Primus Peak + Austera Peak via Inspiration Traverse / 普賴默斯峯

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Primus Peak and Austera Peak are two of Washington State’s first hundred highest peaks. It’s just off the famous Inspiration Traverse. This classic, aesthetic route also connects Eldorado Peak, Klawatti Peak, and Dorado Needle.

Klawatti Peak and Austera Peak from Primus Peak
Klawatti Peak and Austera Peak from Primus Peak

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Primus Peak and Austera Peak at a Glance

Access: Cascade River Road @ mile 18.5
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 2160′-8508′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, snow, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

The Preface

Inspiration Traverse, the trip I’ve been avoiding until this season. It took a lot of self-motivating as I’m still not a fan of snow. But if it weren’t for the Bulger List, crossing five glaciers in one day would’ve never crossed my mind. Let alone climbing the two peaks.

My first time here was on Eldorado Peak in 2013 with the Seattle Mountaineers. Back then, I couldn’t truly relish the beauty of this place because of the clouds. But this time, the weather was on our side despite being a bit warm for June.

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Inspiration Traverse

By chance, my climbing partner and I first met on my way to The Craggies. But his wife and I had met earlier in the year on nwhikers.net. Then we planned this trip four years later when the stars finally aligned.

The first leg of the trip involved going up to the 6200′ notch. From there, we dropped into Roush Creek Basin. Snow level was 6400′, just above the granite slabs. Then we made use of the ski tracks to go through Eldorado Glacier.

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Inspiration Glacier

The lower part of the glacier was pretty flat. So it didn’t take us very long to reach Eldorado Peak’s east ridge. There the boot trails made a left up the hill.

From here, I saw the glacier spanning over to the Klawatti Col. Soon, we roped up and continued on the glacier. At the same time, we followed days-old boot tracks.

Moraine Lake down below
Moraine Lake down below

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North Klawatti Glacier

From Klawatti Col, we headed north and dropped partway onto McAllister Glacier. Then it was just a short traverse to reach Klawatti Peak‘s north saddle. We mixed climbed over a notch to be on Klawatti Glacier. By now, the snow had softened a bit. Then we continued through this section.

Soon, we came up near the wall of the Austera Towers. We bypassed it by moving down on the glacier to the eastern edge. There we found a short scree ramp. So we used it to cross over to the north side. Then a short distance of sidestepping on steep snow finally put us on North Klawatti Glacier.

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Primus Peak Climb

We found an excellent camp spot a few hundred feet uphill from the icefall. After setting up our tents, we identified a couple of steep snow ramps at the bottom of Primus Peak. Then we walked straight toward the slopes. From there, the climb to the top was straightforward.

The terrain on this side was mild. So we stayed on snow in the lower parts of the peak. Then we moved onto the rocks above that. At two hundred feet below the top, we went up to the south ridge. Shortly, we made it through the final stretch up to the summit.

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Primus Peak over North Klawatti Glacier
Primus Peak over North Klawatti Glacier

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Primus Peak Summit Views

We arrived at the flat, snow-free summit. The south side of North Klawatti Glacier was in and out of clouds. The evening sun lit up the mountain ranges gracefully. The Forbidden-Torment ridgeline changed colors as the light passed through moving clouds. Snowfield Peak, Jack Mountain, Goode Mountain, and Buckner Mountain were all in sight.

My partner headed back down to camp while I stayed behind to take more photos. Later, I caught up to him, and then we got back to camp at 40 minutes before sunset. The next day, we would spend the longest day of the year climbing Austera Peak. Then it was the long hike out. It was a starry night for photographing the star trails and Milky Way.

Star Trails over the peaks
Star Trails over the peaks

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Austera Peak Climb

The next morning, we packed up and left before the snowfield softened. Soon, we were back on the south side of Austera Towers. Then we climbed up the glacier while staying close to the wall. Eventually, we went up to 7800′ as the terrain flattened. There wasn’t much snow beyond that point. The upper east ridge was mostly dry. So that worked in our favor.

Austera Peak summit wasn’t visible until after we passed a few more spires. We made the traverse by staying on or south of the ridge crest. But we’d sometimes drop down to scree to bypass the cliffs. We got through exposed slopes before entering the summit gully. Here we stayed right on solid rocks. First, we made some 4th class mantle moves through the chimney. Then a short exposed scramble on the east face finally put us at the top.

Klawatti Peak to the south
Klawatti Peak to the south

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Austera Peak Summit Views

Another beautiful day in the mountains! The cascading Forbidden Peak, Boston Peak, and Sahale Peak were especially gorgeous from this angle. There were views of the impressive Klawatti Peak and Dorado Needle. They were only two glaciers away and so close. This summit was a little small for two people. So we stayed just enough time to get our selfies before heading back down.

Back on the glacier, we followed our tracks and then went back to Klawatti Col. We tried climbing Klawatti Peak. But we had a hard time getting over the moats. So we turned around after spending an hour of route finding. Soon, we were making our way back through the Inspiration Glacier. We climbed back up to the 6200′ notch. Then we went down through the heather and talus to reach the trailhead.

Klawatti Peak to the south
Klawatti Peak to the south

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Outro

What a fantastic trip! But there was not enough time to savor all the views. I’m probably good for now before embarking on another glacier traverse. But we shall see.

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