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[TR] Glacier Peak - Frostbite Ridge 8/2/2015

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Trip: Glacier Peak - Frostbite Ridge


Date: 8/2/2015


Trip Report:



I was looking at the north side of Glacier Peak for 3 days while climbing Dome Peak two weeks ago and wondering whether the recently (Nov 2014) reopened Suiattle River road would allow access to this side of the mountain. From what we heard the Milk Creek trail used in the past is in bad shape. The other option is to use the Suiattle trail and PCT which used to be significantly longer. Fortunately the location of the new bridge (opened 2011) over Suiattle river and the newly built section of PCT leading to it cuts the approach to reasonable 16 miles to camp. Starting at the end of the road at 1800ft it is roughly 7 miles to the bridge on Suiattle trail which is currently in great shape and then about 9 miles on PCT heading south. There were some blowdowns and mildly bushy section but overall easy hiking. We stayed at a camp on PCT at 5600ft in the East Fork Milk Creek basin. The plan for next day was to climb up the basin to a wide saddle at about 6500ft on climber’s left side of the basin, traverse onto the Vista glacier on the other side, climb the glacier to Vista-Kennedy saddle and follow the Frostbite Ridge route from there.




We left camp at 4am on Sunday. There is a rock band preventing taking direct line to the saddle. We went in the middle where the rock is eroded (class 3). It would go on either side. The saddle is wide and flat and could be used as a higher camp with great views but currently there is no water. The other side is mostly heather before it opens up but thanks to local fauna (marmots and goats) there are fairly decent steps. We followed the ridge for a bit from the saddle before starting the traverse and stayed around 6500ft close to the cliffs above until the end of the heather slope (1000-1500ft). There the terrain opens and flattens and become talus. Possible bivy sites with water access here. We did a slightly descending traverse across the talus and got on the icy head of the Vista glacier around 6200ft.




The Vista glacier is quite broken up in the middle around 7000ft but it was not a problem to zig-zag our way through it. On the way up we went up the climber’s left side – more cracks but no rock fall hazard (red line). On the way down we went climber’s right (yellow line) which has rock fall but seemed a bit quicker to get through. The glacier flattens above this section and becomes less broken up. We made it to the Vista-Kennedy saddle in about 3.5 hours from camp.




From the saddle the Frostbite Ridge route follows Kennedy glacier to where it meets Ermine Glacier at the start of the Frostbite ridge. The recommended left side was melted out or icy so we selected to follow the ridge crest on very soft sand. Just before the ridge steepens there was one very narrow section about 10ft long which was disintegrating below our feel. This was the sketchiest part of the whole climb. I believe we could have bypassed this by traversing below it on steep soft sandy slope on the Dusty glacier side. As much as the soft sand sucked going up it was very quick and fun going down minus the sketchy section.



Upper Frostbite ridge




The route keeps following the ridge through a feature called rabbit’s ear. The first feature we ran into we named the rabbit’s dick. It was ice on the left so we chose the right side with easy snow patch. This took us a bit off route but we found easy ledge behind to get back on the route above the icy section and just below the ears.




There is a nice rest spot where we found water. From there it is class 3 between the ears which we did on the way back or class 3 to the right of the right ear and easy ledge behind to the short down climb which is also easy class 3.




From the small saddle the upper section of the route comes into view.




It start with short steep snow climb to the north section of the crater. The snow here was great for self-belay so we didn’t feel need to rope up and place protection. We followed the top of the rim to where it was easy to climb down to the crater.




There was a lot of running clean water and established bivy spot at the W edge of the crater. The S side of the crater rim was hard ice in two steps. We solo climbed a bit up the first step before started to belay. Our 60m rope would have been long enough to belay from the bottom.




The second step is longer (2 pitches) but is less steep and we decided to simul-climb to the top which is a short walk to the summit where we arrived at noon.




To descend we did 3 30m rappels off of v-thread anchors with some down-climbing back to the crater and down-climbed the rest of the route arriving to the camp about 6 hours after leaving the summit. We hiked out the next day in speedy fashion covering the 16 miles in 4 hours of moving with one long break (some jogging was used).



Looking back at Dome


Gear Notes:

60m rope, 4 screws, 2 pickets, steel crampons. We didn't use the pickets but we did not regret bringing them


Approach Notes:

16 miles on good trail

  • Like 1

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nice TR, and strong effort! talking to you at the parking lot, gotta say i didn't envy your feet--but sounds like you crushed the trail jogging.


those final two shields of ice look like some cool climbin'



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Chad, the first step was steepest at the top. Hard to guess the angle - maybe 70 for about 20ft. It felt like WI2+. It required front-pointing but the ice was quite featured. The second step was mellower and I was able to keep my feet flat most of the way.

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Great photos, but kind of stunning to me. I did that route in the mid-90s and it was >95% on snow. Now withering glaciers and crumbly volcanic junk. The climbing looks plenty interesting but the aesthetics are taking a beating.

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The pictures are hosted on imgbox.com and should be visible to everybody. The problem might be on your end. If there is a better place to host the pictures I can move them.

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Must be my work - I just checked on my phone and I can see them on there. Thanks for the TR!

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