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Glacier Peak

WA Cascades West Slopes Central
Posted by tbashor on 5/2/23 1:27am

Richard and I did a three day tour to Glacier Peak via the col west of White Mountain last weekend. Road conditions and the NWAC warnings about the first big spring warmup must have kept everyone away — we didn’t see anyone else on the route or on the mountain.

We drove up early Friday morning and had to park a mile from the trailhead due to blowdown across the road. By Sunday, it had been cut away and the major snow banks beyond it had mostly melted. So, except for a muddy washout section a half mile from the trailhead which might trouble a Prius, the road is now clear to the trailhead.

Non-continuous, punchy snow along the North Fork Sauk Trail out to the Mackinaw shelter added a considerable amount of time and effort to the approach. We finally got to continuous snow at about 3,600 on the switchbacks. At the top of the switchbacks, we had to carefully tiptoe across steep loose wet slopes to a lower angle bench leading up to the col west of White Mountain. A convenient gap in the cornices avoided mandatory air with heavy packs and we dropped down into White Chuck Basin and made camp just before sunset.

The moderately strong wind forcasted for Friday night and Saturday worked out perfectly for our summit day. Despite the bluebird skies, a stiff breeze kept the snow nicely locked up and we had excellent skinning conditions up through White Chuck Basin and across the Suiattle/Gerdine. We decided not to bring glacier gear and were prepared to bail if there were any crevasse concerns on the Cool but it was very well filled in. The summit snowfield up through the rime towers was quite windy, but no complaints about that as it kept the rime in its towers and the snowpack just right for skinning all the way to the summit.

After a high five and bite to eat, we enjoyed great turns down the summit snowfield, down the Cool and Gerdine until the sun finally won out over the wind and we had to push through miles of mush back to camp.

Sunday morning dawned sunnier and warmer than forecast, so we scampered back up to the White Mountain col before the cliff bands and cornices around it started to move. The fall line ski down from the col was much better than expected given the southern exposure. Stoke from that run was almost enough to carry us through the long slog back to the car. Almost… the views around Glacier Peak are off the hook amazing, we got some high quality spring turns, the big trees and trilliums along the trail are inspiring, but once is probably enough for me.


Up White Mountain, Sloan in the background


Down into White Chuck Basin


Skin track, wolverine track


Pleasant morning views and skinning


Almost on top, route to camp curving below us


Carving the Cool Glacier


And the Gerdine


Trying to beat the heat up to the White Mtn col


You're pretty but the hike out still sucks


Awesome! Looks like a very fun trip!

Great pictures! What a fun trip. So was the Wolverine following your tracks?

We followed its tracks a bit. They weren't fresh, but maybe only 24 hours old. It crossed the valley and went straight up an 600 foot 50 degree slope. 

Looks like an excellent and rewarding adventure!

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2023-05-02 08:27:41