Glacier Peak from Seven Fingered Jack in it's early morning glory!
Glacier Peak from Seven Fingered Jack in it's early morning glory! Photo by Dan Cervelli!

Glacier Peak 10,541'!

A July 21/22, 2001 Trip Report.



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Friday afternoon the forecast changed from morning clouds to mostly cloudy, but we optimistically continued with our plans to climb Glacier Peak. We arrived at the White Chuck Trailhead, 2,300’, about 20 miles from Darrington, about dark, and set up camp at the end of the road.

After a leisurely morning Jeff, Doerte, and I set out at 8:20 am for Boulder Basin at about 5,500’. The White Chuck Trail is 5.2 miles to Kennedy Hot Springs but gains very little elevation. Some switchbacks and 1.8 miles later the trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail. The climber’s trail to Boulder Basin begins .5 north of this junction at a small PCT camp with a toilet sign and a cairn, before the trail crosses Sitkum Creek, at 4,100’.

Doerte on the west ridge of Glacier Peak! Doerte on the west ridge. That is Sitkum Spire in the background and a sea of clouds below. (class 4 )

The climber’s trail is well worn, but very steep in many places. Beautiful Boulder Basin is reached in about 1.5 miles at 5,500’. Here at treeline is where most parties camp before beginning their climb. Blooming heather, rushing water, marmots, and high waterfalls are some of the sights. Campsites were few and close together on this cloudy Saturday. There were several large parties from the Mazama and Mountaineers.

Jeff and I climbed up 1,000’ to get a view of the route that we would begin before sunrise. The sky was filled with clouds and visibility was poor at times. A party of scouts who summited on Friday reported views of only 45’, "but we had fun!" The Mazama party reported Saturday that they got above the clouds and could see only Mount Baker.

At 3 am the mist was so thick it felt like we were underwater, but 15 minutes later we could see stars! We took this as a good sign. Doerte, Jeff, and I were off shortly after 4 am with headlamps, and immediately lost the exposed trail around the ledge, so we climbed the steep snowfield back to the trail.

Still in the dark and clouds, we put on crampons and roped up at the start of the snow. We couldn’t see well enough to tell where the Sitkum Glacier started. We could hear the Mountaineer group somewhere in the fog. It seemed like we could always hear the Mountaineers; a group of 10 is rarely quiet. At least they don’t go in parties of 67 people like they did in 1921!

Doerte and Jeff on the summit of Glacier Peak! Doerte and Jeff on the summit of Glacier Peak!

The sun rose, and we ascended above the clouds. The route took us around some crevasses and across a couple of snowbridges. There was a foot of recent snow covering the glacier so we were careful near any signs of crevasses. We moved quickly across the Glacier, noticing large debris fields on either side. Eventually we reached the west summit ridge, near Sitkum Spire. Moving to the east side of the ridge, we were able to continue to ascend on snow and ice, and avoid the very loose dirt. Finally we circled east under the summit, crossing a snow filled chute and up to the summit. Five hours and 5,000’ from camp to summit at 10,541’.

Jeff Caron, Doerte, and Mike on the summit blocks of Glacier Peak! Jeff Caron, Doerte, and Mike on the summit blocks of Glacier Peak! Blue skies above and clouds below!

There was a still lot of snow on the summit, a cornice almost as high as the summit itself. We had great fun seeing all the peaks in Western Washington high above the clouds. Baker, Shuksan, and the Pickets. At 7,835’, Sloan Peak were easy to pick out above the clouds. It looked like a big shark fin above the clouds. We immediately talked about trying that one! The summits of Mount Daniel and the highest of the Snoqualmie peaks. To the east it was mostly clear. Glacier Peak’s first ascent was in August 1898, by Thomas Gerdine and party of U.S. Geological Survey.

Jeff and Doerte descending the west ridge with a fantastic abnd huge cornice and crevasse to the east! Jeff and Doerte descending the west ridge with a fantastic and huge cornice and crevasse to the east!

We were the second of only three parties’ summiting on Sunday. We strode down the mountain, happy at our good fortune and fine weather, right back into the clouds and fog. The noise of a rockfall above us made our party a bit apprehensive since we could not see anything but thick fog. We knew, however, that we were out of any path of debris. We nearly walked by our camp in Boulder Basin visibility was so poor! Luckily Jeff spotted the tents.

A party descending the Sitkum Glaicer. Looking down for the west ridge of Glacier Peak. A party descending the Sitkum Glaicer. Looking down from the west ridge of Glacier Peak. The clouds in the top of the photo are about 6,500'.

We rested a bit, packed up, and Doerte led us down to the trailhead. We finally arrived very tired at 4 pm. Strong parties can do this climb in two days, but most parties would need three days. More than 24 miles and 8,200’ gain. We met one party heading for Frostbite Ridge for four days, but most parties climb Glacier via the Sitkum Glacier.

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