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Author Topic: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4  (Read 2595 times)

Posts: 321

Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« on: 05/07/15, 03:20 PM »

A 3 day sufferfest consisting of roughly 32miles and 12,000’ of elevation gain under perfect weather and snow conditions.  We went in via White Pass.  It was Radka’s 2nd summit, my 4th, and our 1st ski. 




We arrived to a surprisingly full trailhead with about a dozen cars, much more than we were expecting.  We saw the cars of our 4 friends who already started their adventure on Friday and were hoping to find them in the evening.

We left the N Fork Sauk trailhead around 11:15 looking like samurai ready to conquer the wilderness. 

The beauty of the Glacier Peak wilderness was instantly upon us as we were surrounded by carpets of moss, large old growth, and lovely birdsong.  This area of the Cascades has always been particularly special for me.  The majestic setting would help pass the miles with relative serenity on Monday despite the heavy burden of weight on our backs.

We arrived at the Mackinaw shelter around 2pm and stopped there for lunch and stretching.  Then we started up the switchbacks, which are mostly unsheltered and in direct sun.  We gained another 2000’ feet and stopped at the first switchback with a view of the traverse trail to White Pass.  This switchback is also right on the border of a past avalanche debris field and canopied forest.  The traverse didn’t look that far above us, but in fact it was about 1000’ feet.  On the section from here to the traverse, we encountered patchy snow and annoying post holing.

After about 20-30 minutes on the traverse, we finally hit continuous snow and started to skin.  A group of 4 climbers were coming down, reporting the snow was too soft for them.  They also reported on lots of wet loose avalanches they had triggered.  At this point it seemed many parties has skinned straight up to a gap west of White Mountain which drops down to the White Chuck River headwaters.  Instead of this route, we decided to continue on towards White Pass.  It was now around 6pm and the snow on the south slopes was absolutely baked, which forced us to choose our path carefully.  We never reached White Pass, instead we came in about 200’ feet above in the SE ridge of White Mountain.  From we ripped skins and traversed the east slopes as far as we could.  Then we hooked into an existing skin track, clearly set in the early morning on near frozen snow, and only ascended a few hundred feet to the ridge east of White Mountain.

From here we could either traverse out towards the White Chuck Glacier basin or drop down to a flat area where we could already see someone was camped and that had open stream beds for easy access to water.  Since it was 7:30 now, and we could see water, the choice was pretty easy, and we decided to drop straight down.  As we got closer to the other parties camp, I heard my name, “Chris?”  Bam, we found Dennis and his friend Greg, who had summited earlier in the day.

We cruised in towards their camp and they asked us where the pizza was!  We learned about the route, their exploits, and a (previously hidden) crevasse between 2 of the summits which they had the opportunity of finding.


We left camp at 8:15 in the morning, a little later than we planned.  We made the bench before the White Chuck Glacier basin in about an hour and saw the lenticular that would hover over Glacier Peak for most of the morning, while the rest of the region was completely clear.  Well, that sucked, but we figured it would burn off and continued to forge on. 

We got to Glacier Gap in another 2 hours or so and by then the lenticular had burned off.  We could see another party of 2 on the Gerdine Glacier approaching the gap where it meets the Cool Glacier.

We dropped down about 100’ to the prominent S ridge that leads to Disappointment Peak.  We decided to stay along the ridge instead of going straight up the Gerdine Glacier to minimize our time on the glacier since we didn’t bring glacier gear.  In another 2 hours or so we made the Cool-Gerdine junction and it was about 2pm.  I deliberately did not look at my GPS because I didn’t want to know how far the summit still was.  We continued on even though we were feeling the exhaustion, eventually gaining the saddle between the summit and Disappointment Peak.  The wind was steady here and I had to put on my heavy gloves to keep my hand warm.  This spot is about 800’ below the summit.  While we were resting here, the party of 2 we saw was skiing down.  I asked if there was anyone else up the mountain but they said everyone else had gone down earlier due to the lenticular.  At this point we realized we weren’t going to connect with our other friends.  They also told us they had put in a skin track all the way to the top but needed ski crampons on the upper part.  I was stoked to hear this and we quickly found it.  Their track took us more towards the Sitkum Glacier than climbers would go to reach the summit, but we didn’t mind as it allowed us to keep skinning.

The last hundred feet of so of the skin track was fairly steep and littered with kick turns. 

We stayed the course and reached the top, which was still about 50’ below and west of the summit. 

We decided to leave the skis here and follow their boot pack, even though we could see they had skied off the summit proper and on to the NW side of the mountain briefly (above the Scimitar Glacier) back to the gap.  It was definitely a steep traverse between these 2 points.  We reached the summit at 4pm, a gradual smile washing over my face and joy filling my soul.  It felt good to be back!  We hung out (or laid out) on the summit enjoying the views.

The ski down was for the most part, nothing short of amazing.  The upper mountain was about an inch of softened snow, not really corn, but not wind board or ice either. 

The section from the saddle back to Gerdine-Cool junction wasn’t that great, mostly east facing and already icing back up or pieces of lingering sastrugi.  The Gerdine Glacier was perfect hero corn.  We thought we would contour towards the ridge to minimize uphill travel back to Glacier Gap but the skiing was so good we couldn’t help ourselves but to keep going down, leaving around 600’ back up to the “High Gap” where I knew we would get another 1000’ foot run on the White Chuck Glacier towards the lake.  And again the skiing delivered!  A few hundred feet before the lake we began traversing left since the terrain mellowed enough that it didn’t seem worth skiing all the way down to the lake and minimize the skin back up to the bench before the basin.

Just before the bench we ran into the couple from the top again and chatted with them a bit.  They were from Montana and skiing the Cascade volcanos and said this one had been the hardest so far.  After the bench we skied all the way back to camp, getting another short run of fantastic corn in the setting sunlight, and arrived at camp around 8pm.  After dinner, Radka took some night shots and we promptly passed out for the next 12 hours, completely wasted!


We slept like dead and woke up around 8:45 to the sounds of voices.  We left around 10:15 and decided to go back the way everyone was taking, which was via the White Chuck River headwaters and NW side of White Mountain.  We made the 6600’ gap along the W ridge of White around noon, and skied back to 5600’ where we had transitioned to skinning 2 days prior. 

The area was almost unrecognizable so much melt out had occurred.  While packing up the skis and putting the shoes on, we spotted a bear down in the valley, having a merry time sliding around on the snow.  Eventually it moved on and we started down the trail.

We made the Mackinaw shelter around 3pm and were back to the car by 6:15pm.  I couldn’t help but continue to stop and admire all the old growth in the wilderness.  Simply a glorious area of the Cascades and totally worth the suffering!

More pics here
« Last Edit: 05/07/15, 10:49 PM by cchapin » Logged

Posts: 693

Re: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« Reply #1 on: 05/07/15, 09:54 PM »

Even without the great pictures to come it is a great trip report thanks.
ron j

Posts: 2600

Re: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« Reply #2 on: 05/08/15, 06:53 AM »

Awesome performance, report and camera work, Radka and Chris.

"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston

Posts: 359

Re: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« Reply #3 on: 05/08/15, 07:27 AM »

you two are freaking awesome. That "after" shot is priceless....


Posts: 2304

Re: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« Reply #4 on: 05/08/15, 07:55 AM »

It is great to see you at the trailhead before you have a wonderful trip. Wink
Pete A

Posts: 845

Re: Glacier Peak, 5/2 - 5/4
« Reply #5 on: 05/08/15, 08:30 AM »

nice work!  great pictures as always.
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