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Washington: Conquering a Cascades Classic
National Geographic Adventure's picks for the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui   Photograph by Dave Schiefelbein

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Ascending the LeConte Glacier along the Cascade Range's Ptarmigan Traverse

WHAT'S NEW: The legendary Ptarmigan Traverse begins at Cascade Pass in the shadow of North Cascades National Park's 8,065-foot (2,458-meter) Johannesburg Mountain and traces nearly 25 miles (40 kilometers) of the Cascades Crest, cutting across ridges and cirques to the north side of 10,541-foot (321-meter) Glacier Peak, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. It's the kind of iconic route that experienced Cascades mountaineers have been tackling unguided ever since the area's Ptarmigan Climbing Club established it in 1938. Next May, Seattle-based Mountain Madness will guide a tour that makes this North American classic accessible to beginning ski mountaineers.

The off-piste skiing and climbing along the traverse are both challenging, but the payoffs are unrivaled: bombing down 3,000-foot (914-meter) corn-choked couloirs while supreme views of frozen lakes and tumbling glaciers spread out before you. Ptarmigan vets effuse about the brilliant alpenglow on the LeConte Glacier and adjacent Sentinel Peak—arguably the best view along the entire route. "The trip is equivalent to the Haute Route in the Alps, but in a wilderness setting," says Mark Gunlogson, president of Mountain Madness. "It's beautiful."


Mountain Madness (

Five days




Cover: Adventure magazine

Our November 2006 issue features the best new adventure travel trips; an exclusive look inside Iran; a Greenland global warming report; backcountry spas; digital cameras; travel Web sites; weekend getaways; and more.

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