Glacier Peak has always been a difficult climb due to its remoteness. The floods of 2003 made it all the more so by washing out many roads and trails. The last 4.5 miles of the White Chuck Road have been abandoned and the trails off of it are now unmaintained, making the old, standard route to the mountain impractical. And repairs to the Suiattle River Road are not yet complete (perhaps in 2015?) meaning that ten extra miles must be hiked or biked for the north approach. This leaves the long North Fork Sauk Trail as the most practical and most used way in.
We drove to the Sloan Creek Campground on Saturday. We stopped in Darrington where we walked to the park, listened to a local band giving a free concert, and watched several gliders and their tow plane cavorting about in the sky. We then had pizza at a local cafe saving half for our lunch the next day.
A lateish, 9:30 start Sunday morning got us to the Mackinaw Shelter for lunch. We then grunted up the seemingly endless series of switchbacks (3000' gain!), and followed the PCT a short way (thankfully level) to White Pass. We met a couple headed in with skis on their packs, and several groups who had already climbed headed out. There was an abundance of blooms: bunchberry, coralroot, western anenome, false hellebore, paintbrush, phlox, yarrow, pearly everlasting, columbine, glacier lily, tiger lily, heather, bleedingheart, lupine, penstemon, and shootingstar to name a few. We had clear skies and great views at our White Pass camp.
We started our Monday hike a little earlier: 8:40. We followed the Foam Creek use trail from White Pass and climbed up the east col and into the White Chuck Glacier basin. There was much more snow this year than when we had hiked this in 2009. This makes for easier traveling, but hides the fascinating geology. We met two groups who had summited that morning, and heard that the couple we met the previous day were up ahead, skiing. We chose not to camp at the overused Glacier Gap camp, and instead hiked up over the 300' rise (and down the other side) to a much less used area. This was yet another cloudless day.
Our climb started at 4:30 Tuesday morning. It was light enough that we didn't use headlamps. After hiking up the ridge for an hour we put on crampons and started out across the Gerdine Glacier. We didn't encounter crevasses until we reached the col at the top of the Gerdine where the Cool Glacier slides on by. The boot track of the many who had climbed the days before us made navigating the crevasses on the Cool easy. We hiked from the top of the Cool to a snowfield on the left on which we climbed the final 400' to the summit. To the north we could see Mt. Baker and beyond (Mt. Garibaldi?), and to the south Mt. Rainier and even Mt. Adams. There was a large north-south bergschrund splitting the summit snowfield. We hunkered down by some rocks on the north end to get out of the wind while we had a celebratory snack. The return to camp was much swifter than the ascent, though we were only able to glissade a few times as most of the route isn't steep and where it is steep enough there sometimes isn't a safe runout. When we were back down to about 8500' a fighter in a steep bank roared low over the ridge in front of us, followed a second or two later by one directly above. We decided to wait until evening to hike back out to White Pass, but ended up staying another night at high camp when it clouded up and started to rain.
We were entertained by a thunderstorm Wednesday morning, with lightning-to-thunder times as low as a second--yikes, that's close! The rain stopped around 6, so we packed up, hiked the 15 miles back to the car, and drove back to town. This was the coolest day with mixed clouds, fog and sun. This is a wonderful climb and should be led more often: the last time the club climbed Glacier was 1987!Members: Wayne Deeter, Elise Weldon.
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