September 21, 2013
Ptarmigan Peak is the least impressive among “the Skoki’s Trio” – Richardson, Pika, Ptarmigan. Except for one short move on its summit ridge, it’s merely a scree slog. Liam, Laurens, and I ascended Ptarmigan Peak as our 3rd objective of this day, after successfully finishing Pika Peak and Mount Richardson. It’s my least favourite of this group, and after completing the ascent, what I remember the most was the horrible scree and the even worse weather…
From Richardson/Pika col, we would firstly descend the obvious scree ramp that we had just came up a couple hours earlier. Descending was slightly more enjoyable than ascending but still, it wasn’t pleasant. We didn’t need to descend all the way down, instead we would start maintaining elevation as soon as the terrain got easier. This meant a longer side-hilling bash, but less elevation gain. The side-hilling went on forever and after gaining the proper ascending slope, the scree was even worse. We eventually managed to join a set of paths that felt more solid.
These tracks brought us up this foreshortened slope. At one point the slope narrowed down to a (wide) ridge but soon after that it opened up again. At this point we were not far from the summit ridge. Looking back, another system was moving in at a rapid pace. There’s one interesting step on the summit with some exposure and a bit of hands-on scrambling. After passing this last obstacle we were soon standing on the 3rd summit of this day. Liam and I still got some nice views, though overcast. But when Laurens caught up to us on the summit, it was a full-on white-out and blizzard. The snow and ice crystals were blowing sideways by the gusting wind.
The descent started with negotiating the summit ridge in a white-out. The wind was so strong that we had to cover our faces using hands/gloves otherwise it would be extremely painful with all the ice crystals smashing. But then it was very hard to see anything except for the footings immediately in front. We almost lost sight of each other but thankfully we regrouped not far down. It was pretty hard to keep oriented. We managed to find the trails/tracks and followed it down. At one point we took the left branch deviating from our ascent line. This turned out to be a faster way down. The weather decided to give us a break, but just about when we thought the storm was over, another one went in. Thankfully we were almost done the steep part at this point. The wind was even stronger. The snow switched to hail in no time and we heard thunders around. Scary… We eventually got a break from the smashing crystals after entering the trees. We bushwhacked down towards the valley floor and eventually joined Hidden Lake Trail and then followed it back to the main Skoki’s trail. Now all the trails were getting saturated and thus super muddy.
The storm passed by and we were left with a long hike out.. Did I just say long?! Well, my feet were not that sore since I wore hiking shoes this time instead of the stiff mountaineering boots. Our round trip time was 10 hours 45 minutes. Overall, it was a miserable but sweet trip. Miserable because of the bad weather on the descent, but sweet as we got all three peaks, as well as great views from two of them.