See more trip photos here.
A last-minute plan to climb Luna Peak turned out to be the biggest highlight of this season. Pup and I slept by the trailhead so we could catch the early water taxi in the morning. Since hiking to and back from the Big Beaver Campground alone would have added 14 additional miles to the trip.
The Lowdown on Luna Peak
Access: Ross Dam Trailhead
Round Trip: 45 miles
Elevation Range: 1600′-8311′
Gear: Helmet, crampons, ice
GPS track: available
June 25-27, 2016
Day 1 – Saturday, June 25
Water taxi – Ross Dam Trailhead to Big Beaver Campground
Big Beaver Trail to Access Creek Basin
Day 2 – Sunday, June 26
Day 3 – Monday, June 27
Access Creek Basin to Big Beaver Trail
Water taxi – Big Beaver Campground to Ross Dam Trailhead
Water Taxi + Big Beaver Trail + Access Creek Basin
Big Beaver Trail Approach
Other than the handful of down trees we needed to negotiate, Big Beaver Trail was in great shape. We took a much-needed lunch break at Luna Camp before moving on. Just past the camp, I spotted a junior bear wandering around the trail who seemed oblivious of our presence. But it quickly disappeared into the bush as soon as I started chanting and making noises with my poles.
Fording Big Beaver Creek
More mosquitoes appeared as we left the trail and fought through the brush toward Big Beaver Creek. Then we walked back and forth along the shore and through devils club and giant skunk cabbage. And all the while looking for the reported log jam to cross the creek. Since I wanted to conserve the daylight, we scrambled farther north and found a shallow spot to ford the water.
Once on the other side of the water, we began scrambling downstream to the ridge north of Access Creek. I stumbled upon a climbers trail in the lower elevation before the massive down trees took over. So we followed the GPS track from a trip report and successfully crossed Access Creek at 3900’. So glad we didn’t walk to the end of the path and got ourselves into the alder swatch.
Agonizing Approach to Access Creek Basin
On the other side of the river, we began scrambling downstream to the ridge north of Access Creek. I stumbled upon a climbers path in the lower elevation, but the massive down trees and brush quickly took over. Then we followed the GPS track from a trip report and successfully crossed Access Creek at 3900’. So glad we didn’t go to the end of the path and got ourselves into the alder swatch.
Access Creek Basin came into full view as soon as we crossed the creek. From there we got our first look at Luna Peak towering above the head of the valley. We hiked the last mile in packed snow while following some cairns to camp. A flat-top boulder smack in the middle of the basin was our home for the next two nights. I set up camp, made dinner, and we turned in shortly after.
Approach to Luna Pass
Next morning, we spent the bulk of our time getting up the steep gully to the southeast ridge. Then from the there, we made a rising traverse across the expansive southwest basin onto Luna Pass. We spotted bears tracks leading from south of the pass, over and down the north side.
Following the southwest ridge to the false summit was straightforward; mostly class 2. But getting to the true summit from there was a different story.
The Beautiful Picket Range
The pup stayed back as I spent some time getting down onto the south side. Once I got down onto the ledge, the rest of the traverse was straightforward, albeit exposed. Thanks in part to the few cairns that helped to keep things in check. When I got to the summit, the big rocks felt as if they’d fall over at any time. As a result, I built an anchor around one solid rock and clipped in; I took photos while straddling.
After spending an hour on top, I then carefully traversed back to the false summit and reunited with the pup. Luna Peak was at a vantage point to get photos of the Picket Range. We spotted more bear tracks back on Luna pass; the tracks headed toward the peak’s south basin. We made more stops on the way back to camp to soak in the views.
Access Creek Basin + Big Beaver Trail + Water Taxi
The Hasty Outro
Next morning, getting out of Access Creek was just as painful as getting in. Though we made better time getting back to Beaver Creek. I managed to locate the log jam half a mile downstream from where we crossed the creek two days earlier. Back on Big Beaver Trail, we hiked as fast as we could back to Big Beaver Campground. We arrived 10 minutes past the water taxi pickup time. But thank goodness the driver and his grandson stuck around and waited for us.
The driver mentioned that he wasn’t on a schedule today to get back to the resort. He was even gracious enough to let the pup cool off in the lake for a while before leaving. After the driver dropped us off at the dock, we only needed to hike one-mile back up to the trailhead. The hike sure was icing on the cake at the end of a long climbing trip.