The Southern Pickets
“Because of the rugged terrain, the Picket Range has remained the wildest and most unexplored region in the North Cascades. It is not an area for the wilderness novice ; its isolated brushy valleys and jagged ridges are a test for the most seasoned mountaineers, The length of climbs, combined with steep terrain and variable conditions ,demands all around competence and fitness”
Fred Beckey – Cascade Alpine Guide
I could come up with many words to describe the Southern Pickets. Some are flattering, some not so. They are pleasing to the eyes, yet terrifying to the aspiring climber. They are highly accessible, but offer few route that are traveled with ease. They offer some the the most amazing alpine climbing in the states, yet there are very few routes to choose from. Thousands of climbers know about this fantastic range yet it is rare to see another party (outside of W. Mac, Insp. area). Very accessible in winter, yet only a couple summits have been done during that season. It epitomizes our very idea of rugged mountain exploration yet, there has only a few recorded new routes the last 23 years.
The range seems to stand in defiance of our modern sports culture.
There have been many brave adventures here though over the years. Beckeys books, NWMJ, and a few other publications have picked over the history well those earier exploits. I hope to just add to some personal and more recent flavor of the Southern half of our proudest range.
It wasnt until 2003 that I first got into the Southern Pickets Range. Lane and I went in in that summer and went from West Mac to Inspiration. The going was difficult but very doable. Once I found that out, the gates broke loose on an idea I had formulated a couple of years prior.
I was hoping nobody had previously done a complete summit ridge traverse of the range in a continuous push. My queries led me to believe it hadn’t. The idea went forward. I came back looking for partners who I felt could handle the task. I found a couple of partners that had some rivalry over the idea, but when we teamed up, the Summit Ridge Traverse was a dream come true for us, and many other people ( I was to find the Fireys had this vision decades prior). I can say it was, for me, a true highlight of my life.
- 2011: S. Pickets Traverse has seen a repeated effort to not only do the Southern Traverse, but add the Northern on too! Jens, Sol, and Dan did 12 of the Southern Pickets summits (getting the 2nd ascent of Sou. Pickets Summit Ridge traverse in my opinion.), then they then pushed into the Northern group to summit Outrigger peak and Luna!
- Here are their awesome reports:
Sol W. CC Report
Between the 2 succesful traverses on the Southern range, I know of at least 3 attempts on it that fell short. Also in the same time line there were a few other new routes done on other summits in the group.
2013: Jens returns for his second go at the Complete Pickets Traverse, teaming up with Chad Kellogg. Through bad weather, they manage to do all but 3 peaks after finishing the ridge to its end. Here are their incredible reports:
Alan K MacMillan Report.
Rolf and Peters N. Face of E.MacMillan (Cant find) Report.
Other useful S. Pickets links:
Stephs amazing Pickets Page
Summit post Page, again, mostly Steph
Cool Photos here
Which only leaves to question: What possible new routes may be left?
Warning, there are some patches of real bad rock in this range! Descents from nearly All summits are serious affairs!
Route to the right of the South Face line on Inspiration.
S, and N. Face of Himmelhorn.
Several unclimbed faces of Frenzlespitz.
N.face line on Pyramid. Next to Skoog route
N face of MacMillans in Winter. Only W.Mac, Chopping Block, Inspiration, Terror, Luna E, W Fury, and Challenger have been climbed in winter.
A direct route up the s. ridge of E tower or The Blob/Rake. Promises to be stellar. SP Ridge traverse takes a “Thank God Ledge” around it, left.
People have been enjoying”Mini Traverses” along the ridge, bagging several summits on the way., The 3 Macs, and W. Mac to Inspiration are popular.
The truth is, except for the North side, The Southern Pickets are relatively easy to get into. The Goodell Creek Trail is a quite manageable ,if you stay on it.. The Terror Creek approach isnt too bad, but it helps to have someone with you who has done it before, it has great spank potential. Again, the only option is to stay on the trail.
Enjoy the Southern Pickets, but a few words of advice: Permits are required and may fill up certain weekends. Pack as light as possible, it has to be good weather anyways to climb there. Watch for loose stuff and slippery lichen, it is almost everywhere. Get as much info as possible on the objective, and by all means Go Fast!