Dispatches: Hiking the Ptarmigan Traverse in Washington


The Ptarmigan Traverse is a challenging, off-trail route in the North Cascades of Washington State. Depending on your path choice–left of a crevasse or right around a rocky moraine–the full trek is roughly 36 miles, primarily on glacier. Many have estimated the elevation change to be 25,000 feet, up and down steep jagged peaks in one of the most fabled ranges in the country.

Last year I returned for a second time, bringing along two of my good friends–Zach and Mitch–to see the route in a new season with a new crew. With favorable weather and very few other hikers, we were blessed to have the route mostly to ourselves for three full days. A true sufferfest, most of our days started soon after sunrise and ended just before dark, with just enough time to cook and pitch a tent.