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Brian Sullivan - Personal Communication

Phone conversation, 1 January 2001
by Lowell Skoog

Brian Sullivan and Dan Stage attended a backcountry skiing slide lecture by Steve Barnett at UW Kane Hall in which Barnett discussed his attempts to ski the Ptarmigan Traverse. On Memorial Day weekend, 1981, Sullivan and partners skied Mt Olympus as a "warm up" (they summited in the rain and got soaked on the way down). Skiing Olympus was something that Barnett had done previously and had described in his show.

About a week later, in early June, Sullivan, Stage and Dick Easter set out on the Ptarmigan Traverse. (Note: See March 3, 2018 update below.) They started skiing near Cascade Pass and traveled the first day to Kool Aid Lake. During the second day, the skied to Spider-Formidable col, dropped their packs and climbed Spider Mtn via the standard south gully. They continued to the shoulder above Yang Yang Lakes and camped there. They climbed Le Conte Mtn just before sunset. On the third day they continued to White Rock Lakes, taking a side trip to ski partway down the South Cascade Glacier.

The weather deteriorated and they spent the fourth day pinned down in their tents by rain at White Rock Lakes. They used small one-man single-wall bivi tents (Sierra Designs make, recalled Sullivan) which they called "squeeze tubes" and which they found unsatisfactory while cooped up in steady rain. On the fifth day, the foul weather continued, but they resolved to make their escape. They skied to the col near Spire Point in poor visibility, dropped down to Cub Lake and made their way to Bachelor and Downey Creeks, a route none of them had followed before. (They did not attempt Dome Peak.) The exit turned into a grueling, nearly hypothermic ordeal and they arrived at the Suiattle River road long after dark and soaked to the bone.

Update on March 3, 2018:

In an email on 3/3/2018, Forest McBrian forwarded a recent email exchange with Dick Easter. During this exchange, Easter said that he and Sullivan did the Ptarmigan Traverse on foot with four members of the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club in July 1981. Easter did not participate in a ski traverse of the Ptarmigan in 1981. My guess is that Sullivan mis-remembered his June ski trip, and instead that trip was made by Sullivan and Dan Stage only. For now, I will assume that Sullivan did the Ptarmigan Traverse twice that year, once on skis and once on foot. I am revising my chronologies and subject indexes accordingly.

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Last Updated: Sat, Mar 3, 2018 7:14:42 PM