Glacier Peak, Elevation 10,541ft
March 23, 2001
Ben, Josh, Jason
This is the best photo that I have of the mountain. We skied the upper portion of the right skyline. This photo was taken from Dome Peak, several miles north of Glacier Peak.
I had big plans for this spring break -- Rainier, Baker, Stuart, etc. Finish two finals on Friday and have two weeks to play. I spent the first weekend kayaking on the Tilton River near Morton because the weather looked too crappy to ski. Monday was spent shopping while the weather began to improve. It wasn't until that night that I realized that school started the following Monday. Bummer.
The Hummels returned to Bellingham to study. They had two finals on Thursday.
The weather was perfect so I had to ski. I spent most of Tuesday thinking about what I should do. I considered skiing Rainier but that didn't seem like a good idea this time of year, especially by myself. Glacier Peak seemed like a more reasonable solo. I knew the road was open and I was familiar with the route. I chickened out Tuesday night and convinced the Hummels to climb it with me on Friday. I ended up skiing the resort at Crystal Mountain on Wednesday.
Convincing the Hummels wasn't easy. This was their last quarter of school -- ever. They were graduating on Saturday so they had a lot of stuff to prepare -- iron their gowns, get haircuts, buy food, cook, etc. I told them to meet me in Darrington at 8:30pm Thursday and they agreed. They called their relatives and told them that they would be home around 5pm on Friday.
I left Seattle around 6:30pm Thursday evening and the Sport Truck was there when I arrived. We both decided to drive because there was supposed to be some snow the last few miles before the trailhead. We followed the White Chuck road for about 9 miles before hitting snow. It was spotty as first but eventually turned into a rutted mess. It wasn't long before someone got stuck. Not us -- there was a Honda in front of us that had gotten highsided in the middle of the road. They were putting on chains when we arrived so we drove back a little ways to a pullout to wait for them to turn around. They backed down to the turnaround and asked if we would mind driving them to the trailhead. They were planning on hiking to Kennedy Hot Springs the following day. We decided to drive up together so they wouldn't have to walk the road back to their car. We figured we could pull them out if they ended up getting stuck. We drove less than 1/2 mile before they got stuck again. Highsided would be an understatement. We dug, pulled and charged for a good two hours before they were finally able to reach another turnaround and head back to our original turnaround.
It was after midnight and we were still 1-2 miles from the trailhead. We considered driving the rest of the way but we weren't sure that we could make it ourselves. It turned out that we probably could have. Probably wasn't an option at this point. We planned to start hiking around 2am so we had little time to screw with. We started a fire and ate a long awaited dinner/breakfast. We had a short chat with the Honda couple. It turns out they were from UW. I felt bad for convincing them to continue. They felt worse for taking our time. I think we both learned a lesson.
We packed our gear and left as they headed to bed. We left at 2am. It took around 30 minutes to reach the trailhead. There was a Jeep parked there that made us jealous. I got over the grief quickly but the Hummels seemed to wallow in it for the first 7 miles. This may have been because it was pitch dark and I was the only one with a headlamp but I think they were just tired.
The Hummels wore their ski boots which they regretted. I ended up wearing tennis shoes all the way to Boulder Basin. The first few miles was a mix of dirt, snow and ice. We reached Kennedy Hot Springs around 6am as things began to lighten up. Our spirits began to lighten up as it looked like it would be an excellent ski from here on out. We followed snowshoe tracks all the way to Boulder Basin. Some of it was slow going as we would punch through from time to time. We reached Boulder Basin at 9am and we all felt pretty positive about summiting, ignoring the fact that we hadn't slept in over 24 hours.
Josh above Boulder Basin.
I switched from tennis shoes to ski boots and we all took a much needed break. The views were spectacular. It was basically winter with spring-like weather. The basin was buried in snow. I left my shoes on one of the few boulders that poked through. The main set of snowshoe tracks was gone. We continued up the basin along a nose that provided the most direct route.
Josh heading up the nose.
Our pace slowed as the snow got deeper. There was 1-2 feet of consolidated windpack and breaking trail was a pain. We mounted the first step and saw several sets of tracks up the standard route to our south. I was hoping that they would provide an easy staircase up the next step. They turned out to be snowshoe tracks which were of little help. This second step seemed to take forever. I finally made it to some rocks where we took another long break. It was 11am and we felt that we had plenty of time to reach the top and get back to the car before dark. We all felt pretty bad but none of us were willing to turn around after having come this far.
The second step.
Nearing the rest.
We started up again, traversing the upper Sitkum towards the summit ridge. There was a solo snowshoer on his way down. I thought I was hallucinating but it became clear as we passed. He started from the trailhead at midnight and was equally surprised to see us on a day trip. We envied his snowshoes for going up but I'm sure he envied our skis going down. We postholed for another 30 minutes before reaching the summit ridge.
The next hour was painful. Each step led to another step but they didn't seem to add up. The summit wasn't getting any closer. I eventually stopped looking up because it was so discouraging. My body was ready to collapse and my mind wasn't helping much. We reached the top around 1pm. Halfway there.
Jason and Josh on top. Halfway there.
None of us were up for the ski but we knew we had to get down. We started skiing around 2pm. The first few turns weren't so pleasant -- steep ice chunks. We skied down the southwest face. There wasn't much of a base until we reached the Sitkum Glacier. The Hummels brought their video camera so we ended up doing a fair amount of filming. This was difficult because we could barely crank ten turns without our legs collapsing. The windpack turned to mash-potato but there was still some dry snow in the shade. We skied through several of these inversions before the snow finally turned to mush below Boulder Basin.
Jason dropping in off the top.
Josh on the southwest face below the summit.
Josh ripping some powder in the shade above Boulder Basin.
I picked up my shoes before dropping below treeline. We skied a drainage north of Boulder Basin to avoid the low snowpack along the route that we came up. We cruised the flats above Kennedy Hot Springs before making our way down some knarly switchbacks. I skied the trail below the Hot Springs for several miles before calling it quits. The Hummels were able to scratch their way down another mile but I caught up with them at the dirt. It was 6pm, getting dark and we still had several miles of walking before reaching the road. We made it to the road around 7pm and were able to ski the 1-2 miles back to our car.
Josh skiing the drainage below Boulder Basin.
The Honda and tent were still there. We figure that they made a late night trip to the Hot Springs but we had no time to wait and find out. The Hummels were 5 hours behind schedule and they weren't in very good shape for graduation. I assured them that it was worth it even though I wasn't sure myself.
This is a trip that I needed to do but I must admit that I'll probably never do it again. Nearly 30 miles over 17 hours isn't as fun as it sounds, especially when you go without sleep for 40 hours.