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jasonfromtexas
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PostTue May 21, 2019 11:02 am 
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Hey everyone!

I've been a lurker over the past few months and have really appreciated all of the great info here. Thanks for putting together so much awesome information!

My dad and I try to get out on a 5-7 day backpack every year. For the past several years, we've headed to Glacier National Park and had some really great trips. This year, my dad has his 50th high school reunion in Sunnyside, so we decided to try something a little different. We applied for, and received, a permit reservation for NCNP in the first week of August:

Night 1: Silesia
Night 2: Copper Lake
Night 3: Indian Creek
Night 4: Graybeal
Night 5: Copper Creek

As I've never been backpacking in WA before, I have tons of questions and would love any advice people are willing to share. A few of my questions are:

1) Is snow/ice likely to be melted out by the first week of August? Or will microspikes/axe be necessary? Looking at some old posts and TR, it looks like there could be some variability. What should we expect for temps? Bugs?

2) We'll be getting in a day early and were considering getting an early start on the trail and stopping at the Hannigan Pass area outside the park boundaries just to get another night in the mountains. Are those first come/first serve? Will they fill up?

3) Night 4 at Graybeal - we were planning on dropping/hanging packs and then hiking up to Whatcom Pass or, potentially Tapto Lakes. Should we try to modify the permit to change to Whatcom? What's the process for getting a permit at Tapto?

4) The reservation email says to pick up the permit at the Wilderness Information Center. Is it possible to pick it up elsewhere closer to the trailhead?

5) Looking at the park website, it looks like all of these sites have either bear boxes or opportunities to hang food. I'm assuming we will not need to pack a bear canister?

Any other suggestions/ideas to improve on the trip? Sites we should try to swap? Things to know on the way in/out? Good place for a post trip beer?

Thanks for your help!
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lookout bob
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PostTue May 21, 2019 11:19 am 
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Jason...welcome.  Your itinerary looks very fun.
1.  The snow will likely be mostly melted out by August with some pockets left in shady cool places.
2.Hannegan is first come first served.  There are lots of places to camp there and one can scramble easily to the peaks on either side.   If not, one can camp at the trail head.
3.All the permits will come from the NCNP office at Marblemount or the ranger station in Glacier which is more on your way. Whatcom pass is very lovely and you should indeed do the side trip up if time allows.  Tapto Lakes....whatever.   I camped there but it's not outstanding. 
4.No, it's not possible.  You have to go to Marblemount or Glacier.  Check the park site for info about obtaining permits.  DO NOT go without a permit.  I've seen folks get tickets or asked to leave campsites.    shakehead.gif
5.  Ask the parkles about bear barrels.  If they say wires or bear boxes, you could leave it in the car. cool.gif
After hike beer and food possibilities are myriad.  Lots of microbreweries in Bellingham and some good stuff in Glacier too. 
I hope you'll have a most marvelous time and we'll expect your trail report!

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mike
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PostTue May 21, 2019 12:57 pm 
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IMHO there is no reason to do the loop without the sidetrip up to Whatcom. Otherwise do Copper out and back. maybe detour over Hannegan
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostTue May 21, 2019 1:37 pm 
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I did something similar in reverse several years ago.  At the time Tapto Lakes was the only spot that required bear canister.  Everywhere else was hang or bear lockers available.  To me it wasn't worth humping a bear can around for 5 days when I only needed it for 1 night.

Agree w/ previous, definitely try to camp at Whatcom Pass.  Even if you can't it's not that far from Graybeal Camp to Whatcom, so definitely day hike up.  The pass itself doesn't have that much of a view, so you definitely need to go up a little higher in either direction (or both) towards Taptos or towards Whatcom/Challenger peaks.  There's a good way path to start both directions.  If you've checked all that out and feel like exploring more, the Middle Lakes are also very worthwhile.  Not far and easy off trail travel.
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iron
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PostTue May 21, 2019 1:51 pm 
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not having done the loop, but having been in the area, i would say the basin at tapto lakes is pretty incredible, especially the mammoth view of whatcom peak from there. see day 9: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1035416#1035416

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Eric Hansen
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PostTue May 21, 2019 5:19 pm 
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Having been thru there many times I'd say not going up Hannegan Peak (on a side trail, 1 mile, +1,000') is missing a lot, some fab views into the Nooksack Cirque, Shuksan, Pickets further out. Google for online pics.

If reasonably competent scrambling/off trail consider sleeping up there the first night then work the ridge east to pick up the trail to Silesia (or return to the main trail to get to Silesia). That way you'd be at/above treeline 3 nights in a row. Peak is outside the park so no permit needed.

I've only seen Whatcom Pass/Tapto from above, from Easy Ridge, so I can't rate the views.

Hannegan Pass is informal/undesignated, outside the park. Check south of the pass for sleeping spots. Faint path up a slope leads to a few flat spots. Tarn farther south may be viable but I'd probably pick up water at Hannegan Camp on the way up to the pass.

Did you do any of the off trail/mountaineering routes in Glacier NP?
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jasonfromtexas
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PostWed May 22, 2019 6:47 am 
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Thanks, everyone, for all of the advice - we're certainly planning on getting up to Whatcom Pass. If not to camp, then as a dayhike from Graybeal.

Eric - I haven't picked up a topo of the area yet, but the thought of camping on Hannegan Peak is intriguing. I'd have to look closely at a map to see if off trail would be something I'd be comfortable with having never been to the area. Is it relatively straight forward? As for Glacier, yes, I've been lucky to spend a decent amount of time off trail over the years to get up a few of the backcountry peaks and lakes.
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RichP
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PostWed May 22, 2019 7:02 am 
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The connecting ridge from Hannegan is very straight forward and there's a bootpath most of the way. Rejoin the main trail below the south shoulder of the point marked 6301 on the map. If you camp on Hannegan Peak, take the short side trip up to Granite Mtn which is 500' higher and has even better views. And yes, fill up your water below as the tarn on Hannegan is a dog bath. There will likely still be some snow patches on the north side of the peak to melt as well. Expect smoke in Aug, unfortunately.

Here's what it looked like in Sept a few years back.

Returning to Hannegan and camp after summiting Granite Mtn
Returning to Hannegan and camp after summiting Granite Mtn

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kiliki
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PostWed May 22, 2019 2:38 pm 
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I'd discourage you from camping at Hannegan Pass as originally mentioned. The flies...the flies.  The trail to Hannegan Pass is notorious for flies and they don't go away at the pass.

If you really wanted to extend the trip, maybe consider the camp on the other side of the pass, along the creek. I can't remember the name. I've seen it; it looks fine. I don't think many people purposely get a permit there so you probably will be able to. However, I don't know if this is also fly-ridden.

My main piece of advice would be to get an early start--it's south facing and largely unshaded to the pass.

You don't need a canister at those camps--only at the ones NCNP mentions on their website.
https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/food-storage-requirements.htm

The North Cascades are low on snowpack so expect less than usual.

I camped on Copper Ridge a couple years ago and was surprised that at the very end of August there were still significant mosquitoes and flies.I think early August they will be significant.  Every year is different but I was so glad I had my bug shirt (one of those Ex Officio Permethrin soacked ones). Don't forget that only Permethrin repels flies--DEET doesn't. Even camped at Silesia and at the Copper Mt lookout, there was no breeze and bugs were numerous.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostWed May 22, 2019 4:14 pm 
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Isn't one advantage of low snow/drought conditions equals less skeeters?  They need water for their larvae.  If there is no water, no more skeeters that year, right?
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Eric Hansen
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PostWed May 22, 2019 7:32 pm 
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Jason,

No worries you've got 2 months to sort thru the route, and you're building a good network here.

Was asking re Glacier looking for a common touchstone, a route we may have both done.

I've done Cleveland 2x, once from each side. Love the Stoney Indian ledge route. Jackson, Siyeh, Merritt, Kaina, Logan, Pinchot, stymied on a new route on Stimson 300' from top. Ipasha Connection/Nervous Traverse, Jefferson Pass to Nahsukin, Blackfoot/Norris Traverse 2x
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wolffie
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PostFri May 24, 2019 12:05 pm 
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There's an unmaintained trail up Easy Ridge from the river.  Haven't been there for 20 years, but it gets above treeline fast.  I recall a large cairn marking it at the river.  Just look at the map, and you should be able to figure out where it is -- right where you'd expect.
If possible, get a campsite at Silesia instead of Egg Lake.  View.

Some jerk with a dog and no permit had occupied our reserved campsite at Egg Lake.  We watched anorther idiot wade into Egg Lake and bathe, his soap bar floating beside him in this shallow stagnant pond which provides the only water for miles...
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Foist
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PostFri May 24, 2019 3:36 pm 
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Most of your questions can be answered by perusing the Park's website.   I encourage you to do that rather than rely on clumsily typed answers from idiots like me on this site.  But since I've done this trip, I'll try anyway because I don't want to be one of those jerks who just tells you to google it.

jasonfromtexas wrote:
1) Is snow/ice likely to be melted out by the first week of August? Or will microspikes/axe be necessary? Looking at some old posts and TR, it looks like there could be some variability. What should we expect for temps? Bugs?

No, you should not need traction or ice axes.  Early August, even in that part of the state, is *typically* sunny and in the 70s.  But, it could be 40s and raining.  Be prepared for anything.  Copper Ridge has a lot of biting flies. 

jasonfromtexas wrote:
2) We'll be getting in a day early and were considering getting an early start on the trail and stopping at the Hannigan Pass area outside the park boundaries just to get another night in the mountains. Are those first come/first serve? Will they fill up?

Not sure I understand this question.  You want to camp at Hannegan Pass?  There is no overnight camping there.  You could head up Hannegan Peak and camp somewhere on the open ridge beyond, as RichP suggests.

jasonfromtexas wrote:
3) Night 4 at Graybeal - we were planning on dropping/hanging packs and then hiking up to Whatcom Pass or, potentially Tapto Lakes. Should we try to modify the permit to change to Whatcom? What's the process for getting a permit at Tapto?

Absolutely, yes!  Tapto Lakes is a "cross country zone," so there is no specific official camping spot.  But you still need (and can get) a permit, they just give you a permit to camp somewhere in that "zone," but you are expected to camp to the extent possible in an established camping spot (meaning a spot where others have camped before).  In fact, if it were me, I would skip Copper Lake (that is a very short day between Silesia and Copper Lake) and spend TWO nights in the Whatcom Pass / Tapto / Middle lakes area.  That is the best part.

jasonfromtexas wrote:
4) The reservation email says to pick up the permit at the Wilderness Information Center. Is it possible to pick it up elsewhere closer to the trailhead?

Yes.  You can pick it up at the Glacier Public Service Center, which is right on the way.  It's officially a Forest Service building, but they give out National Park permits for people entering the park from the Mt. Baker Highway side. 

jasonfromtexas wrote:
5) Looking at the park website, it looks like all of these sites have either bear boxes or opportunities to hang food. I'm assuming we will not need to pack a bear canister?

This is also on the Park website.  If you camp at Tapto Lakes --and you absolutely should -- then yes you will need a canister.  Otherwise, no.
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Mike Collins
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PostSat May 25, 2019 1:35 pm 
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You will be the area for the vanguard for the sockeye salmon migration up the Chilliwack River. They will be in large numbers in the pools waiting for heavy rains before heading upstream. It is worthwhile to plan a ford of the Chilliwack to witness this magical display.
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PostSun May 26, 2019 2:39 pm 
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You'll probably find some snow remaining, but it's impossible to say how much or where… I'd guess you won't need traction or an axe… but I could be wrong. Get plugged in to as much weather and trip reporting as you can, and make a decision at the last possible moment.

Change your permit, if you can, to include camping at Tapto or Middle Lakes. I wish I could have taken a bit longer, and camped at East Lakes or Reveille Lake(s) as well. These lakes, and the views  around them, were the highlights of my trip.

There will be bugs. Probably a LOT of bugs.  Strongly recommend treating your clothing with Permethrin. Carry plenty of 30% DEET or similar product as well. I also find geranium oil/geraniol to be extremely useful. A bug-proof shelter is indispensable in the early evening hours.

Plenty of camp spots just South of Hannigan Pass, a little way up the boot path to Ruth. There might be some patches of snow remaining in the pass area, but it would probably be wise to carry several liters up from the camp below the West side of the pass.

Graybeal is also a horse camp, and the pack companies have a tarped-over seating area that's rather nice for a break from the drizzle. Probably a stanking bear magnet as well, so I personally would not leave a food stash in this area, except, maybe in a canister. When I day hiked off Middle Lakes I left my tent and other items, but carried my pack with my food bags and stove. I've always done this (due to some excessive form of paranoia/hot beverage on high ridge complex), but in this case the practice paid off, as there was a bear browsing right next to my tent when I returned to camp. I did the same thing at Copper Lake- left the tent and sleeping bag and all the other stuff, but carried the food bags and stove in my pack for a day trip. Much easier than packing a canister from day 1.

I did the trip the other way around- down the Chilliwack from Hannigan, up to Whatcom and the Middles, and then back out over Copper Ridge. I set it up that way mostly to get a spot at Silesia instead of Egg. It paid off, in the in-your-face views on the way out. I can't quite see doing it clockwise, even though I'm sure it's a great trip either way!
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