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Scott Kranz is Climbing 50 Peaks in North Cascades NP in One Year

Follow along on an epic journey through some of America's most rugged mountains.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Scott Kranz was the very first Explorer on The Outbound way back in 2013. At the time, The Outbound was just getting off the ground and Scott's adventure photography was just taking shape in the free time outside his career as an attorney. Five years later, we have over 150 amazing Explorers and Scott is a full-time adventure photographer (If you don't already, do yourself a favor and follow Scott Kranz on Instagram). Time flies (and things change) when you're having fun, right?!

We caught up with Scott at our recent Pursuit Series event in Northern California and got to hear a little bit about what he's been up to most recently. This year, Scott is on a mission to summit 50 peaks in North Cascades National Park, just a stone's throw from his home in Seattle, Washington. This is no small feat, so we thought we'd ask Scott to give us a breakdown of his motivation, the challenges that still lie ahead, and any hopes and dreams for the outcome of the project.

Alright, so what’s the deal? Why 50 peaks in a year? Why North Cascades National Park?

This project is all about connecting with the local landscape. For me, it’s diving into a national park and mountain range in my home state that literally changed my life. For others, it is my hope that anyone following along will be inspired to connect (or reconnect) with their own local landscape, to develop a sense of identity with it, and to ultimately gain a sense of advocacy to conserve and protect these public lands.

So, why this park, this year, and 50 peaks? My wife and I moved to Seattle in 2013, and I discovered mountains for myself in the Cascades. I was practicing law at the time (my original career), and eventually my love for the outdoors and these mountains took over, triggering my decision to transition from the law into outdoor photography in early 2015. A complete “180” perhaps, but the transition has been more than rewarding.

I learned last year that the North Cascades National Park was turning 50 years old in 2018 (it was established as a national park in 1968). Because this is my favorite national park, and because these mountains were part of my decision to reinvent what I do, I knew I wanted to celebrate in a unique way. I ultimately decided that I’d attempt to climb 50 peaks inside the park boundary during the 2018 climbing season, including the 10 highest peaks and many other classic climbs. Along the way, I wish to give back in a variety of ways and shine a light on this unique local landscape that I love so much.

Which peak are you most stoked to summit?

The 50 peaks include technical 5th class rock climbs, many class 3 and 4 alpine climbs, and a few strenuous “walk ups.” The peaks are spread out across the national park proper. One peak that stands out in my mind is Forbidden Peak, which is considered one of the fifty “classics” in North America. I recently gained its summit via the West Ridge (5.4 grade), an aesthetic ridge crest with awesome exposure on each side. The rock quality on the ridge was outstanding, and the experience was both rewarding the memorable.

Are there any potential "sufferfest" peaks you’re just not looking forward to?

I can honestly say I’m looking forward to climbing each of the 50 peaks, but that’s not to say I’m not feeling some trepidation at the thought of climbing certain ones! In particular, a tough peak that comes to mind is Mount Fury, which is the centerpiece of the remote Picket Range, a rugged subrange within the North Cascades. By some accounts, it’s considered the most remote spot in the contiguous United States, and the approach is long and rugged, involving bushwhacking, river crossings, rock climbing, glacier travel, and more. Type 2 fun will be the theme of that outing! I should be tackling Fury in September.

Who will be joining you for these adventures? Will you be doing any solo?

I have a variety of close friends and trusted climbing partners who have kindly reached out with their support and offered to join the climbs, so I have a great community here. I do like a good solo trip from time to time, and I’ve done a small handful of solo trips, but the vast majority will require a reliable, experienced climbing partner, especially the peaks involving roped rock climbing or glacier travel.

What piece(s) of gear do you think will be with you on every single peak?

I have a master gear list that I walk through item-by-item before every trip to ensure no essentials are left behind. Given our unpredictable weather here in the northwest, I always (and I mean always) bring a rain shell – I love my Eddie Bauer Sandstone Shield Hooded Jacket. And for overnights, I’ll be sticking with my Kara Koram 20° StormDown Sleeping Bag, whether I’m in a tent or rather opt for a bivouac. For the technical climbs, I’ll always have my helmet and ice axe, and often other technical climbing gear, such as ropes, harness, carabiners, and the like!

How many of the 50 peaks have you knocked off? How’d they go?

I kicked off the project in late May 2018, so I’m well on my way. As of this moment, I’ve successfully summited 35 of the 50 peaks (but the tally may be greater by the time you’re reading this). As you can see from this interactive map, each of the peaks are found in different regions of the park. It’s been great to revisit areas I’ve already been to, as well as explore new areas that few people visit.

What’s the best way to follow along?

You can follow along on my 50 Peaks webpage (www.scott-kranz.com/50peaks) and on social media at #NC50Peaks.

How can we support your mission?

You can support this project by simply following along and spreading the good word about this local landscape or your own local landscape. Through your own connections, become an advocate for these public lands, and support their protected status and longevity through your own words and actions.

And if you’re willing and able, anyone can help by donating to North Cascades National Park through Washington's National Park Fund (WNPF) here. WNPF is the only philanthropic organization dedicated exclusively to supporting Washington State’s three great national parks through charitable contributions. These donations will directly help and support the national park’s key projects in, for example, Volunteerism & Stewardship, Visitors’ Experiences, and Science & Research.


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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