second pitch, I topped out on the glacier. From there, I slowy navigated the glacier to the Liberty Cap. Most the snow was wind blown and crusty, with mounds of ice. The wind was 20mph with gusts up to 30mph.

I summited Liberty cap around 10am. It was an easy walk to Emmons Winthrop Glacier route via Liberty saddle and arrived at Camp Schurman close to 11:00 am.

The route is still in great shape! :)

~ Route report by Sam Wick, image by Kris Gorny

July 10th

This image today from Brian Kenison.

Finally, a Ptarmigan Ridge report. This is from Len Kannapell. July 7th

3 am: wake

4 am: depart camp. Scouted out the descent to the North Mowich Glacier the night before. It's a bit ugly, with a lot of loose rock, but from the bivy sites (10,200' altimeter reading in the "saddle" between the two high points on the ridge), descend 50' to the right of short 15' cliff bands, then go directly under the cliff bands, then easy descent (but quite loose) until you get to the glacier.

4:45am: cross 'schrund, didn't rope up until we got to the ice pitches. Very solid with one ice axe + one tool for each person.

6:30am: 12,500' rock buttress (left = regular ice route, right = rock variation route).

We went left, easy crossing, then finally roped up for the two ice pitches (pitch 1= 75' of 45-55 degrees, placed 4 ice screws, picket deadpan anchor; pitch 2 = 60' of same, difficulties completed).

9:30am: begin long traverse to Emmons Glacier. No troubles encountered at all with crevasses.

11:30am: Near whiteout conditions, 30 mph winds. Ugly.

1pm: Reached Liberty Cap, took bearing of 108 degrees (declination adjusted) to head for Emmons. Encountered a group that got lost in the whiteout on descent. Former climbing guide Liam O'Sullivan (in our party) did a great job, took bearing of 157 degrees from where we encountered this party to Camp Schurman, which worked well.

5:30pm: Camp Schurman

8:40pm: Car at White River

Note: Don't know about conditions on the rock buttress (right-side variation), but it looks like it works; we took a rock rack of 5 pieces in case. But the ice pitches were quite fun and protectable with four (4) ice screws used. Two guys in our party took skis for the Emmons descent, which wasn't too good. Inter Glacier excellent for skiing/glissading.

There is archived route reports on Ptarmigan Ridge here.