Pickets Day 3: Navigating Luna Cirque by Lousy Lake and up to Luna Lake - Ian Dryg

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Day 3 Summary: 

Our goal for this day was to go down and up the Luna Cirque and end at Luna Col. This way, we could begin the real traverse the next day, hitting Mount Fury and camping at Picket Pass. However, things didn't go according to plan. 

Starting from the Challenger arm, we picked our way down into the Luna Cirque. The going was rough - the terrain was steep and full of rocks of many sizes - all of which moved whenever you put your weight on them. This made for lots of careful, stumbling steps with a heavy pack on. Exhausting! Once we got down to the moraine above Lousy Lake, we figured we could walk NE down the top of the moraine to the edge of the lake. Turns out, this is not the way to go. The moraine forms a steep wall that you'd have to rappel down to get to the lake, and going down it becomes more and more bushwacky. Realizing there wasn't a good way down, we turned around and went back UP the moraine. High enough up, there's a flat enough spot to drop down onto the rock-covered glacier and walk down to Lousy Lake. 

We finally made it to Lousy Lake by 4pm, and had to make some decisions. We were exhausted from stumbling down the crappy, rocky, terrain with heavy packs. It was getting later - we weren't moving fast enough. Calculating out the food... it was either bust our asses up to Luna Col and move on with the traverse, or run out of food. Unfortunately, we weren't in any shape to bust ass that far, and we were concerned about travel speed for the rest of the traverse - with the risk of running out of food if we ended up having to take even more time that we already had. SO, we decided to finish off the day up making it up to Luna Lake and camping there. Then we'd take an alternate route out - via Access Creek back to Little Beaver Trail. 

Full report straight from my field notebook below the photos. 

  • Looking west at Whatcom Peak during sunrise. Amazing to see the ground we'd covered yesterday.

  • Our camp on the Challenger Arm, looking east at sunrise and Luna Peak on the right.

  • Luna Peak. Our initial plan was to make it below that, to Luna Col this day.

  • Rounding the Challenger Arm and getting our first views of the Pickets!

  • Swiss Peak.

  • Picking our way down into the Luna Cirque. Loose rock made the going slow and tedious, but views were great. Down below, you can see Lousy Lake on the left, behind the moraine. Pro tip: stay high on the moraine, it's easier to cross up there!

  • Luna Peak!

  • Continuing down. From here you can see Luna Peak on the top left. The closest saddle to Luna Peak is Luna Col, and below that you can see the glacial blue Luna Lake. The waterfall flowing from Luna Lake lands right on the left-to-right slope we called "The Ramp", which leads up from Lousy Lake. Finally, you can see the moraine between us and Lousy Lake.

  • More Pickets views as we make our way down.

  • Approaching the moraine (the rocky layer down at the bottom of the photo). As the warm afternoon sun settled in, lots of rockfall came down from Mount Fury.

  • More rockfall coming down from Fury.

  • After getting stuck on the moraine (on the right here) for way too long, we finally made it down to Lousy Lake! This is looking southwest at the Pickets from the south edge of Lousy Lake.

  • After making our way around to the east side of Lousy Lake, we started making our way up The Ramp. Here's looking back at Lousy Lake and the moraine rising up from the lake. The moraine is a steep drop that you'd have to rap down! Stay high (southwest) on the moraine for an easier descent off the moraine (see topo map below).

  • Making our way up The Ramp. There's a bit of bushwhacking here... I lost my lens cap in the thick branches!

  • Nearing the top of The Ramp, heading up towards Luna Lake. In late summer, this stream was pumping down The Ramp, an easy water source!

  • Finally made it to Luna Lake as the sun descended below the Pickets. We were pretty wiped at this point so we ended up camping here. An amazing camping spot.

  • Coldest dip of the year! #dipsallyear

  • Camping at Luna Lake under the stars.

Ian's Trip Log - Monday, August 28 - "Day 3"

Today was tough, and we’re not moving fast enough! Descending from the Challenger Arm to Lousy Lake was brutal… Half the rocks are loose and move when you step on them. Lots of slow-moving, slipping, falling… not fun. This would be way easier travel on snow – thoughts for next time: come earlier in the summer when there’s more snow to travel on! We finally got down to the moraine sometime around 1-2pm? And we went downhill on the moraine thinking we’d be able to cross it… nope. Turns out the only spot flat enough was up higher where the moraine flattened out for a bit. So we backtracked and went back up. This wasted a good hour and lots of energy, plus negative emotions fuming. Then, descending the moraine to Lousy Lake was more awful, loose rock. Ugh. Finally made it to Lousy Lake ~3:30pm and talked about what to do.

Our initial plan for today was to make it up to Luna Col, but that was seeming less likely… we were already pretty beat and we hadn’t even started the uphill part of the day yet. In the end, we decided to make it to Luna Lake, and decide what to do there. Pretty steep uphill to Luna Lake as well, on lots of loose rock and a bit of bushwacking on “The Ramp” from Lousy Lake. We left the south end of Lousy Lake around 4pm, and got to Luna Lake around 6:15pm. I was seriously beat and needed to rest. We decided to make camp there, at Luna Lake, which was beautiful blue glacial runoff with massive chunks of ice floating in it.

We had become worried about it we could actually make the full traverse – limiting factors being: how far we can travel in a day (travel speed) in this terrible, loose rock-ridden, rugged terrain; and the amount of food we brought. If we added one more day/night to our plan, we’d basically run out of food then. And that left no room for OTHER mishaps, like injuries or going even slower. So, we decided to take an alternative way out. Tuesday (day 4) we’d get to Luna Col, set up camp and day hike to Luna Peak. Wednesday (day 5), we’d head down from Luna Col eastward, to get to Big Beaver Trail and camp there. Then we could take Thursday and Friday (days 6 and 7) to get back to the Ross Lake dam and hitchhike back to our car. We’d still cut it kind of close on food, but Big Beaver Trail should travel fast and safe compared to the travers over Picket Pass. So, we’re not doing the full traverse, but we’ve already done some pretty epic shit and I’m happy with that! Plus, we’ve finally been in the Pickets and learned a lot for next time.

Food: 5/9 Mountain House meals, 2/5 granola bars, 3/5 trail mix bags, 4/7 oatmeals, 1/2 banana chips, apricots, cranberries, most: choco espresso beans, jerky. EVERYTHING IS SO SORE.

Topo: Luna Cirque