Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Glacier Peak July 11-14

Glacier Peak is probably the least known Washington volcano peak and was not my peak list.  But with 7500 feet of prominence, it was on Michael's list.  Always up for an adventure, I jumped at the chance to join John, Michael and Brian for a four day hike/climb in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area.  The three Idaho guys met up with Brian at his place in Castle Rock, WA, Monday evening for some of his famous lasagna and to sort our gear so we weren't doubling up on things.

We found out on the drive North that we should have spent more time sorting gear rather than eating lasagna.  I mentioned to John that we needed to stop to get some fuel for his stove and he responded with, "Didn't you bring your stove?"  Not the response I was hoping for, as I had left my stove back at Brian's figuring John had brought his.  After a not so quick stop at an REI, we were back on the road with the opportunity to not eat crunchy rice.

It took us a while to drive through the Seattle area to the trail head east of Darrington, WA.  We were lumbering down the trail with heavy packs a little after 4PM, planning to stop for the night at a "shelter" 5.5 miles down the trail.  This initial hike was through old growth forest filled with giant Cedars, Hemlocks and the occasional Douglas Fir which is seldom seen.
Entering the wilderness area
The next morning was a bit foggy as we shouldered our packs and started up the trail.  The fog was a blessing, as the next couple of miles switched back and forth up an old avalanche chute while gaining 2800 feet. 

Switchbacks in the fog
Occasionally we would come across snow covering a creek bed that required a bit of caution while crossing. 

But. for the most part is was just hiking along in the fog with an occasional glimpse of the surrounding area. 

We eventually joined the Pacific Crest Trail, which we traveled on for a short distance, before taking a breather at White Pass.  At this point we were out of the fog, but the upper level cloud cover still obscured views while keeping the temperatures nice and cool.

White Pass rest stop
Marmot wrestling
 Just beyond White Pass, the trail traversed below White Mountain for a couple miles before coming to a notch where we turned north.  Unfortunately, the low hanging clouds didn't allow for  much rubber necking.
John taking the lead

Trail through the snow leading to the notch
Once through the notch, we had our first glimpse of the White Chuck Glacier basin, and it looked large!
White Chuck Glacier Basin
Brian and Michael coming over the notch into White Chuck Glacier basin
 As we moved over the ridge and down into the basin, the trail disappeared into a snow field and the fog returned with a vengeance.  Unable to see any landmarks, our map became useless and we relied on a GPS track John had downloaded.   We followed John and his GPS through the gloom around the basin.  Fortunately (?), global warming has all but eliminated the White Chuck Glacier so we were not concerned about crevasse danger.  Occasionally, the fog would lift slightly allowing us to make out the contrast between the rocks and snow.


During one of the times we could actually see, we selected a campsite below "Glacier Gap" at 6700 feet.  It had everything we needed; slightly level rocky ground, running water and a resident marmot.

After erecting our tents, John proceeded to build a rock wall to supplement two large boulders partially blocking the wind which was blowing at a good clip  As the others took a nap, I was on marmot patrol, keeping the pesky guy away from our camp.  

That night we went to bed hoping that NOAAs prediction of clear skies would come true.
A quick photo while there was a glimpse of  blue sky
I awoke to John providing a hot cup of coffee and telling me that we were in the, "belly of the cow".  I'm not exactly sure where that reference came from, but we were socked in with fog and it was drizzling. We all had a hot beverage and munched on some granola feeling slightly depressed.  So much for NOAAs prediction. 
Camp at 6AM
As we were getting ready, Brian stated that he had a feeling that things would work out and we should just go for it.  Everyone agreed that there was no sense in sitting around camp, so we headed out.

Heading up towards Glacier Gap
Michael took the lead as we moved up through the fog in single file.  Though the drizzling had stopped, we still had limited visibility and were relying on the GPS track.  The track took us to climber's left of Glacier Gap, up and over a short ridge at 7600 feet.  Once over the ridge, we dropped a couple hundred feet before gaining another snow free ridge, with a trail!
Heading up the trail in the fog
Out first glimpse at the peak?

As we moved higher up the trail, the fog/clouds started lifting,  After a short while, we climbed above the clouds and were in the brilliant sunshine staring at Disappointment Peak.  We could not see Glacier Peak, as it was behind Disappointment Peak.  Is this why it is named Disappointment?

 John enjoying the sunshine
Heading towards Disappointment Peak
We traversed the edge of the snowfield gradually leading to Disappointment Peak.  Prior to entering the snow below Disappointment Peak we stopped to put on harnesses, helmets and to rope up.

Michael leading the charge.
With the large quantity of rockfall in the snowfield below Disappointment Peak reminding us of the danger, we didn't lollygag to take photos.  Now that we were in the sunshine, we were all concerned about additional rock fall.  We started to heat up with the quick pace, but better to be hot than pounded by rocks.  At the ridge below Disappointment Peak, just below where the Gerdine and Cool glaciers meet, we finally got our first view of Glacier Peak.
Our first view of Glacier Peak
Michael led the four of us around a few small crevasses before we gained the ridge overlooking the Cool Glacier.  After a quick switch of the rope lead, we gained the pumice/rock ridge leading up to the summit of Glacier in another half hour.

The pumice/rock ridge
We took a short break to remove our harnesses and the connecting rope before starting up the pumice ridge.  After hiking on a nice trail, rocks and semi hard snow, this pumice was tough going.  One step up and slide back half a step.  This didn't seem to phase John too much, as he moved quickly upwards.

When the pumice trail petered out at a steep snow field, we stopped to put on crampons for the final 300-400 feet,  With the security of the crampons and our ice axes, we quickly gained the summit at 10,541 feet.

Michael on the final 300 feet
John and Brian almost to the summit
Summit Splattski
John, John and Michael on the summit
The views from the summit were spectacular! We could see Mt Rainier, Mt Baker and Mt Stuart poking above the clouds. With a biting wind chilling us, we headed down after a few pictures.

Heading down
Once out of the wind, we stopped for a leisurely lunch of bagels, cream cheese and summer sausage at the top of the pumice ridge.
A group of four coming up behind us
The other group heading up the pumice ridge
Looking down the Gerdine snowfield
Camp is to the upper left of the circle in the snow
It was a hot slog getting back to camp, arriving at 3:30PM after walking a little over three hours. Collectively, we thought it was a good idea to break camp and move lower to minimize the mileage the last day.  So after eating, hydrating and refilling our water bottles, we broke camp and headed down.

Brian, John and Michael crossing the White Chuck snowfield
In contrast to the cool, foggy hike we had the previous day, the hike out was very hot.  But the views were phenomenal and we were finally able to see all that we had missed on the hike in.

Looking back at the White Chuck Basin
We pulled into White Pass and the PCT junction a little after 7PM.  All of us were dragging our tails at that point, since it had been a 12 hour day.  We found a nice little campsite, cooked up another excellent meal and hit the sack early.  I slept like a rock and was awoken again by John bringing me a cup of coffee (I could get used to this!) in the fog (well maybe not with the fog).  Well, I guess we were in the Pacific Northwest.

After a quick breakfast, we were off for the final 8 miles and 3500 feet descent to the car where stream cooled beer awaited.

White Pass/PCT junction 
Trip Stats:
Distance: 30-35 miles
Elevation gain: >9K feet
Time: 4 days

Splattski's Trip Report:

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen