One of my favorite snowy high camps yet.
Above: Route overlay of our summit route on Bacon Peak and our approach from east side. I took this aerial photo in March 2012, about 3 months before I climbed Bacon.
It was one of those rare Memorial Day weekends where the weather was actually looking fairly decent in the North Cascades, at least for the first half of the weekend. I definitely wanted to do an overnight adventure. Tom Sjolseth and I tossed around a few ideas, and quickly decided on Bacon Peak. Ever since flying over Bacon Peak with John Scurlock earlier that year in March 2012, I had pegged it as a place I wanted to camp.
With the standard approaches from Baker Lake Road still snowed in, Tom and I decided the quickest way to get to Bacon was from the Bacon Creek Road on the east side of the peak. This route would also give the possibility of climbing Electric and Logger Buttes on the way out, if snow conditions permitted. (As far as I know, the route we took on this trip does not see much human traffic. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a good route, especially for spring conditons.)
We were able to drive to about 1150 ft on spur road 1064 off of the Bacon Creek Road (1060), which leaves HWY 20 just 5 miles NE of Marblemount. Road 1064 pretty much continues off of 1060 after crossing Bacon Creek on a bridge. From there, we hiked the road a ways and then headed straight up. It was 'schwacky for about 500' and then the timber opened up. There was no sign of human travel. We hit a prominent timbered ridge at about 3200' and took this all the way to Bump 4800, which was above the treeline. From here we surveyed the route, and decided to head up a diagonal gully that would dump us right onto the "Diobsud Creek Glacier" on the SE side of Bacon Peak. Snow conditions were favorable, making for a quick ascent despite our heavy overnight packs.
As we traversed the Diobsud Creek Glacier towards the summit area of Bacon Peak, small storm systems danced across the peaks around us, yet we always seemed to be in what we termed the "Bacon Peak Rain Shadow". The stormclouds on the horizon made for dramatic lighting at times.
After establishing a camp at 6500' on a knoll about 500' below the summit of Bacon Peak, we bounded packless to the summit. Our loop trip to the summit and back (see map) allowed us to marvel at the great wind cirque near the summit of Bacon. Apparently this wind cirque was formed from the glacier time. From the car, the total travel time to the summit was just over 8 hours. Not bad for starting at 1150' and having overnight packs!
We enjoyed a beautiful evening, night, and morning at camp. The views were dominated by Shuksan, the Northern and Southern Pickets, Despair, Triumph, Teebone Ridge. I also spent awhile digging around in the rock outcrops near camp marveling at the fossils of palms in the Chuckanut sandstone deposits, a testament to the diverse geologic background of the area. All told, our camp on Bacon is one of my favorite snowy high camps to date.
On our second day, we struck a balance between enjoying morning light and coffee and getting started on the snow while it was still crusty. We quickly descended the Diobsud Creek Glacier, and then descended a 1200' SW-trending snow gully to access the west side of Electric Butte, where we regained all of the elevation we had just lost as we ascended to a saddle just north of the summit area. Getting to the summit would now require a traverse across the east side snow slopes and a final 500' mixed rock-snow 3rd-4th scramble to the summit of Electric.
But snow conditions on the east side was dramatically more mushy than the snow on the west side. It was only 9:30am and already we were sliding around in 35° slush. And there were cornices on the ridge above. This was not good. And it would only get worse as the day progressed. A quick decision was made to pull the plug on Electric and chop down our plans for Logger. Within 30 minutes, we had glissaded to safe terrain, still alive to tell the tale of what was already a successful and grand adventure to the summit of Bacon Peak. Of course, we still had to make it through some superb North Cascades bushwhacking....
A strange twist to this tale comes in the form of unique tracks that we saw on a frozen Green Lake. The tracks were straight and ran almost the entire length of the lake. Tom and I determined they must be man-made. Initially we thought they might be airplane tracks since the tracks don't appear to reach the shore, but upon further inspection they could be snowmobile or ski tracks and the part that connects to the shore is out of frame. The tracks don't quite resemble ski tracks I've seen in the past (although perhaps they could be wind forms on old ski tracks), leaving snowmobiles the most likely culprit. Snowmobiles are not only illegal in North Cascades National Park, but I suspect it would require some amount of onerous bushwhacking to get to the lake. Somewhat of a mystery. This was a phenomenal trip, the perfect mix of hard work (~9000' of cumulative gain/loss, most with full packs, and some of it quite brushy), great views, camp relaxation, route-finding, and partner. Tom and I figured a strong party with good snow conditions could climb Bacon via this route car-to-car in a day, but that it was more enjoyable to experience the awesome high camp. I hope everyone else had an equally good Memorial Day weekend adventure! See the map and photo descriptions on the right for more detail.
Roundtrip distance: 15.5 miles (according to my GPS) Start elev.: 1150 ft Bacon Peak: 7061 ft Elevation gain/loss: ~9000 ft (!) cumulative for entire tripDay 1 (May 25): TH to Camp: 7:30; Camp to summit: 0:41; On summit: 0:11; Summit to camp: 0:27; Total travel time: 8:38