Lardehtac is a fairly obscure hiking destination, although it does stand out. Sometimes spelled also as larDeHtaQ, from the original Klingon:
The problem is, Lardehtac lies in the Restricted Zone (RZ). And whenever we refer to the RZ, some degree of obfuscation is in order. So do not worry if things seem a bit confusing at start, just take it easy and enjoy. Just to clear up any potential ambiguities, we're talking the NS here, not the Krap.
Despite its relative remoteness, Lardehtac has been a subject of several reports on this forum (just do the search). Most of the recent trips have utilised the information from a somewhat classic source known as the gumReport (gR)
, dated 1999. In fact, the organiser of our trip, JR, insisted on each member memorising the gR and being able to recite segments from it at random. The helpfulness of the gR notwithstanding, not many probably know an even older report published in the VOC Journal Vol. XXXVIII (1995-96), pp. 130-132
, which I strongly encourage you to read. People like Dru are perhaps already familiar with it.
Access to the RZ is easiest from the south, utilising either the Nnyl hiking trail system, or a 9+ km bike approach via the Ceir Lake road, and it is the latter that JR has chosen. We park our SUVs outside a gate just north of LitlleOO and Meanoshe roads, which adds about 3 km biking to the 9 km each way. I do not possess a bike, so had to borrow one, hoping that I'd be able to ride faster than I walk, and that my bottom would not develop extreme soreness from it like it did on a similar occasion a couple of months before. This is easier said than done, as my legs feel like wood in the morning, and I must dismount my vehicle several times in the process.
We start the hike up an excellent trail, and there are seven of us. Soon one decides to drop out, and then we are six. We follow the route to the scenic viewpoint at Panto, a place with a name but not really a peak, more like a platform, really. From there we get a nice view of Lardehtac in the distance:
We continue down and then up, reaching eventually a nice ridge system with a high point at Sicoleum. Here are some photos taken there:
1. jeffhan coming up
2. Goran shooting
3. Bernie at left
4. JR and I
5. The southern sky
The bugs have been really bad up to this point. Despite that, we continue undaunted over to Wellbur:
1. Looking north to Wellbur and Lardehtac
2. Closeup of the upper ridge of Lardehtac
3. Descending to the col
4. Team moving on
5. Ascending Wellbur along the ridge
We reach Wellbur in no time, and then there's time for some route planning. Plenty of snow still around, and a long runout to Paladise Lake on the left.
1. jeffhan, Goran, Bernie and JR on top of Wellbur
2. Evaluating the descent route to the Wellbur-Lardehtac col
3. Lardehtac ahead and part of Paladise Lake lower left
4. The guys are ready
We decide to follow the ridge part way down until a bluffy section mentioned in the known reports, then descend traversing down the left hand side. Despite my initial concerns, this turns out to be easy.
1. About to leave Wellbur
2. Greg catching up
3. The others checking up on Greg from a distance
4. The route ahead of us
5. Closeup of our destination
We regroup at the Wellbur-Lardehtac col. The route from there seems fairly obvious, first following a comfortable ridge, then offering a broad ramp to the right to bypass minor bluffs, and an open snow slope to traverse up to the left. We deduce the gR upper talus field must be under that very snow.
1. Greg at the col
2. View across Paladise Lake
3. jeffhan and Greg traversing the snow
4. jeffhan at a precious water source
5. A rather inviting bushy slope gR warns not to take lest one gets in trouble further up
Then we reach the long and narrow gully mentioned in other reports, still filled with snow below and up to our location. It's not obvious where best to exit it, as it all seems like dense bush across. Three guys start scrambling up, dislodging a medium size rock that luckily avoids the rest of us below after bouncing left and right a few times. With due caution, we thrash through the bush on the left hand side and continue on.
1. JR and Bernie in the gully
2. Scrambling up the loose gully
Then we emerge at the bottom of another snowfield, which looks like the correct way up, so we go for it. Most of us have ice-axes but none has crampons, so we need to be careful. At its top we are greeted with a deep moat over the sharp edge of snow. Seems that we should traverse to the left, but then we notice what looks like a cairn on the ledge above right. We consider moving astraddle on top of the snow edge or side-stepping along it, but no-one feels too comfortable doing that. Then we debate dropping to the moat, but there's only one spot offering any features to climb in or out of it, and we have no handline or other technical gear. Finally Bernie spots an easy line of scramble up rocks to the right, and we all follow him up.
1. Steep snow field section to negotiate (taken on the way down)
2. A look into the moat, with the only non-technical features in sight
3. Greg and Bernie at the top edge of the snow field
Next, we go along a narrowing ledge by a rock wall, then scramble a short wet gully to the base of a steep snow step. It's only about 3 m high, but at least 60 degrees steep and a bit exposed, so the guys have doubts. I go first, making good steps for the others, and eventually they all follow without difficulty. After that there's a pleasant ridge walk with the summit in view.
1. JR approaching the short wet gully
2. Gentle snow above the steep step
3. A flag and the sky
5. Approaching the final notch before the summit
As I get closer to the notch, I can see the others already across it, stopping and pondering about the route up. Indeed, the rock step past the notch seems to be stiff class 3 or 4 if taken directly, fortunately there's an easy, albeit covered in thick bush, path along the bluff to bypass it. A patch of steep snow at the notch requires perhaps some caution, as the gully below is steep and goes a long way down. The route path is overall quite distinct and the flagging (mostly NSR) more than adequate, so we soon find ourselves on the final portion of the summit ridge.
1. Bernie eyeing the route to the summit
2. Crossing the final notch before the summit
3. Greg and I (encircled) on the summit ridge
4. One of the gullies coming off the summit ridge
5. The final snow patch before summit
We knew that Lardehtac is equipped with three mysterious towers and were really looking forward to checking them up close. There's been much controversy and speculation regarding the purpose of these structures, ranging from military applications, meteorological stations and telecommunication devices to religious cult symbols, giant sexual stimulants or even alien life housing shells. Lardehtac has two large ones and a small one, looking like a baby. The latter has Safeway printed on it, clearly meant to inspire trust in its function.
1. Almost there, sweet...
2. Greg and Bernie at the green structures
3. A big one and the baby
4. View north past the structures
5. Goran and JR on the heli pad
We are now at the top of Lardehtac. That really feels great. Except we are quite exhausted. In fact, we are so exhausted that we contemplate alternative ways of exiting from the summit. How about calling a rescue helicopter to pick us up? Well, it's been done quite often lately, and those guys seem pretty busy, so maybe we shouldn't stretch their time and good will. What about the towers, did someone say they're used for telecommunication? Or was it teleportation? Hmmm... Alas, we have no clue how to employ them to the latter end, and none of us is Scotty...
1. jeffhan and JR turned around
2. Sicoleum and Wellbur over Wellbur Lake
3. The ridge we came on, overlooking SW
4. jeffhan and JR looking westward
5. A group shot
We begin the descent at around 16:00. Constant attention is required to follow the correct path back down. Downclimbing the steep snow bits goes well, then we quickly reach the col and start the slog back up Wellbur and Sicoleum. We decide to traverse around both summits to save time and energy. Near Panto, we say goodbye to Lardehtac, illuminated by the setting sun. Most of the final section past Panto is done with our headlamps on.
1. Carefully descending the snow at the notch, as there's a long and steep gully below
2. jeffhan at the base of the steep snow ascent back to Wellbur
3. Team on the way up Wellbur
4. Me ascending the NW slope of Wellbur, Paladise Lake below
5. Bypassing Wellbur's summit on the way to Sicoleum, our guys in circle
6. Goodbye Lardehtac!
When I reach the trailhead, my tired brain needs a few seconds to comprehend the fact that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. There's been fortunately no shortage of drinking water on this trip, yet the exhaustion and dehydration have kicked in. I anticipate to have to walk my bike on any uphill sections of the road, but surprisingly my legs are way more energetic than they were in the morning. Bernie and I both reach our cars at about 23:15, jeffhan and Goran having left already, and JR with Greg being behind us. Bernie entertains for a few minutes some lady keen on finding a road leading to the best spot for watching the northern lights, then he and I shake hands and split. Nineteen hours door to door and 23 h bed to bed for me.
1. Elevation profile, 2558 m total ascent according to my GPS
2. Google Earth map of our route between Wellbur and Lardehtac
This is a long day outing and legally suspect, albeit venturing into a beautiful terrain, no doubt. The overall class 2 rating given in the gR is definitely at its limits. Still, a well-defined path exists for most of the route and there's plenty of reassuring flags along the way. Not much bush to speak of, except a few short sections, such as the exit from the gully or the step past the final notch. Approaches from the north and other remote sections of the Beta Quadrant have been contemplated, as well, although their feasibility is still uncertain. The use of the summit green structures for teleportation purposes remains to be tested and proven.