Osceola Peak - 8587' / Mount Carru - 8595' / Mount Lago 8745' / Ptarmigan Peak - 8614'
On my way back from Banff, after I made a trip to the Bugaboos with Etai, I quickly hiked up Windy Peak in a few hours, then drove back to Lynnwood to pick up Josh who would join me on a fairly difficult task of hiking these 4 Bulger peaks in the Pasayten in a day (not including the trail approach from Slate Pass). So on Friday last week, I quickly drove back over Highway 20 and got Josh, grabbed groceries and drove all the way to Slate Pass. By 6:30 pm we started hiking down from the pass under somewhat cloudy skies. It took us just under 3 hours to hike to the junction with the Freds Lake Trail and we set up camp in the dark on an awesome flat spot next to the small creek. This hike was something around 9 miles. The photos just below show my solo hike up Windy Peak, which was not very memorable but I will say it was quite chilly and a reminder that winter is coming!
At 6am the next morning, we began hiking up the trail to Freds Lake. We made it up the switchbacks in quick time. It was breezy, chilly and mostly cloudy but we had hope for a good weather day since the forecast called for mostly sunny skies. We reached the saddle above Freds Lake around 8:45 am and saw a group of campers below the opposite side near Doris Lake. Josh and I continued north up the ridge until we reached the west ridge of Osceola and ascended the gentle ridge to its summit. We saw a river rock with a memorial carved into it left on the summit, and we noticed the clouds were getting thicker and obscuring the summit of Carru and Lago across the way. We saw sun hitting the peaks well off to the west so we grabbed a quick snack and continued down the south slopes to about 7,200 feet where we could cut back to the right and traverse below the cliffs guarding the north and east sides of the peak.
We began traversing the ridge towards Carru, hiking over two small ridgebumps and found a small snow patch the the saddle at the base of Carru's west ridge. We filled our bottles a little, and ascended the Class 2+ ridge to the summit of Carru. By now the sun was out but it was quite breezy. I really enjoyed this peak since it had the best scrambling and it's north face was very steep below us. We then realized we would have to drop south all the way back to 7,200 feet again to bypass around the cliffy east face of Carru. I looked at the map and we decided we could return back over the Carru/Lago saddle for a quick return back to the south side of the peaks after climbing Ptarmigan. This saved us from having to climb Lago twice.
We then ascended 1,500 feet up the stupidly loose south slopes of Lago. By this point it was around 2:00 pm so I wasn't too worried about getting timed out. We continued down the talus on the northeast slopes of Lago and hiked the very long ridge over three bumps (one of which was Dot Mountain) and ascended the Colorado-esque slopes on Ptarmigan Peak. The winds were howling by now but the sun was out and we were able to stay fairly warm. Once we stood on the summit of Ptarmigan we were pretty tired but we knew we still had a long hike back.
Returning along the long ridge back from Ptarmigan, I was feeling surprisingly strong heading back over Dot Mountain. From the 7,800 foot saddle below the north side of Lago, we dropped to the small basin to the west and filled water from a small meltwater pond. We traversed at the 7,400 foot level back to the Carru/Lago saddle where we ran into the only snow of the day. We had to ascend maybe 50 feet of snow on the upper edge of the large snowfield dropping down the north side of the saddle. Luckily it wasn't too steep and I was able to grab a small rock for stability and it use as an ice axe in case I slipped. Once at the saddle we descended down to 6,000 feet down the gully and hit the trail heading back to Doris Lake just before dark. We ascended the 1,400 feet on the trail in the dark and this is where I really started feeling slow and my legs hurting. Upon reaching our overnight gear back at the saddle above Freds Lake, we quickly threw up the tent and went to bed around 10:30pm.
Around 2am we woke to hearing snow/sleet falling. It ended up raining and snowing the rest of the night and into the morning. We didn't have any reason to start early so we slept in and waited out the small storm. Looking out of the tent, the peaks were clouded in and about a half inch of snow was on the ground. It was a beautiful sight! By 1pm we finally extracted ourselves and began hiking down. We had plans to hike over Rolo but due to the clouds that shrouded the peak we simply decided to hike back the way we came in. Luckily the weather improved and our hike back was nice, albeit chilly. We returned to Slate Pass but not before visiting the summit of Slate Peak to get an awesome view of the Pasayten Wilderness with awesome lighting!
Not including the approach and deproach, we did 10,500 feet of elevation gain Saturday to summit all four peaks, in a total of 15.5 hours. We also made an additional 2000 feet Sunday to return back UP to the car. It's been awhile since I had a day with that much gain. Was worth it though!