National Geographic : 1968 May
I backed out of the cave, and also from the remainder of the expedition. "Put me down on some sunny, ice-free mountain while you finish glacier-hopping," I said when we were safely back in the air again. Ruby Mountain was handy, and there Bill left me. It was a happy choice. Not only does this round-topped, heather-covered peak afford one of the best views in the North Cascades, but it may become the site of an interesting experiment in wilderness trans portation-the first of three tramways pro posed for the area. Neal Butterfield had explained the idea to me: "We'd like to build an aerial tramway to the KODACHROME BYBOB ANDIRASP Blue cheeks, blue lips, and blue hands spell bli sweet and sun-ripened. On the shores of Picture I hang heavy on the bush, as if begging to be pici youngsters happily oblige. There may be a few le folks back at camp, but the prospect appears unlik 660 top, like those in the Alps. The necessary tow ers and cable would go almost straight up, and would be a lot easier to hide in woods or a ravine than a zigzagging motor road. "When the new Cross State Highway is finished [map, page 651], visitors will be able to park their cars near the foot of Ruby Mountain and step onto the tramway. From the top, if they want, they can hike on into the back country." Jagged Picket Range Tests Climbers One of the great views from Ruby Moun tain is the Picket Range, containing the sharp est peaks in the entire Cascades. Resembling the fangs of some gigantic beast, the Pickets rank among the world's most difficult mountains, highly dangerous for any but skilled climbers. Even helicopters find no landing space on their heights. There is, however, a horse trail skirting the range to the north. It cuts through mile-high Whatcom Pass. On our first mounted foray into the high country, Neal, Jim Blair, and I rode to Whatcom in mid-August. This, it happens, is the height of the wild-flower sea son, when the wilderness is in its gayest dress. Normally, you can head into the Pickets from either end of the trail. If you go west, you start on the shore of Ross Lake-but win ter storms, we were told, had washed out this route. So we went east instead, riding our horses up Ruth Creek from trailhead in a forest of Douglas fir, giant red cedar, and hemlock. To our south lay oft-climbed Mount Shuksan (preceding pages). This peak is a near neighbor of Mount Baker, a skiers' paradise. Visiting Baker's slopes as late as mid-July, I have found them thronged with skiers-at least half from Vancouver in British Co lumbia-still enjoying good snow. Succumbing after only five miles to first-day, saddle-bestowed aches RING N.G.S. and pains, we camped for the , night under the crest of Hannegan ake they Pass (page 664). Neal went off ed. Two with his fly rod to look for a like ft for the ly stream, promising us trout for elv. breakfast.