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Douglas Glacier

 
Douglas Glacier

Page Type: Route

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 48.53500°N / 120.95°W

Object Title: Douglas Glacier

Route Type: Mountaineering

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall

Time Required: A few days

Rock Difficulty: Class 3

Difficulty: Moderate Glacier Climb

Number of Pitches: 2

Grade: III

Route Quality: 
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Page By: Klenke

Created/Edited: Mar 1, 2008 / Mar 3, 2008

Object ID: 384796

Hits: 3914 

Page Score: 77.48%  - 8 Votes 

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Overview

Mount Logan is one of the remotest mountains in the Cascades, and yet it is closer to roads than many other peaks considered more remote. Logan’s remoteness in the North Cascades National Park means long approaches are required. A typical climbing trip to the summit requires three days. Although, certainly, the speedy among us could probably climb it in two days. But you’d be a suffering hero.

The standard route is the Fremont Glacier Route up the mountain’s west side. This route requires a full day just to reach camp. It used to be the shortest route. But now this may not be the case.

I believe the shortest route is probably now via the Douglas Glacier with a starting point at the Easy Pass Trailhead. Admittedly, I’ve only climbed Logan via the Douglas so can’t really compare it to any other routes. This route is now shortest (at least at the present time) because an avalanche came down and obliterated all of the brush that used to make the approach a nightmare. Sure, this brush will eventually grow back. But I don’t think it has yet (as of 2007).

What does the Douglas Glacier route entail? There will be a long hump up to a pass whereupon you’ll see your objective still far off in the distance, a descent down the trail into the valley on the other side, a re-ascent up a side valley draining the Douglas, a camp, a headwall navigation, a glacier push, and finally a mixed ground slog and scramble to the summit.

All in all, this is a rewarding route. You get to see your objective on the approach and you get to climb up a side of the mountain not many trod upon.

Here is Sergio’s trip report for our climb
Here is Jeff’s trip report for our climb

Trail Approach

At the Easy Pass Trailhead off of Hwy 20 about five miles northwest of Rainy Pass, park and shoulder that heavy pack. Take the good trail to the 6,540-ft pass (2,800 ft of gain over 3.6 miles). At the pass, admire your objective summit (if it’s not socked in).

Descend the trail into Fisher Creek. Be prepared for switchback hell. And to think you’ll have to do them on the uphill on the way out.

At approximately 4 miles from the pass (7.6 miles from the car) you will be opposite the tributary valley draining the Douglas Glacier. Your elevation will be about 3,900 ft.

Off-Trail Approach

Ford/cross the boisterous creek (probable log jams) so as to get on the east side of the tributary creek. Getting on the east side of the tributary creek shouldn’t be a problem considering how it turns left (west) to empty into Fisher Creek. You’ll probably want to stay on this side of the creek all the way to the upper basin. The first part of the valley is kind of flat with ferny underbrush. There are some bogs to avoid but all in all it’s not a difficult tread.

In about 1 mile from the trail the valley will mysteriously open up at about 4,000 ft. The darkness of heavy forest will give way to an open view of the lower basin and the Douglas Glacier beyond. The upper basin won’t quite be visible. This lower basin is where the avalanche obliterated all of the trees. When we were there in June 2006 there was still compacted avy snow underfoot. This avalanche was a blessing for us, but in subsequent years it may mean dense brush (alder, etc.) will take over instead of coniferous forest.

There is still a lot of brush down by the creek. On the left side (east side) sufficiently distant from the creek, at least initially, the regrowth will still be taking place. Hike through the regrowth, aiming for the headwall with rounded center that sort of looks like a WWII pillbox.

Work your way up and right past the pillbox. You can climb directly up to the pillbox then turn right just where it gets cliffy or stay lower down by the creek. I can’t honestly say which will be easier.

Once past/above the pillbox you will be at the upper basin (c. 4700 ft). In early season snow will occupy the almost-flat basin. In late season it might just be intermittently brushy.

Along the left (east) side of the basin there are a few camp locations. The open center of the basin might have some too but know that katabatic winds might make it uncomfortable out there.

Climbing up the Headwall

The best way up the upper basin headwall is probably up the west side directly toward Thunder Peak (through here). The steepness is at its least here and the green belay foliage at its greatest. It also happens to be in the general direction of Logan’s summit. It is also possible to climb up the southeast side of basin then make a long traverse westward to get to the glacier, but this would be so out of the way as to make it a waste of time.

Find the weakest line in the headwall. This is a little north of where the glacier hangs down. Climb up the headwall (Class 3 or Class 4 with mistakes). Once above the hardest part, begin a level traverse at 5800 ft directly left (south) to the toe of the glacier. It will be necessary to round a small rock buttress/tree band.

On the Glacier

Move up the glacier. Avoid crevasses. Slog up about 2200 vertical feet to the upper bowl of the glacier, turning right at about 8,000 ft. Climb up the narrowing glacier to the obvious notch (c. 8550 ft) at its northern head.

The crevasses on this glacier are respectable but they were not really a concern in terms of doing end-arounds. Furthermore, there were no schrunds or moats. The toe of the glacier (at least in early season) is a smooth transition from heather and rock to snow. Later in the summer the snow melts away to leave your standard slab slope up to where the glacier has receded to.

Note: It is also possible to reach the Douglas Glacier from North Fork Bridge Creek. Follow the NFBC Trail to its end in the upper basin. The map shows the trail ending at 4,200 ft. This is a long way from the car (over 15 miles). Continue up the basin to the 6850-ft saddle one mile southeast of the summit. The Douglas Glacier is on the other side of the saddle and is not difficult to step on to.

Final Scramble

From the notch at 8,550 ft, climb out of the probable snow swale by circling rightward around it or by climbing directly up its steep (40-50 degrees) embankment. Continue up either snow in early season or mixed talus is late season. Sneak through a chute to gain access to another open slope.

Eventually, you will reach the ridge crest or a point just below it. Do a Class 3 scramble rightward to gain the crest-proper a little ways south of the summit. The climbing through here is easy though a tad exposed. It is easily protected if belayed climbing is desired.

Run the ridge to the highest point. The exposure to the west side is slightly greater than to the east. The summit is an airy perch.

Times-Distances-Gain

Trailhead to Camp in Upper Basin: 6-7 hours, 10 miles, 2800 ft + 800 ft = 3600 ft [depends on brush]
Upper Basin to Summit: 5-7 hours, 2 miles, 4300 ft
Camp to Trailhead: 5-7 hours, 10 miles, 2600 ft

Descent

Return the way you came up, or if you have time traverse/climb over to Thunder Peak (difficult climbing) or traverse over to “Outpost Peak” (Pk 7910 a few miles southeast of Logan). Outpost Peak is a fine viewpoint at the head of North Fork Bridge Creek. Goode Mountain and the Logan’s Douglas Glacier feature prominently from this angle.

A minor rappel may be necessary to get off Logan’s summit or summit ridge. A rappel might also be necessary to descend the upper basin headwall, especially if you can’t find exactly where you came up.

Essential Gear

Map and compass
Bug spray
Standard glacier climbing equipment (a 50m rope will be sufficient)
Sunscreen (there is a lot of exposure on this climb once you get on the glacier)

Images