June 12-17, 2019, Isolation Traverse + nearby peaks

WA Cascades NW (Mt Baker)
Posted by moxie802 on 6/19/19 8:22am
Took advantage of the splitter forecast to accompany a couple of mountain men on the Isolation traverse this past week. We also climbed Klawatti, Austera, Snowfield, and Pyramid Peaks on the way, since we'd built in a few weather/exploring/skipping work days.

Day 1: Hoofed up the usual approach to Eldorado from Cascade River Rd in mercifully cloudy, breezy conditions. Snowline at about 400 vert below the divide to Roush creek. Eldo and Inspiration glaciers are in lovely shape, easily avoidable crevasses with nice, consolidated snow - theme of the trip. We camped on the high col between Inspiration and McAllister glaciers. Unfreakingbelievable sunset spot!!!

Day 2: CG chilled while Gordy and I explored the nearby rock piles. Easy ski over to the col north of Klawatti, with a little bit of rock climbing to drop onto the N Klawatti glacier. Skied up the south snowfield of Austera, with dang gorgeous views from the top of the peak and nice fully baked corn on the descent. Snow comes within ~50 vert of the summit. We decided to circumnavigate Klawatti via the upper North Klawatti glacier, which was epic; another short scramble was required over the col south of Klawatti. Since we'd been staring at it all day, we figured we should probably go up Klawatti, which I later read was named "Sloppy Mountain" by the first ascentionists. The thin, moated south couloir gave way to shifty 4th class about halfway up - sloppy, indeed. But a purty view from the summit. Then, a windy evening on the Eldo/McAllister col.

Day 3: Got an early start to investigate the route over Backbone ridge from McAllister. We found soft snow, even by 7:30, above large moats at the near col, and decided we weren't willing to risk it. The far col from Dorado looked even worse. Without rock gear we weren't psyched about the 5th class moves on the rock fingers between them, either. So instead we dropped down the huge ramp under the NW face of Eldorado and climbed the pocket glacier under the W face of Dorado needle to a tiny col between it and the start of the Backbone ridge ski. This col went with some steep snow, though the moat is widening and probably open wide soon; there was a safe runout and no sun until 11ish. Arrived on top excited, enjoyed lunch too long, and ended up skiing Backbone in a cloudbank. Lots of ups and downs to get to the col below the Coccyx, but the sun came out again for the ski across to the Ice-Elation, which was fully filled in and half glorious corn, half only slightly less glorious suncups. Called it a day below the Ice-Elation, with a stunning view up the McAllister glacier valley from a dry camp just at the stream outlet.

Day 4: Woke up under low clouds with a long, almost entirely dry ascent up Isolation. We did get some nice turns above Wilcox lakes, and the sun came out to dry the heather up and over the SE shoulder of Isolation, thankfully. More nice turns down to the unnamed lake below the Isolation-Snowfield ridge, where we encountered a black bear at close range in the drainage above the lake. Thankfully he went peacefully on his way after giving us a good once-over. Climbed to the Snowfield-Horseman col in the heat of the day, not enjoying the solar oven effect, but thankful we did to set up camp on the col. We strolled up Snowfield near sunset (quite a bit cleaner than Klawatti). Later, the full moon rose and CG lured us out of our sleeping bags for a moonlight schuss down the Neve Glacier from just below Horseman's Pack.

Day 5: Spent a leisurely morning watching climbers ascend the Neve glacier to tag Snowfield. We finally skied down the Neve glacier in late morning with excellent corn, and then climbed to Neve col. We descended the Colonial glacier most of the way, dropped packs, and then zipped under the E face of Pinnacle to the summit of Pyramid. We enjoyed the views of the Pickets and Ross/Diablo/Gorge lakes for a while, while clouds and wind built back up again. Easy to follow our tracks back to the glacial outlet and lake, though, which are melting fast but still frozen enough to walk around/over. Did the traverse under the E face of Pyramid with the evidence of much rockfall in our path, but we made it to the shoulder below the NE face without a mishap. Last camp was set up to enjoy the views back up the Colonial, Pinnacle, Pyramid, etc. cirque.

Day 6: Skied our last 500 or so vert to the broad ridge out. The climber's trail is more or less dry below 5200 feet, but offered easy navigation and plenty of veggie-belays. Swam and log hopped in Pyramid Lake, then trotted out the lovely Pyramid lake trail. Ate lots of pizza, and then reluctantly returned to Seattle.

I'll post pictures unless I can get one of my partners to do it ...
Inspiring. Thanks for sharing this. What a trip!
2019-06-26 11:52:22
Excellent! Great adventure. I love that traverse.
2019-06-27 07:09:42
Welcome fellow 802er and congrats on a WWA classic!  Takes plenty of moxie!
2019-06-27 18:55:32
Can't wait to see the pictures!
2019-06-30 06:12:19

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2019-06-19 15:22:28