Glacier Peak, WA


The Celebration of Life re-visits a peak climbed by Brian 35 (!) years ago.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

It was once again Celebration time. So after waking up at 5am in the Sawtooths, I drove to Boise and picked up Michael and John. We rolled on west, arriving at Brian's house in Washington at about 9PM.

Getting up early the next morning, we slugged our way through Seattle traffic, including an attempted stop at REI in Seattle followed by a real stop at an REI just north of there. At REI, we purchased another stove since John and I had mis-communicated and both left our supposedly unwanted stoves at Brian's.

Then a grocery store. Then it was on to Darlington, and finally the Sauk Creek trailhead. We repackaged the food, loaded our gear, and hit the trail at about 4PM. This trail is just like the Boise foothills.


It's a five mile hike up the Sauk River, with about 800' of gain. But more than that, because there is considerable up-and-down (aka undulation). Still, very scenic. And you couldn't find a better group with whom to pass the miles.


The Mackinaw Shelter looks a little questionable. We just put up our tents.


The next morning involved a steep 3-mile grind of 3000' gain to White Pass. It's an incredible trail, passing through a steep, verdant hillside in the fog. The Sauk Creek trail meets the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) about 1/2 mile from the pass, heading south.


At the pass, the Foam Creek trail leaves the PCT and heads back north on the other side of the ridge. That's White Pass in the background.


The fog (or are those clouds?) teased us a bit, moving up and down and showing some tantalizing back country. After a couple miles, the trail finally completes the deal, going over the ridge to White Chuck Glacier basin (behind the camera).

We stopped to put on boots; up until this point, we had been walking in approach shoes.

We dropped down into the basin, where the fog added to our navigation confusion. It wasn't until about 24 hours later that I realized the problem: the topos were done when there was still a glacier here. The 500 or so feet of glacial ice filled the basin into a smooth, fairly flat area. Instead, we found ridges, bluffs, and other irregularities. Here, folks, the GPS is your friend. Approach
More flat glacial walking.... NOT! Approach

Eventually we got to the valley leading up to Glacier Gap. Concerned about drinking water access and dry ground (it's not dry, but it's not glacier), we opted to camp below the pass. The wind proceeded to blow and the fog rolled in and out (mostly in- we only occasionally saw a small blue spot in the clouds).


That night it rained a bit. Or maybe the fog just got thicker and the wind made it seem like it was raining. Whatever. When I woke up, I was also having a brain cloud. I peered at Brian in the dim tent and asked him what he thought. We agreed that we might as well get out of the tent. sigh.

We did the coffee thing, then went into marmot prevention mode (they're as big as horses!). Brian, who lives in this stuff, "had a good feeling". Based on what, I can't say.

So we were off slogging up the mushy snow in the fog at about 6:30am. It seemed to be getting lighter, but that might have just been the sun coming up. Then we spotted some blue sky.... hey, this might work out! Over the top of Glacier Gap shortcut, we descended into another fogged-out basin, then hit this scree. With a trail!

The ridge climbs quite a way, then yields to the Gerdine Glacier. Approach
As we continued up the edge of the Gerdine Glacier, the fog continued to open up. Things started to poke out of the fog. Little things, like Mt. Rainier. Approach

Eventually you reach the toe of Disappointment Peak and have to cross the glacier. First, we put on harnesses and helmets, and tied in. But no crampons- the snow was too soft to make them useful.

At the top of the Gerdine, you cross some crevassed area where the Gerdine and Cool glaciers meet. This area gave me the willies, with crevasses running in angles to one another in the soggy, soft snow.

Then up the Cool Glacier, with our peak standing nearby. There were a few more end-runs around and hops across crevasses, but nothing too bad. Approach

At the saddle at the top of the Cool Glacier, we took off the rope and started hiking the pumice ridge. Here, all the recent moisture was helping us by holding the pumice together a bit; for each one up, you only slid back 1/4 step.



At the top of the pumice, we had a brief debate, but donning crampons won. The snow was soft, but we didn't want to find out we needed crampons in the middle of the steep slope.

About 400' more slugging it out and we were on top.


This picture is a little distorted, because it is looking down.

A sharp eye will discover a couple climbers mid-photo coming up behind us.


When we got back to the Cool Glacier, we again roped up and carefully worked our way back down. In this picture, you can see the crevassed area between the Cool (left) and Gerdine (right) glaciers. I was sincerely hoping I wouldn't have to do a downhill self-arrest in the slush.


We simply followed our tracks back to camp, where some serious R&R followed. Dry feet. Water. Food. And amazingly, sunscreen!

It was only 2pm. We agreed that there was no point in staying in camp. So we packed up and started a very hot plod back across the White Chuck Basin.

On the left, that's the valley we camped in. It was really fun seeing where we had gone the day before.


Then we got to see the scenery along the Foam Creek Trail.

Really? We went down that in approach shoes?

We spent the night at White Pass, then got up alpine-early in hopes of missing the Seattle traffic jam. As a result, we got to watch the marine layer roll over the PCT again. Approach

Including this brocken.

Despite our early start, we got stuck in Seattle traffic again. sigh.

But the beer reward when we finally reached Brian's made it all worth our while.

Fine bunch of days with a fine bunch of fellers.



John's TR


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