Peak(s):  Fletcher Mtn  -  13,951 feet
"Drift Pk"  -  13,900 feet
Date Posted:  09/04/2014
Date Climbed:   09/03/2014
Author:  SolarAlex
 Fletcher --> Drift  

After what felt like weeks of craptastic rainy weather, my schedule finally aligned with a clear weather day. Chase and I decided to go for the Fletcher-Drift traverse. The route description looked fun, and the fact that its a 20 minute drive from home is always a plus. We drove to the Blue Lakes trailhead around 7, and were greeted with an army of goats. There must have been 2 dozen at least, maybe more. There was a jeep parked next to me that the goats were licking...there were even 2 little goats crawling around underneath it, getting themselves covered in black road grime in the process. It was fun watching the goats interact with each other. At one point, a guy drove up in a camaro and after a few minutes was trying to leave, but the goats wouldn't move. He'd back up an inch and the goats would inch backwards, still trying to lick the underside of the car. Chase eventually herded the goats away so he could leave.

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The welcoming committee


I was a little concerned that we would return to goats dancing on the roof of my truck after chewing through my brakes, but we figured given the popularity of the area, if it was a common problem, it would have been mentioned somewhere. We left the truck at about 8 and started marching through the willows up towards the saddle between Fletcher and Quandary.

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Fletcher

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Its a nice hike through the basin, although there is a trail junction just below the upper basin where we took a wrong turn....Where the old mining road goes left, turn right onto the smaller trail. We hiked up a ways on the road until it dead ended below a gully. Its not a day out for me though without at least 1 wrong turn. After correcting our error, we made our way up into the upper basin below the saddle and the day's goals came into view.

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Drift

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West Ridge of Quandary

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The hike up to Fletcher was enjoyable talus hopping, with spectacular views of Quandary and the surrounding peaks. That ridge from Fletcher over to Atlantic looks fierce, as does the drift-wheeler ridge. Another day perhaps, or maybe in another life.

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SE ridge Fletcher

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Close to the top

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We made good time up Fletcher and reached the summit a little after 10. After relaxing for a few minutes and taking some summit photos, we dropped down to the saddle between drift and prepared for the exciting part of the day. I had read the route description a few times, and the 5.2 variation looked like a great alternative to the loose gully crossing. More on that later.

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Ridge to Atlantic

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Chase

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Me

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Heading for the saddle

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The traverse starts out as an easy talus hop on reasonably solid rock. There are segments where there is a clear trail, and others where it seemingly vanishes. The first point came and went easily and as we made our way to the 2nd point, we wanted to stay on the ridge crest in order to not miss the 5.2 section at the notch. The climb up the 2nd point was probably the scrambling highlight of the day, although it was in vain. Solid slab type scrambling.

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fun!

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fun!

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fun!

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fun!


We got to the top of the point and began trying to find our way into the notch, but there didn't seem to be one. The direct down climb looked like 5th class. There didn't seem to be a way off of the sides of the point either. The route description had said there was a 3rd class down climb, but we couldn't find it. After scratching our heads for 15 minutes, we did find a rappel station, at which point we gave up and climbed back down to the rust colored rock. Turns out that the 5.2 section is for the way back from Drift...Doh. Hooray for reading comprehension.

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Searching for the down climb


From here, the route became much looser and less enjoyable. We found the old eyebolts and made our way into the gully...it was still holding icy snow from the snow the other day, which added a degree of difficulty to the already loose crossing. We made our way across and after checking out some options, began the scramble up the light colored rock. Standing below it, it looked very steep for 3rd class. Its possible we were off route, but I felt like there were a couple of moves that were harder than 3rd class. Plus the rock was rotten granite...nothing like ripping off handholds while you're perched on small footholds! We made it up to the top of the wall and regained the ridge.

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Eye bolt

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Gully crossing

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Looking up the gully

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Chase on the light colored rock wall

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Looking at the crux of the route



The slope above the light colored wall was probably the sketchiest part of the day. Again, we may have been somewhat off route, so take what I say with a grain of salt. It was probably 250' of steep talus hopping on large, loose blocks. It was shocking how easily some of these big ones moved. At one point, I barely touched a refrigerator sized boulder and it rolled away, narrowly missing me. I could smell the smoke from its impact on the rocks below, and could hear it thundering down the gully. It was unnerving. Other than that though it went without incident and we topped out on drift after a short ridge walk.

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Headed for the top

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The views were great again and we enjoyed the perfect, somewhat windy weather. After enjoying a whatchamacallit bar and a few photos, we turned around and headed back for the saddle. I was pretty uneasy about down climbing the big talus block slope, but we stayed further south this time and it was much easier. Still loose, but nowhere near as bad as what we had ascended. Soon we were standing on top the light colored wall, contemplating the down climb. I said it before, but I really felt like this was harder than 3rd class. I faced in for the down climb, as did Chase. I am 6'3, and I found myself having to really reach for holds. Peering down between my feet as I looked for holds showed the potential for an ugly fall. The looseness of the rock didn't help matters any. We both breathed a sigh of relief after we were back across the snowy gully.

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Days work


The rest of the ridge walk was nice and mellow and we descended the saddle into the basin. Originally we had thought about adding the West Ridge on Quandary, but the notion of hiking down the East Ridge and up the road to the truck was not appealing. We enjoyed the scenery and the easy hike down through the basin. I was starting to wonder if the goats had their way with my truck, but thankfully they left it alone. There was a chopper in the parking lot that seemed to be hauling stuff somewhere up the basin, but we couldn't see where. We did get to watch it take off, which was cool.

I would say that this route would not be a good 1st scramble for someone looking to get into harder routes...the looseness of the rock and the sometimes tricky route finding made it a little harder than I expected it to be. Also, definitely read up on the route description and bring a helmet. Still, it was a fun and rewarding day out.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
mtgirl

Goats
09/04/2014 17:32
I'm pretty sure those goats tap danced all over the hood of BobbyFinn's vehicle there a couple years ago, and scratched the sides all to hell. Nice trip report and great pics !


polar

Nice!
09/04/2014 18:41
When I saw the title of your TR, I thought maybe you were the people I saw on Fletcher from Quandary west ridge. But unfortunately we were on the mountain on different days. BTW, how come everyone see goats on Quandary except me? I didn't even see anything as small as a pika.



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