I decided to celebrate Labor day by doing a little hard work in the alpine with my finacee Erin. We hiked in Denny Creek from I-90 to do the Roosevelt-Kaleetan traverse. If you've ever skied around Chair Peak, climbed the Tooth, or hiked to Snow Lake, then you have most likely looked at this long piece of architecture. I saw Kaleetan from Wright Mountain--north of Gem Lake--this winter, and just had to take a look. We found adventure, alpine problem-solving, and fun.
Becky informs us that Kaleetan was formerly known as "the Matterhorn." That's a crazy coincidence, because when I go to Zermatt the locals always talk about the "Big Kaleetan." In the photo above, the summit of Roosevelt is the pointiest bit on the ridgeline at left.
Denny Creek isn't the quickest way to get into the traverse, but we chose it just to see some new country. The crowds mostly gave out at Melakwa lake, where we put up our small camp. No surprise, there was still snow on the north slope of Melakwa pass, and Chair Peak lake was almost completely locked up in snow. In SEPTEMBER! If it cools off quickly, we can get some of this snow covered by the first snows, which would just be too cool. Maybe by stacking La Ninas we will grow some new glaciers.
We gather that most people start the traverse by doing the normal route on Roosevelt. For fun we decided to start a little north of there at a col we know from our winter travels. From here it was 0.7 miles of convoluted ridgeline to the summit of Kaleetan. We used nearly every trick in the book as the route served up loose rock, fun climbing, exposed knife edges, and secret detours. Fun!
Some rusty pitons appeared near the cruxes on better rock, and I could hear the historical curses echoing still around the head-scratching dead ends. At one point--and I'm still researching the geology behind this--the ridge devolves to something like poorly cured concrete. Limestone, I presume (in the photo of me retrieving water from the lake, you can see the light colored rock just left of the treed bump on the ridge above; that's the spot). But I can't begin to think of the nearest place where I have dealt with actual limestone. I'm busy with a great new volume, Geology of the North Cascades, which hopefully will yield answers to this and other mysteries.
The traverse required 5 hours on the ridge; the descent on the south side of Kaleetan proved pleasantly short and straight-forward, with no rope shenanigans whatsoever. We were back in camp for dinner before sunset.