The four of us, reunited at Peak Lake and ready for action, plan to backpack to Stonehammer Lake and then up to Stone Pillar Pass today where we will drop our burdens and climb Whitecap Mountain and then Ladd Peak before continuing on to Scott Lake. Its going to be a long day and we're very thankful for the perfectly bluebird forecast.

Spiders Lair

From our camp on the northwest corner of Peak Lake a spotty use trail leads north down the drainage to Stonehammer Lake. Initially it craftily guides us farther west than I would have guessed to bypass a steep, cliffy section of the creek but that is the extent of its assistance. Before long grassy slopes disappear and we're left thrashing through an endless sea of huge boulders which is not an easy task under our heavy loads. In addition, we seem to have breached a massive spider lair, unlike anything I have ever seen before. The jumble of boulders lining the bottom of the rather narrow drainage is adorned with spider webs and fat, juicy, active spiders. The spider scene in the old Hobbit movie comes to mind. Trailbreaking of sorts is required. Thanks god for trekking poles!

Finally we reach grassy slopes on the east side of Stonehammer Lake, leave the creepiness behind, and begin the 2,000 foot climb to Stone Pilllar Pass. The first 200 feet are challenging and require steep, brushy bushwhacking, the kind where you're grabbing onto tree limbs. I lose my footing on some dirt and the weight of my pack throws me off balance. A few tumbles later I come to a stop with a bloody and stinging finger. Fortunately the difficulties don't last long and soon we're on easier slopes.

Final talus slope leading to Stone Pillar Pass.

The Summits: Tougher than Expected

Its a lot later than we'd anticipated when we arrive at Stone Pillar Pass but friendly skies have us resting assured we'll have time to bag both Whitecap and Ladd without stressing. Turns out there are still more surprises in store for us today. Both peaks require significant routefinding and 4th class scrambling and take longer than expected. Five o'clock finds us still at Stone Pillar Pass and hours from our intended camp.

Whitecap as seen from Stone Pillar Pass. The route description says "NW Ridge, Class 3-4" but the ridge looks tougher to us.

Whitecap, the 13er, comes first. Off we go!

We climb a crappy little gully that leads to the south side of the ridge as the ridge itself is certainly 5th class here.

Top of the initial gully.

Teresa and Mark in a very cool notch on the south side of the ridge.

Me scrambling up the ridge. Photo by Dominic.

Decisions, descisions. Routefinding isn't as trivial as expected.

Steep scrambling on the ridge's south side.

Dominic leading the way.

After some trial and error it turns out we need to traverse on exposed ledges below the ridge crest on the south side for the majority of the climb.

Traversing exposed ledges.

Finally gaining the NW Ridge, innocent looking Ladd in the background.

The terrain gets easier a we approach... a false summit. Then it gets harder again.

High on the NW Ridge.

Downclimbing to an exposed, loose notch.

Dominic and I on Whitecap's white cap. Photo by Mark.

Teresa, Mark and I.

View south from Whitecap. Two to go... and they'll be mine in a few days :)

Dominic and Gannett Peak.

Dominic and Ladd Peak.

Ladd's upper east ridge is surprisingly narrow, complex and time consuming.

Good views of Whitecap and Stone Pillar Pass as we scramble up Ladd.

Dominic near the top of Ladd's east ridge.

Ladd as seen from the north, en route to Scott Lake. Stone Pillar Pass is the notch on the left.

Camp at Scott Lake, which we don't reach until after 8pm!

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