Glacier Peak (Washington)
By: David Campbell
Mary Ann and I met Dick Searle at the White Chuck roadhead (2300 ft. elevation) in the Mt. Baker-Snoquahnie National Forest on Saturday, 7/30/94. He had driven from Sedona, AZ. Within an hour Wendell Dang drove up; he had come from Simi Valley. We had planned to hike in the next day and climb Glacier Peak on Monday. We decided to use the Sitkum Glacier route, which ascends from the west side of this volcanic mountain. Since it was early, we decided to start Saturday afternoon. We got underway by 4 p.m. and followed the forested White Chuck trail along the east side of the churning White Chuck River. Some parts of the trail had been badly damaged by flooding, but bypasses were there when needed. After 5.2 miles and about 3 hours we got to the Kennedy Hot Springs area which had camping sites and a ranger hut and numerous flowers and berries! There were a lot of huckleberries in the area, but better tasting were the thimble berries. Salmon berries were the most colorful, but only a few were ripe yet. Near the hut is a nice spring.
Sunday we got a leisurely start at 8:40, continuing up switchbacks on the White Chuck Trail another 1.4 miles to its intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. We turned north on the latter for 0.4 miles. At 4100 ft. we left it and found a (well used) "path" leading up a narrow ridge between Sitkum Creek and another creek south of it. The path climbed very steeply (sometimes we used tree roots for handholds) to "Boulder Basin", just below timberline at '7'0 ft. where we were to camp. We got there at 12:15. The scenery was beautiful with fir and hemlocks, flowers, waterfalls, and snow-covered peaks in the background. All that kept it from being idyllic were the biting flies! Coming in we had passed quite a few climbers on their way out, but while we were camped there the only others present were two climbers and two friendly forest service rangers, who were digging a new pit toilet.
Monday Dick, Wendell and I started climbing at 5:50 (the two other climbers had left camp at 5:00). We followed a steep, loose use trail over pumice and rocks to 7,000 ft. where we reached the lower part of the Sitkum Glacier. A little higher we put on crampons (though we carried a rope and other glacier equipment, we never used it). The glacier is divided into three sections by a cliff band and a rock cleaver. We saw the two climbers ahead of us get onto the cleaver, but they apparently had some difficulty and returned to the glacier. When we reached the cleaver (about 8200 ft.), we turned left and went up a corridor between it and the cliff band, which led onto the upper Sitkum Glacier. We passed a few small crevasses, but no problem. Our next objective was a 9300 ft. snow saddle in the west summit ridge, just above "Sitkum Spire".
There we encountered a moderately strong cold wind. We choose to go up the top part of the Scimiter Glacier, left of the loose pumice ridge rather than stay on the ridge itself, gaining a little shelter from the wind. This part was fairly steep. Upon reaching the base of the summit rocks (10'000 ft.), we circled up and around to the left on the hard ice of the upper edge of the Scimiter Glacier. We finished the climb on the north slopes leading to the summit crest. It was 11:30 and we visited with the other two climbers. Soon a third group arrived, having come up the 'White Chuck Glacier route" from the south. The weather was sunny and we could see Mts. Baker and Shuksan to the northwest and Rainier to the south. However, there was a lot of distant "haze" due to large forest fires. The one near Lake Chelan was creating it's own huge cumulus clouds. After 45 minutes we left, going down the same way. (At one point we almost went too far right of the corridor beside the cleaver, but Dick recognized the mistake and we corrected our course.) We were back in camp at 3:30.
Tuesday we left Boulder Basin at 7:30; we were at the hot springs around 10:00 and the roadhead at 1:45. There we found Dick's car had been broken into and quite a few items stolen from his trunk, the most expensive being a laptop computer. We reported the theft to the forest service in nearby Darrington. Fortunately he was well covered by insurance and the only car damage was to the door lock. The climb had gone so quickly we had plenty of time left on our trip and Dick, Mary Ann and I went on to visit the San Juan Islands.
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