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diepj

[TR] Glacier Peak - Disapointment Peak Cleaver 7/6/2012

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Trip: Glacier Peak - Disapointment Peak Cleaver

 

Date: 7/6/2012

 

Trip Report:

With a mid-week 4th of July holiday and the opportunity to take a couple days off work Kelly and I were eager to get out on a trip that could use a few extra days to pull off. Glacier Peak definitely seemed like a worthy objective. Last fall on a Clark Mountain trip I had gotten a taste of the White River trail and the high routes on the south side of the Dakobeds so to make things a bit more interesting we decided to approach via the White River and Lightning Creek.

 

We got to the trail head late on Tuesday night and after a car bivy and proper breakfast we headed out on the White River trail. The trail is in great shape as far as Boulder Pass trail and we made it that far in about an hour and a half. After Boulder Pass trail the White River trail is not maintained and is quickly overwhelmed with brush in the river bottom. There are a few small breaks from it in the trees, but more often than not the brush is shoulder high or above. The photo below is from one of the tamer areas. :tup:

 

Glacier_Peak_01.jpg

 

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In another hour and a half or so we reached Thunder Creek and scooched across on a slippery log. This was as far as I had been and I expected the trail between Thunder Creek and Lightning Creek to be more of the same. Happily it was not and the trail enters more wooded terrain. Downed logs and small streams obscure the trail occasionally however the trail is over all easy to follow to Lightning Creek.

 

Upon reaching Lightning Creek we used some beta I found in another CC posting from '08:

Here's what I learned about approaching via Lightning creek....

 

There IS a trail up Lightning creek! I only know how to get to it via a small schwack, and it's very faint and sometimes hard to follow down low, but the higher you get the easier it becomes. Someone actually had a saw back there because there's a steady trail of cut logs to confirm the trail. And a campsite at about 5000'. I hope I'm not spoiling someone's private getaway :-).

Here how I find it. The mouth of lighning creek fans out into many small streams once it exits the upper valley via a water fall. When we hit the first finger of lightning creek we headed up stream and crossed as soon as we found a good log. Then we made a beeline for the water fall. There are some massive amounts of downed timber that make relatively easy walking. As you near the waterfall (and the convergence of several streams) you'll see a prominent ridge to the west of the falls and about a hundred or so feet up. I'd call it a grass arete. That's where you can be sure to find the trail. We crossed to the west side of lightning creek when we could, and schwacked up steep forest (not too bad) until we hit the trail that traverses back to the arete that you can see from below. From there, hang onto the trail like a dog to his bone. Basically, you climb to the west of a creek that drains into Lightning creek until you can cross at (approx) 5500' From there it's super easy travel up to the Honeycomb glacier. Knowing the trail, it took Monika and I seven hours to get from car to camp at 6000' (4 hours trail, three hours up)

We didn't quite find the trail in the same way even though we tried. The info would still serve you very well. We headed on up and followed the trail until we hit snow in the woods at approximately 5000'. Continuing up we camped on snow at around 6200' in the lightning creek basin.

 

Glacier_Peak_03.jpg

 

Glacier_Peak_04.jpg

 

The next morning we continued up snow fields and briefly scrambled on rock where we easily found our way onto the White River Glacier. We contoured around to a broad gully leading across the Cascade Crest and onto the head of the Honeycomb Glacier. A short distance later we found our way onto the Suiattle Glacier and after a day and a half, our first glimpse of Glacier Peak. A long falling traverse brought us to an excellent camp site recently melted out at Glacier Gap. We set camp, scrambled the local peak and slept early to attempt the summit the next day.

 

Glacier_Peak_05.jpg

 

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Glacier_Peak_08.jpg

 

The next morning the snow surface had frozen up pretty nicely and we set out under a near-full moon just before sunrise. The route from glacier gap it quite obvious and we headed up Disappointment Peak Cleaver. With the firm snow we decided to try the cleaver all the way rather than a rising traverse on the Gerdine around Disappointment to the Cool Glacier. The cleaver went well, with the last 50 feet being the crux of the entire climb. A few low fifth moves yielded the ridge.

 

Now just below the Disappointment summit we took a few extra minutes to tag it before dropping through the saddle and onto Glacier's summit block. We summited easily and spent plenty of time relaxing and taking photos. It wasn't clear which of two gentle mounds was higher so we hit both before plunging down the now-softening snow. We descended the Cool and Gerdine Glaciers back to the cleaver and to camp at Glacier Gap where we camped again the 3rd night.

 

Glacier_Peak_09.jpg

 

Glacier_Peak_10.jpg

 

Glacier_Peak_11.jpg

 

The next morning we set out from Glacier Gap and decided to tag the high point between the Suiattle and the Honeycomb Glaciers. I think this may be considered a Kololo Peak and the elevation on my 15' USGS map is 7941'. After scrambling the high point we dropped off the backside and traversed straight back across the Honeycomb Glacier for the Lightning Creek basin. Crossing the crest we descended open snow fields to the tree line, then snowy woods and finally open brush and timber. Rather than follow the same trail out we bushwacked our own way all the way down. Early season conditions certainly helped as up higher much of the low vegetation was not yet leafed out. The crux of the schwack was crossing the west fork of lightning creek. We had to drop several hundred feet along side of it before finding a wadeable section.

 

Glacier_Peak_12.jpg

 

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Back on the White River Trail we headed back to a nice camping spot near Thunder Creek for our last night, leaving a few hours of nasty brush and then easy trail for the pack out. Interestingly the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible on the way out, necessitating a headnet and rain gear to keep at bay. What a difference a few days of warmth makes as they were negligible on the same section of trail 4 days earlier.

 

Approach Notes:

Recommend a 15' map for navigating in Lightning Creek. Bring Deet for the bugs and a good measure of patience for the brush. Rain pants would be a good idea of you want any hope of staying dry. Every time I have been through the brush is soaking wet...

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love that area. Glacier via the Cool glacier was my first real mountain climbing experience and has a very warm spot in my heart. Thanks for sharing.

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all alone w/ a fit, cute girl in a godforsaken wilderness for days of end - musta been puuuuuure hell! :grin:

 

ya'll are all set for the ptarmigan traverse, should you be wishing to take your true-thing a bit further north :rawk:

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