Bailey Range 1996
Upper Ferry Basin to the Scott-Ludden Saddle
At 2:30 am, I got up to relieve myself (I never can make it through the night any more), and the stars were partially washed out by the light of the nearly full moon. At 4:30 am, it sounded like someone was firing shotgun pellets at the tent. A storm had moved in very quickly, and with it, our lovely campsite had turned into an exposed wind tunnel. The showers would come and go, but mostly they came. Our tents were not close enough to successfully communicate over the roar of the wind, but with some judicious shuttling, we managed to decide to wait for a few hours, and see if the storm lifted a bit. No one really relished the thought of breaking camp under these kinds of weather conditions. Even if your tent fly has worked superbly, the body of the tent still gets soaked by the rain as soon as you take off the fly to pack the tent. At 10 am, we made the decision to be packed and ready to move at 11:30. I knew our day wasn't (shouldn't??) be that long, so I was not worried about getting a late start. The weather did break a little, and totally miserable moderated to just miserable. We climbed up past rock impounded Lake Billy Everett, and crossed the inlet stream, as we headed for the saddle between Mt. Ferry and Mt. Pulitzer. The rocks (we had long since left the realm of grass and flowers) were wet and slippery, but the route finding was easy. The visibility was not bad considering the poor weather, and it was easy to see where we should be going. When we got to the small snowfield near the saddle, we made the decision to follow an obvious route to the Mt. Ferry summit. Nine years ago, I learned a good lesson: the easiest way is not always the route that involves the least climbing. George and I had gotten into some very steep talus and scree as we tried heading north out of the aforementioned saddle. It was bad, and I ended up self arresting a short fall. (Ice axes work well in scree, too.) It turns out that our route would have been blocked by nasty cliffs if we had made it down the scree slope. This time I KNEW that the easy way was to climb to the summit (only a few hundred feet of uphill), and then descend the spine to the east off the summit.
We made it to the summit easily, and Will ran up into the pile of summit rocks, so he could officially summit. We all took his picture. The weather looked like it might be lifting a bit, and my spirits lifted as well. We dropped maybe 60 feet off the summit ridge to a flat area that some folks had used for camping. Then the fun really began. Susie peered over the edge and took a look at what was the obvious route, turned to me and pleaded: "Roger, there is NO WAY!" Of course, I knew that this was the way, so while others were looking for an easier route of descent, I just started. For the first 20 feet or so, it is "wall-steep." But then a jog to the right gets you to an easier line, and it then just becomes incredibly steep. I did not have too much trouble with the first part of the descent, but others picked their way. The fog started to roll back in and the wind picked up, so the others asked me to wait for them. A second steep pitch got us to a flatter area, and we could walk along the spine of the ridge for awhile. I had told the crew that I remembered that once you get off Mt. Ferry, it is just a traverse down into the Scott-Ludden saddle. Boy, was I wrong! I guess 9 years had faded away some of the pain. You first have to hike along the spine, and then gently climb a small peak just south of Ludden Peak. You actually break out to the west of the spine, and go across this short bit of knife edge. Some serious exposure, but it was not too long. It just takes a long time to get north of the cliffs that block that long sloping descent to the saddle that you would like to have made. Instead, you end up with a nice, very steep 700 foot descent to the saddle. The rain was turning the dirt into slippery mud, and from down the slope, I could see the tears welling up in Susie's eyes. Just how many more "challenges" would we have to endure?
Then, it was like someone flipped a switch in her, and she basically got her MoJo working in overdrive. She started descending through some grass around some tough rock bands, and she soon caught up to me. By this time, we were in shallower meadows, and the walking was much easier. We made it down to the saddle which is a beautiful little meadow of about 5 acres, where we quickly erected the tent. The rain had changed to mist, but we wanted to get in out of it. I helped set up the fly that Will and Dolph had carried all over these mountains, but then decided, with Susie's encouragement, to just bag it and head for the tent. We boiled water outside the tent on our new Shaker-Jet Whisperlite stove (which performed superbly), while we changed into warm, fuzzy PolarTec clothing. The hot water was poured into our favorite freeze-dried dinners, Mountain House Lasagna, and we dined in-tentia. Although I did not feel clean, we were dry, warm, and our bellies full. What more could we ask for on a misty night.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1996