Thursday, June 22, 2017

Central Swan traverse V.6

When my alarm went off at 4:15, it was pouring rain.  The plan was to rally and climb McDonald peak. Instead of rallying, I rolled over in the tent and went back to sleep.
Nearing the Holland peak summit.
Three and a half hours later, I jogged out of the Holland lake campground with a new plan, headed for a traverse of the Central Swan.  Instead of doing the customary car or bike shuttle, I decided to try it as a loop, so the first two hours of the day were spent running the Foothills trail to the Rumble lake climber's trail junction.  The brush was saturated from heavy overnight rain, but it was otherwise a nice way to check out a new section of trail.  The climb to upper Rumble lake went quickly.  To my surprise, it had snowed a few inches above 9,000 feet overnight.  And it was cloudy, which was not forecast.  On top of it all, I was already tired, probably from being mildly sick. It was shaping up to be an interesting day in the mountains.  I opted out of the 4th class North ridge and instead headed for the normal summer route on the South face.
Easy rolling along the Foothills trail at the beginning of the day.
From Holland, looking South along the traverse.
The normal summer route is easy but exposed, but it was passable with the new snow, so I pushed to the summit.  After reversing the climb, I continued to Buck.  Fortunately, the clouds slowly lifted, and the temperatures warmed a few degrees, and the day was shaping up to be a good one by the time I was starting up the North ridge.  I arrived on the summit still tired, but looking forward to the rest of the traverse.  The descent was quick, and I was able to bypass all of the tricky ridgeline steps on snow.  I have always found the traverse from Buck to Woodward to be long but enjoyable, with great views into two separate high basins, and a little slightly tecnhical bonus summit along the way.  And it is only a 40 minute excursion from Woodward to the lookout.  I arrived at the lookout still tired but elated from getting to spend a few precious hours cruising ridgelines in the Swan.
Approaching Buck mountain.
Taking advantage of snow to bypass rock steps on the South side of Buck mountain.
Easy going on the way to Woodward peak.
The run down from the lookout was great.  My legs were tired, but the trial is smooth and fast, and I was back in the campground less than an hour from leaving the top.

Thoughts:  Holland peak to Holland lake.  Done in a touch under 9 hours from the campground.  This is my sixth time doing some version of this traverse.  I contend that the crest north of Holland peak, and south of Holland lake are more enjoyable, but this central bit has the fewest logistical hurdles.  Running the shuttle was surprisingly tiring, but it does not take any longer than doing a car shuttle (as long as you run the trail).  I have been slowly warming up to the idea of taking advantage of consolidated June snow to do running traverses.  Instead of skiing.  An ignoble concept, I know, but it is pretty fun mixing it up in the snow, and glissading effortlessly down slopes that would in the summer be clad in scree, brush, or other hateful travel surfaces.
At the lookout, looking back. Woodward, Buck, and Holland peaks visible.

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