36m 9,000ft gain
Glacier Peak is the most remote stratovolcano in Washington and it’s forth tallest mountain! It’s also known as Dakobed or Takobia which translates to ‘The Great Parent’. As the current name would suggest there are eleven significant glaciers descending its flanks and you’ll have to cross a few to reach it’s summit. Because of its isolation and size it requires a looong hike through a rugged Cascadian landscape. Soon after leaving White Pass everything feels other worldly. It is a gorgeous mountain but it also has a destructive past. It is the only other Washington volcano, outside of Mount St. Helens to have very large explosive eruptions in the last 3,000 years. A hike in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is a wild hike through history.
My first ever view of Glacier Peak from Mount Pilchuck:
From Mount Pugh:
From Baring Mountain:
From Dragontail Peak:
From Evergreen Mountain:
From Snoqualmie Mountain:
From Mount Dickerman:
From Del Campo Peak (right):
From Ruth Mountain (left):
From Mount Baker:
From the top of Chair 2 at Alpental:
1st Trip: 8/17/2019
Back at with Ben for my most ambitious hike in Washington thus far. We planned to cover the 36+ miles and 9,000ft of gain/loss over three days. Starting from the North Fork Sauk trailhead Friday afternoon we decided to hike the nine miles to White Pass and setup camp for both nights there. I opted to wear trail runners and carry my 3.5lb mountaineering boots for day two but I regretted this decision. I should have gone for a light weight waterproof boot. That and the addition of our glacier travel gear made our packs very heavy.
We took turns carrying the rope. The rope spent much more time sitting on our packs then out for use. We certainly needed it for a short period of time but I wish I had a lighter 30m rope. The first 5 miles are flat and easy. Past the Mackinaw shelter we followed switchbacks up to the Pacific Crest Trail and took that South a short distance to White Pass.
There was an abundance of wildflowers and perfectly ripe blueberries which were a great treat!
We also ran into a Grouse who gave us the stink eye.
We arrived at White Pass at sunset and it lived up to its name.
After filtering water, having dinner and setting up camp we went right to sleep in our own 1-person tents ready for a big day ahead. We planned to start by 3am but the cold wet fog kept us in our tents a little later. We left White Pass at 5am to traverse the East side of White Mountain for 2 miles to a high col on the ridge. The clouds partially cleared right before reaching the high col.
Past the high col we descended into the White Church Glacier Basin and much of the next 4 miles to Glacier Gap looked like the picture below. There was barely any trail to follow and visibility was low but we stayed on route using a Garmin with a downloaded gpx route.
Another hour of plodding and we were blessed with our first view of our objective! It still looked so far away.
That quick view gave us life! The next hour or so we’d be stuck in the clouds until another partial clearing near Glacier Gap.
There are a lot of quality camp sites in the basin and all around Glacier Gap. From the gap we skirted around and down a steep downward sloping ice field to another gentle broad ridge leading directly to Disappointment Peak. The views continued to clear the higher we got.
Just past this point we would stop for a snack and to gear up before hopping on the Gerdine Glacier.
This would mark my first time roped up on a glacier but I took a crevasse rescue course that spring and Ben had prior glacier travel experience so we felt confident. It was a steady uphill climb for 1,000ft until the Gerdine meets the Cool Glacier. This gave me a good chance to get comfortable tied in before the sketchy Cool Glacier. We both actually misjudged our pace and water consumption and had just about ran out at that point. Thankfully a group of four was turning around and generously gave us a liter of water! They frowned upon our group of two but it wasn’t as bad as it looked at first. We moved quickly and followed the obvious route up the Cool Glacier to a saddle between Disappointment Peak and Glacier Peak.
At the saddle the summit was finally in reach, just a rocky ridge and a steep scree slope away. We quickly packed away our glacier gear and speed walked to the summit with loads of excitement!
It was already late in the day but we enjoyed 30 minutes on the summit soaking in the cloudy views from 10,520ft. There are actually two high points on the summit. After standing on the true peak we hung out on the East high point to look over our route and the mountains tall enough to break through the clouds.
This would mark Ben’s completion of the five major volcanoes of Washington and my third. Like all of my previous Cascade volcano climbs I busted out my late grandfather’s horn to honor him and all those I’ve lost in my life. I always feel closest to the heavens on these lofty volcanic summits.
Now it was time to get off the Cool Glacier safely and we were able to do so with only one small scare when Ben stepped through the snow as he got close to the edge of a wide crevasse. The end of the glacier is heavily crevassed but since it was late in the season every crack was obvious and easy to avoid.
We refilled our water bladders from a small trickle coming from the Cool Glacier and then dropped back down the Gerdine in what felt like a ping pong ball.
The Garmin made navigating the dense clouds not too terrible. We were soon off the glacier with a long rocky hike back to White Pass ahead. Couldn’t see crap and we were way behind schedule but morale was very high! At Glacier Gap we rehydrated freeze dried lasagna with meat sauce and the hot meal was absolutely glorious.
Back in the White Church Glacier basin clouds dispersed enough for us to see some of what we missed on the way in.
After sunset the clouds once again engulfed us with the most confusing section ahead. We relied on the Garmin to get us back to the pass next to Point 6770. Only two miles to go at 10pm… Past the ridge the trail becomes more obvious but we somehow managed to start off trail on much more sketchy terrain. Even when we could blindly follow the trail it was tough going. It was dark, we had little visibility, we were getting blasted by wind, we were tired and a misstep could mean tumbling down a mountainside. We only stayed positive knowing we were close to camp and that we didn’t have to traverse through snow here. That would really suck, especially this late at night. Finally after 18 hours (5am-11pm) we could rest. In the morning there were still some low hanging clouds but it was a much nicer day to slowly finish our hike.
Once we packed up we took some time to enjoy breakfast and the sights from White Pass. We could see where we were tortured for an hour late last night.
The 9 mile hike out was simple but rough for us. The views were great and we ran into a friendly thru-hiker on the PCT.
Glacier Peak was one of those mountains I had on my original Washington bucket list but didn’t think I’d gain the skill to do. It’s awesome what your feet can accomplish with plenty of practice, patience and determination!
I was sore, had some bad blisters, my shoulder was out of place and I couldn’t feel my big toes but I was so elated to spend the weekend with Glacier Peak working hard for it with a great partner!