This mountain, Glacier Peak, is quite unique amongst its family of volcanoes in the North Cascades. I first became aware of Glacier Peak after my first time along the Ptarmigan Ridge trail. I saw this majesty of a mountain way off it the distance and quickly thought, ummmm... Huh? That couldn’t be Mt Rainier, too small and in the wrong direction. What could this gigantic mountain be I thought to myself? As soon as we got back to the car later that evening I whipped out my map and searched. It didn’t take long before I realized this was the Glacier Peak that I have heard so much about but have never seen. So I did what anybody else would do and started planning a climbing trip. We read everything that has ever been written on the routes and approaches. We decided that because of the 03' flood damage, would take the White Chuck glacier Route. Starting from the North Sauk trailhead, up to White Pass, traverse along side of White Mt and drop down into the tarns left by the White Chuck glacier. Camp here then do a summit attempt the next day and Hike out to the car on the third day.
The real Approach
It's one of those mountains that you can't see from anywhere, at least not any of the roads I had ever been on. So we set ourselves up for a good surprise. My friend Dan and I left the N. Sauk trailhead at 5:00pm on September 1st with hope of reaching the old Mackinaw Shelter, about 4 miles from the car. We made our destination in about an hour and a half and set up camp. The next morning we got up, ate, filled up on water from the nearby creek and started up the switchbacks. This day was a warm one and most of the next few miles was in direct sunlight causing us do drink a lot of water. In fact, at the shelter I loaded my hydration bag with 2 liters of water and ran out by the time we reached White Pass. NOTE: there are only 1 or 2 water sources between Mackinaw Shelter and White Pass. 3 miles and 3400 feet of elevation gain later, you intersect the PCT. We decided that going to White Pass and taking the climbers trail would suit us best so we continued straight to White Pass. After a mile on the climbers trail we stopped for a lunch break and took in the view of the North Cascades. We resumed our hike, which quickly became more of a scramble traversing the north east face of what I think was White Mt. Eventually we navigated our way down to the White Chuck basin where we would camp for the rest of our trip. Here there are picture perfect lakes (or tarns as some may know them as) where you can camp on nice grass or heather areas. There are 2 creeks providing some of the cleanest water I have ever had. One creek feeds into the lake and one drains it. Both are good for water. After that long day we were ready for sleep and food.
The next day we got up and started our summit day at about 6:00am, trying to get to a mountain we still haven’t had a glimpse of. We followed the route we noted on our maps but we were concerned because we couldn’t see the prize. Sometimes you need to just trust your navigation skills and have faith in yourself I guess. After a couple miles of navigating through boulder fields, muddy glacier till that will eat your feet and legs if you’re not careful and breathtaking views, we started gaining altitude and crested over Glacier Gap. From here you can see Glacier Peak much better. We walked down the side of a tiny glacier to link up with the base of Glacier Peak and Disappointment Peak. We saw a group of people scramble up and over Disappointment Peak and decided that they were a little more experienced than us and we should keep to our route. So we skirted around disappointment peak towards the north on the Gerdine glacier. We stayed clear of the wall for it was raining rocks down heavily. As we began crossing over the glacier heading north, the crevasses became larger and eventually stopped us. The one that did it was not a huge crevasse but to big to jump over, to deep to repel down and the tapered end of it would have taken us right up to the rock wall raining rocks down and the other end went way down the glacier. At this point it was getting to late to travel all the way back down to the top of glacier gap and work up the Gerdine glacier at a different angle, which ended up being the only other route besides up and over Disappointment Peak, that was safe that day. We enjoyed the view for awhile and started on our way back to camp. The decent was spectacular, partly because I still had a good amount of energy left and also because of the surrounding views. We made it back to camp in a few hours time.