Ascent of Glacier Peak on 2010-08-11

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Glacier Peak
    Elevation:10520 ft / 3206 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was my first USA Ultra! Expertly led by Petter Bjorstad. A very nice 2.5 day trip, in almost ideal conditions, except for poor visibility on the White Chuck (ex) Glacier making routefinding a little tricky on the way up.

We drove to the trailhead the previous evening. Brief directions: arriving in Darrington from west, find crossroads in centre of town, note Burger Barn on L (seems the only place in town to eat, simple but tasty). Turn R (S) on Mountain Loop Road, at mile 9.0 becomes dirt road, mile 9.1 straight on, mile 15.9 fork L, mile 22.4 fork L, trailhead at 22.6. We slept there in the car.

10 Aug: we woke earlier than planned and started hiking at 05:30, first light. Easy trail, very impressive Douglas Fir and a few Redwoods - huge trees. Reached Mackinaw Shelter in about 2h, steep zigzags, turned R on the Pacific Crest Trail, took the climbers trail L just before White Pass, followed it N then E to where it finishes on the SE spur of Point 6770. We noted this grassy area would make a nice campsite...

Easy climb to summit then descended N (nice scrambly ridge, Class 3, or 3- if bypassed on its RHS). We continued over the next peak (6720co) and descended to its col. We descended NNE (whistled at by a cheeky Marmot) into a snowy bowl. From here the optimum line trends slightly R to pass thru a saddle R of a rounded moraine hill (we went over this hill and had a nice view of some Ptarmigan and some kind of chubby vole scampering around in the rocks). From here we continued NNE (in thick mist we were on a 15deg bearing (-4deg magnetic), following the RH side of the (ex) glacier at about 6700ft, with a few ups and downs to avoid steeper snow slopes. This traverse was mostly soft snow. On reaching the inside of the bend where the White Chuck Glacier (used to) turn R. The weather was drizzly and visibility still very poor, but in geed weather you will find yourself opposite a large lake where the lowest point of the glacier used to be. The route climbs a moraine slope then follows a steep stream up (cairn at top) to cross a rocky bluff. From here the Suiattle Glacier col can be seen ahead, a few hundred feet above. An easy snow traverse lead to a rubbly climb (faint trail) leading to the col, where there are a few smooth areas set out: we pitched Petter's 2-man Bibler in the one behind the drystone wall.

We arrived at 14:45, 9h 15mins after leaving the trailhead. We had the site to ourselves - indeed we had seen no-one all day. It's a lovely spot. I wandered up the little summit just to the N; a little later Petter wandered up the rocky ridge to the S and was rewarded with a view of Glacier Peak briefly through the clouds. Dinner and to bed, hoping that the forecast clear weather would materialise tomorrow.

11 Aug: as promised the day dawned cloudless with the eastern skyline jagged with yellow fringed peaks. We set off at 06:45, cramponed up the easy snow slope to cross the col and descend, on steepish snow frozen at this early hour. We elected to stay on the glacier throughout. There were a few small crevasses immediately so we roped up and followed an efficient contouring line spied out by Petter. After a bit, a long ascent (a few more small crevasses) leads up to the saddle E of Disappointment Peak, at 9150ft. Here at the junction of 2 glaciers is an interesting disrupted area with some deep crevasses. It took up the whole of the col; we picked a way through it OK, then turned L (W) up the Cool Glacier to join the S ridge of Glacier Peak just above the Disappointment col. A steepening sand and stone ridge led to a final steep snow slope (a good boot trail) which lead direct to the snow-covered SE summit. We also visited the W summit: as the latter is a rock summit it is arguably the true summit although the two appeared identical in elevation.

We summited at 10:15 (3h 30 from camp), enjoyed the view (especially of Baker and the outrageously prominent Rainier) until the cold breeze persuaded us to head down. We retraced our route without incident, with a few GPS waypoints proving useful. This could be an awkward route to follow in poor visibility - record a GPS track on your way up...

We were back at camp in 2h 30. After a rest we decamped and reversed our ascent route. In good visibility the route was nuch easier and we could see clearly how the disappearence of the White Chuck Glacier had changed the landscape, why the map now fitted the terrain so badly and why we had so much difficulty routefinding the previous day...

We pitched at that nice grassy campsite we had noted earlier, on the SE spur of Pt 6770, where the climbers trail ends - knowing that tomorrow morning's descent would be on good trails throughout. It's an idyllic spot - lovely alpine flowers and great views out across a fine valley. And an easy water supply just a few metres along the trail.

12 Aug: rising at first light we cooked breakfast, set off at 06:15, reaching the trailhead at 10:15. Apart from a few hikers - and a lot of path maintenance workers - near the trailhead we again saw no-one. This had been a true wilderness experience on a fine isolated peak in nice conditions.

Trip Outline:
Aug 10-12: Glacier Peak (WA)
14: Abercrombie Mountain (WA)
15: He + She Devil (ID)
16: Sacajawea (OR)
18: South Sister (OR)
19-20: Mt Jefferson (OR)
22-25: Mt Olympus (WA)
26-27: Mt Stuart (WA)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:13074 ft / 3984 m
    Extra Gain:2297 ft / 700 m
    Round-Trip Distance:28 mi / 45.1 km
    Route:Glacier route from south
    Trailhead:North Fork Sauk River TH  2040 ft / 621 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2(3-), Alpine F+
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Day 1 drizzly, Days 2 & 3 fine
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Days 5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Days 

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