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2015 Backcountry Trip Reports => February 2015 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: Peels on 03/02/15, 10:52 AM

Title: Feb 1 - Mar 1, 2015, Glacier Basin/Monte Cristos
Post by: Peels on 03/02/15, 10:52 AM
David and I headed into the Monte Cristos via the Mountain Loop Highway this weekend.  We had mild aspirations of skiing Kyes Peak but, needless to say, did not make it out of Glacier Basin.  It was still a wonderful weekend though!

Neither David nor I had visited this area before.  We left Edmonds late Saturday morning as we wanted to sleep in and take care of some chores.  The road walk to the town of Monte Cristo was a breeze.  Lots of peeps out enjoying the spring-like weather.  Following Volken’s directions, we turned left at the campground and started searching for the Glacier Basin Trail.  We wound up finding a VERY rough path that quickly dissolved into nothing.  Progress slowed as we ‘swhacked through the forest along the creek.  We were surprised to be ‘shwacking based on the description and the USGS which clearly showed a trail but didn’t feel like we were off route. 

We were eventually able to get a view of the boulder field we needed to ascend to get to the small pass above Glacier Basin.  As we started trending upward through slide alder, we suddenly found ourselves intersecting a trail that could not have been more obvious.  A few minutes later, we stumbled upon a father and son who told us they had picked it up after hiking straight through the town (well beyond the campground).  We couldn’t believe it!  There definitely seems to be a misprint in the guidebook and on the USGS, but at least we weren’t going to have to repeat the ‘shwack on the exit!

Climbing the boulder field to the pass went as well as could be expected.  We ran into snow about halfway up and transitioned out of running shoes into ski boots.  Travel was a little slow since we couldn’t trust our steps, but the views were magnificent.  Once at the pass, we considered our options.  We had been planning to cross Glacier Basin and climb up to Monte Cristo Pass to camp, but from our vantage, this seemed improbable.  Glacier Basin was cliffy and rocky with the low snowpack, and Volken’s directions didn’t appear reasonable given the conditions.  Since we had a beautiful, comfy perch and were going to lose daylight soon, we decided to make camp for the night.

After a long slumber, we woke up and decided to make our way into the basin to do some exploring and see if any routes up to Monte Cristo Pass presented themselves.  We began a gradual, downward-trending traverse under the Wilman Spires, alternating between skinning and booting.  We soon decided that climbing very high along the base of the spires might be our only option to reach the pass.  We began putting in a steep skin track (which quickly became a bootpack) to the base of the spires and then up a gully to climber’s left.  Although this route probably would have gone, we eventually gave up.  The travel was SO slow…. It almost felt like the Pickets!  The booting was exposed and ridiculously wallowy, and ultimately, neither of us had enough motivation.
For the exit, rather than descending the boulder field we had used on the approach (per Volken’s instructions), we got back on the Glacier Basin Trail which follows a different drainage but ends in the basin.  This probably wouldn’t be a worthwhile alternative on skis, but it certainly was better for walking and we wished we had used it on the approach too. 

Great weekend, as always, but I’m starting to lose hope in this snowpack!     

P.S. From the picture of David skinning below, we followed the snow finger up on the far right side. 


Title: Re: Feb 1 - Mar 1, 2015, Glacier Basin/Monte Cristos
Post by: danpeck on 03/02/15, 04:29 PM
Cool trip!  I was looking over that-a-way on our recent trip to Glacier Peak and thinking I need to go there soon! 

Title: Re: Feb 1 - Mar 1, 2015, Glacier Basin/Monte Cristos
Post by: Stefan on 03/03/15, 08:55 AM
ouch on the approach for the trail.  Glacier basin is a cool place.

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