Joined: 21 Feb 2009
Posts: 127 | TRs
Location: Lost in the mountains
|My goal for 2010 has been to climb as many of the Cascade volcanoes as possible. I summited Saint Helens in February, Hood in April, Shasta in May, Adams in July, and Middle Sister in September. I was saving the best for last ... Glacier Peak. While climbing the Entiat Range last summer, I was awe-inspired by the peak's dominating presence over the North Cascades.
After leaving the Portland metro area at 1800 on Friday night, we arrived at the North Fork of the Sauk River trailhead shortly before midnight. I promptly laid down my sleeping bag on a picnic table and had no trouble falling asleep. Other members of my party did not have the same luck. They were awaken in the middle of the night by a family of marauding mice intent on stealing their food.
Saturday morning dawned with clear skies. We left the trailhead at 0900. Along the way I was amazed at the sizes of the cedars and Douglas fir lining the trail. The vine maple and big leaf maple were both at peak.
Resting along the North Fork of the Sauk River River Trail
Everyone was feeling very energetic by the time we got to Mackinaw Shelter about 6 miles from the trailhead.
After passing by the shelter elevation 3000', the trail wastes no time in climbing up approximately 30 switchbacks to the Pacific Crest Trail at 6000'.
Hills a blaze!
Mount Stuart from White Pass
We arrived at White Pass around 1600. We followed the herd path leading to the top of Foam Basin and passed over a small grassy col to gain access to the White Chuck Basin.
Our route to access the White Chuck Basin
We hastily setup base camp at 6400' at 1800 with darkness quickly approaching. To foil the local family of marmots we built a small rock cairn to cover our food bags. After ~12 miles on the trail we were happy to head to bed. We awoke at 0500 and were underway at 0545. I placed wands as we made our way up through a small col, and around the base of the White Chuck Glacier. All of the northern lobe of the glacier has since melted away, and all that remains is a large tarn.
Approaching Glacier Gap on White Chuck moraine
Glacial tarn that is all that remians of northern lobe of White Chuck Glacier
We approached Glacier Gap, and passed by a spectacular waterfall, one of the last reliable water sources along the way. From Glacier Gap we got an up close view of our objective: Glacier Peak.
Our route up the Disappointment Peak Cleaver
As we made our way up the southern ridge, we were above the clouds and peaks like the Entiats, Rainier, Daniel, Bonanza, and Hinman all revealed themselves.
Approaching the Cleaver
Mount Daniel and Hinman
Our route across White Chuck Basin and to the Cleaver
Our group split up and Wayne and I went ahead. I have a two-way radio to Chris who was our sweep. We had agreed on a 1100 turn around time, due to weather and the fact our base camp was so far away. Wayne scrambled on ahead of me and I soon lost sight of him. Hillary spotted him on the summit of Disappointment Peak around 0930. Around 1030 I had made it to 9300'. The cleaver got very steep, and I started to feel unsafe. I generated quite a bit of rockfall as I crossed two scree chutes. I sat down on a boulder to catch my breath, and tried to overcome the knot in my stomach. I radioed down to Chris, 500' below me to let him know that I was not going any higher, and that I would start heading down. The rock was too steep and too loose for my taste. He agreed to turn around too. I met him back down at the bottom of the Cleaver. Soon after, Wayne came jogging down the Cleaver, it was 1050. We was the only member of the party to summit. Even if I had kept climbing, I would not have made it due to our turn around time.
Finally back on terra firma of the south ridge we followed my trail of wands back to our base camp in White Chuck Basin, we arrived at base camp around 1415. The trip up over the col and down to White Pass and the Sauk River was very long and painful. After two full days and over 8000' in mountaineering boots, my feet were killing me. I pulled into the Mackinaw shelter at 1745.
After a good night sleep we left the shelter at 0900 on Monday morning and arrived at the trailhead at 1100.
I realize that this is a very difficult route up Glacier Peak. I know that most parties apt to cross the tops of the Cool and Gerdine Glaciers and then ascend to the col between Disappointment Peak and the true summit. No member of my group had experience in glacier travel or crevasse rescue, and we were not about to risk our lives on the glacier unroped. In the future I am hoping to gain the necessary skills for glacier travel through some sort of mountaineering course. I was unable to summit, but I was rewarded with breathtaking views and a reason to come back and try the mountain again.