The TripAlarm clock goes off at 4:45… Here it goes again… Take a quick shower and go upstairs to eat some blueberry waffles. Grab my pack and lunch and head out to my dads pathfinder since my car engine melted the week before coming home from Mt. Adams. Shit, its warm outside!
Get to Cody’s house and knock on the door. “Oh shit,” is the first thing I heard really quietly. I woke him up. He heads to the shower and makes a cup of coffee as we chat about different rock routes we have done. Grabs his 40+ lb. pack WITH ice screws and we head out to the car. I’m feeling good about myself now. Shit, his pack is 40 lbs and mine is barely pushing 30! We drive over to pick Gerard up, and what the hell! His pack is tiny! He was pushing 20lbs or so. Damn. I need to learn how to do that!
We hop in Cody’s tiny truck and head to the Safeway. They nearly buy out the whole deli and I just hang out eating my PCC granola shit while reading maps and route descriptions from Becky and Smoots. Head towards the freeway and were off.
Damn, the Cascades are beautiful. Glacier Peak is nowhere to be found. We head towards Darrington, stop to get some gas and last minute things. Gerard eats 2 bananas and downs 1L of Gatorade… Smart… Views of Sloan dominate the drive… Wow! I want to climb that!!! Were at the parking lot at 9AM. BS around and start getting ready. Gerard has the brilliant idea of hiking in, in our tennies. Boy was that brilliant! If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know if I could have made the out without having hamburger feet. Lesson #1: Take care of your feet!!!
Going into this climb, I was mentally prepared for the long approach, so the approach to the intersection of the PCT was as long as expected. We took a break 2 hours in and had some grub. Gerard started leading after the break and Cody was dropped instantly. I kept up, barely. We waited up for Cody. He approached hunched over saying that the pace was a bit aggressive. I agreed with him. Damn Gerard is an animal! Hiked the whole PCT averaging 20-30mi. days! Cody wanted to stash some gear half way up the switch backs. It was hot, we were wearing shorts and no shirt, and it was still baking! Gerard persuaded Cody that most of the gain for the day had already been done, but that was a lie at best (though none of us knew so at the time). We hiked for another 45minutes until we intersected the PCT. We ate loads of huckleberries and blueberries. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky! Sloan was rising up over everything, and the Monte Cristo Range started to poke up from the south. We decided to take the longer route up and over Red Pass to gain the glacier. The party a few minutes behind us opted for White Pass. White Pass is a bit steeper, but much more direct. If I would have known, I would have gone up White Pass.
The traverse to Red Pass was mostly level but it was HOT!!! We took another food break in 30minutes. I didn’t like all these breaks. I wanted to get into the basin and set up camp ASAP… I think it’s easier to hike/climb fast since you’re not on your feet as long. Cody downed my chips and had some Zip-Fizz… 14,000% Vit. B3, taurine and other amino acids in 5 calories… Man, I’m glad I wasn’t taking that! He was buzzing all night… We gained Red Pass and wa-la! There was our first peek at the mountain. Shit! Were like 12 miles in and that mountain still looks way the hell out there! We stop and look at the map, trying to route find. We decide to hike the PCT a little further to find a more level approach to the basin. We trot on down, and we find no climbers trail. So, we navigate through the meadow, navigating through heather and blueberry fields. We stop at the creek to fill up. We filled up completely thinking that there wouldn’t be any water up there, but there was a shit load all the way up to White Chuck. Great, I love carrying lots of water…
We gained a climbers trail and reached a small basin full of small little creeks that were super silty. Here, we had to make a decision to either go up the creek bed or head south around the ridge. Becky said head south, and so we did. Lots of boulder hopping for 30min. or so until we gained a level spot with beautiful white granite. Wow, that rock was so clean! Hiked up on towards the basin and passed one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. So remote. There was a geologist camping out there searching for ancient wood being spewed from the poor White Chuck Glacier. The scene was that of complete beauty. It was around 6PM, the sun was getting lower and reflecting in the lake, ponds and small streams. There were random boulders in the meadow and the greenest of green moss and plants surrounded the area. The one tent of the geologist looked like it deserved to be on a magazine cover. Wow! It was another 90minutes to Glacier Gap, where we wanted to camp. So we headed on up.
I was getting hungry, Cody was tired and Gerard was about ready to call it a day. We hiked for another 30 minutes or so to a small tarn and set up camp. Elv. 6500’. No one was there. We had it all to ourselves. We camped at a precarious spot under a hill that looked prone to rock slide. We were all tired and it looked like a rock fall wasn’t that likely. Man, I was nearly out of food at this point. I made both packs of noodles and saved ½ of one for the return trip on summit day. By the end of dinner, I had 1 pack of granola, half a bag of chips, a handful of dried mangoes, one pack of clif shots and ½ a dinner. Could 900 calories last me the entire next day? We went up on the ridge to figure out the route up to Glacier Gap, and realized that the White Chuck Glacier’s North lobe has melted. Any skeptics to global warming deserve a visit to this area.
Alarm clock went off at 5:45AM. Had that blueberry granola stuff. Wasn’t that good. We were off at 6:30. Some boulder hopping until the base of the south lobe of the glacier. Shit! It was pure ice, so we got off on the tongue. Quicksand! We were punching in 6-9 inches in this goopy, silty, cement like gunk. Me and Gerard got through it and onto some boulders. Cody didn’t know about it and plunged right on in to his calves! GODDAMN!!! We thought that was it, but we had about 300 more feet of this shit. We tried to stay on the big rocks, but you had to go in sometimes. Of course no one had gaiters (trying to go light and quick). I took the hugest plunge to about 5 inches from my knee. That gunk got down my shoe, in my sock. Cement like gunk! My pole almost got engulfed! That was fun! Where was the camera when we needed it?
Navigated some gullies, crossed a small glacier and gained the main gully to glacier gap. We took a 10 minute break to clean off our shoes and socks, met up with another team behind us, then took off. Man, I felt super strong hopping up these big chossy boulders. We were making good time and once we gained the saddle, the sun broke threw and views of the Suiattle made the whole trip worth while. Such beauty. High alpine glaciers. Mmmm! Glacier Peak came into view again! We were making really good time. We could see 75% of our line to the summit now, and it looked pretty easy. We trotted up the ridge and took another break just before it hopped on the glacier. At this point, my food status was down to a handful of mangoes and the ½ dinner I had at camp. Gerard and I were setting a pretty wicked tempo which made me feel guilty because we kept dropping Cody. This made Cody think he’s out of shape while the truth is, Gerard and I were going wicked fast. I gave Cody my pole and he rocked the ice ax/pole combo. Even though we packed a harness and rope into base camp, we left them there after talking to a few other people. Gerard and Cody shared another Spizz Fizz or something that had loads of taurine and B3.
We hopped onto the glacier, gained about 500 more feet and decided to traverse right to the Cool Glacier. We decided it would be more fun to negotiate the seracs than to scramble up chossy steep volcanic rock. Cody was struggling to keep up and said that he wouldn’t be able to make the summit. We all agreed that if anyone felt shitty, we would say, “Have a cup of shut the **** up! Don’t make me bust out my Russian gymnast coach voice on you!” Cody was fine. We just had to slow down a tad. Our pace was blistering!
To get to the seracs, we had to traverse under steep cliffs that were letting off rock constantly. We saw a couple of stray rocks launch off the cliffs and into the rubble underneath it. Better travel fast! I was thinking about just running a straight shot through the rock fall and onto the seracs as quickly as possible, but the rockfall was coupled with huge gaping crevasses. The three of us started to take different lines across it, which was unwise. Gerard was leading out about 30 feet infront when I hear, ‘ROCK!!!’ Rocks the size of tennis balls to basketballs were launching off the cliffs and landing about 50 feet from us. I ran away from them, and watched in awe how they just shot off of the cliffs above! The rock fall lasted a couple of minutes, and we agreed the best way was to just red line it and run across.
We made it across safely, took a quick 5 minute break and donned the crampons for the serac field. Gerard led out to find a route across the seracs by traversing to the east, but to no avail. I bailed that route and found an intricate path across the seracs that involved stemming and straddling a 3 foot-wide crevasse. Pretty exciting. Followed by a small 5 foot pitch of ice climbing, it was pretty obvious to solid ground. Just don’t slip! Now, the summit was right infront of us. We could hear rock fall from the SE face, but we were out of danger. I guess we should have been roped up for the seracs, but we were all pretty sure of the footing. Nevertheless, some may think that is careless. We hopped onto the cool glacier, and climbed west back to the ridge. We had to hop several crevasses. One had a sketchy bridge that we bolted across. We gained the ridge and scuttled up to the cliffs under the summit. I led up the ridge.
Man, I started feeling stronger and stronger. Of course, Gerard kept up, but we agreed that the pace was fast, and that if we went any faster, we would burn out. The wind picked up a bit, and I started getting cold. Cody was no where in sight. I saw the top of his helmet coming up, assuring me that he was alright, and I bolted a couple hundred feet to huge boulders that would protect from the wind. We were about 300’ from the summit. We waited up for Cody, who had only a clif bar left. He downed the clif bar, and after 5 minutes we made the bolt to the summit.
There were patches of steep snow and loose, loose rock. We had to be weary of rock fall, but it was a short section. I saw the last slope to the summit, and once it was gained, I ran all the way to the top! Ahhhh… Finally! I could see Baker, Eldorado, Sahale, smoke from Stehekin fires, Pilchuck, Shuksan and countless other peaks. I was trotting around like I had infinite energy! We put our packs down and I waited on the crest for Cody as Gerard scrambled to the true summit. I got the greatest pic of Cody making the last steps. 100% exhaustion! That’s great! We mosied on up to the summit and kicked back. I signed the register and took a group photo. We could see the party of 6 about 45 minutes below us on the ridge. They were the only party we saw all day, but they had an extra day to camp, while we were planning on going all the way out today.
It was pretty windy, so we went down about 20 feet to find some wind protection and eat a bit. I was out of food. I had only ½ a dinner left, back at camp. Cody was out as well. Gerard came to the rescue. He split is sandwich with Cody and was about to give me some. It was so damn tempting to end my nearly 3 years of vegetarianism right there to down some nice fatty calories, but I resisted. Ill live, I thought. Damn, the sandwich smelled so good.
Gerard pulled out some tuna, and shared it with me. Man o’ Man, was that the best tuna ever. I could have easily eaten it all, but I resisted. It was Gerard’s food after all. After the meal, the only food left was my half ass meal and 2 dehydrated meals Cody had at camp.
I was hungry!!! We started the descent. The team of 6 was now right below us and we had to be careful not to cause rock fall on them. After the steep choss, we gained the softer gravel and nearly broke into a run. Gerard was making some ridiculous time down and I was right behind him trying to keep up. We descended 1000’ or so in 15 minutes. Hopped back onto the glacier and negotiated our way through the crevasses to the serac field. I had to do a photo op here. We crossed the serac field, took off our crampons and approached the rock fall area. There was a 1 foot wide snow bridge spanning a gaper that looked pretty sketchy. Cody took it first, then Gerard. I heard a crack, and decided to go around it, into the rock fall area. I had to negotiate more huge gapers with chossy boulders. I ran as fast as one could over boulders and ice to get out of the danger. DAMN!. We were separated on a crevasse/boulder field AGAIN! Shit! All that running made me even more hungry. I met up with Gerard a bit lower and we re-grouped. Most of the dangers were over. Boot skiing dominated the way down the glacier. Cody decided to ass-glissade. LOL, he went right over a crevasse on his ass! The descent to Glacier Gap was un eventful. Just the occasional run down the slope. After gaining the gap, we headed back down the gully and Gerard put an INSANE temp down! This time, I couldn’t keep up, unless I wanted to break my ankles off. The only thing I could think about was my insane hunger. I just needed food… Anything… I started thinking about smoothies… Mmmmm… Mango, Strawberry and vanilla ice cream… 1,2,3,4…5,6,7,8… I started counting each step to take my mind off the hunger. Isnt that what its all about? One step at a time. If you can continue to do that, you will make it… Once at the bottom of the gully, we decided to head a bit west (farther) from the glacier so we didn’t have to deal with the quicksand.
Boulder field after boulder field, stream after stream. Gerard and Cody were out of water and they drank from the stream… Risky! The death march back to camp. Shit! I shouldn’t call it a death march, we still have a 15mile out left today once we reach camp!!! Got to camp, and the first thing Gerard and Cody did was filter some water. I took off my shoes to dry out my socks that got mauled from the quicksand, and downed my half-ass dinner. That’s all I could think about on the descent… Food, food, food… Now, here I was eating the food, and it was gross… Man, cmon Nod! Eat it you picky bastard!!! You wont get ANY food until we reach Darrington to bombard the convenient store… Still, it tasted gross. I tossed the stuff I couldn’t eat. We were officially out of food.
We were ready to go in 45 minutes. I was still wearing my boots, fearing that I might sprain my ankle on the boulder fields.
The trek to the car started at 430PM. Hmm… I predicted that we would be home safely in the car by 845. Gerard was still pushing a gnarly pace, and I knew I had to hold back and not burn myself out. We hiked through the basin, where the geologist was camped over heather and beautiful white granite. White pass loomed overhead and we just did a bypass down the stream gully and into the silty basin. We found trail! Hooked up with the climbers trail and boogied on out. We lost the trail and had to meadow stomp to regain the PCT. This last bit of off trail did a number on me. It was through some steep heather that we regained the PCT. Once we gained it I though, shit yea, this is the last stretch. Only 10 or so miles left! The only uphill was the jaunt up to Red Pass… Roughly 600’ or so above us. I put on my tennies and Cody led out. He was setting a descent pace. My stomach started to hurt at this point. I started to freak out. I was getting tired easily and out of breath. Shit! This better not last, or even get worse! I put it out of my head and drank some more water. The pain did die down in about 45 minutes and Gerard started to take lead. He was putting out a quick pace still and Cody got dropped again. Me and Gerard slowed to keep him in sight, but he wasn’t with the ‘pack’ so to speak. In about 15 minutes he called out to us to wait for him, saying that it was easier to hike with us. It’s the whole moral support thing. Once you get dropped, its so demoralizing. You get slower and slower. Once he joined the pack, he sped up and everyone was happier…
Almost there… Red pass was right above us… 1,2,3,4… 15,16,17,18… Bam! No more elevation gain! Cody led out with Gerard second and me in the back. I wanted to savor the last 9 miles or so. So I stayed back a ways to take pictures and be with myself. The sun was starting to set and the colors above Sloan were unbelievable. No film or camera can capture it.
We came to the blueberry field and I engorged. Cody and Gerard were out of water again, and that was all they were thinking about. I on the other hand had plenty of water, but was starving my ass off! I just kept on eating the berries while they filled up on water. It was around 730… SHIT! We won’t be at the cars till 10 or so! We donned the headlamps…
Within a few minutes, the headlamps were on, and I was in the back inhaling all the dust they were kicking up. We were at the top of the switchbacks and Cody stopped to remove some layers. It was surprisingly hot for what time it was. While Cody was donning is pack, he stalled saying that he wasn’t feeling to good… What the hell do you mean, not feeling too good?! I thought… He puked and puked and puked… SHIT! Is that blood?! No, blueberries and water… Damn! Thank God! Watching him puke made my stomach turn and I felt like I was getting sick… The power of the mind. We rested for a bit so Cody could get his bearings. Gerard gave him some antacid. What DOESN’T Gerard have?! He had more food than us, carried then tent and stove and still had the lightest AND smallest pack! Ahhh… Good times!
We started hiking down… We took various breaks just to slow down and help Cody get back into form from whatever he was suffering from… Poor guy! What a trooper though! If that was me, I wouldn’t know if I could have made it! I’m such a weenie when it comes to stomach issues!
The talk on the way down was about food, rest, zip fizz and girls… The necessities of life! We were clipping along as it was 945PM… We were going to be at the cars in less than 2 hours now! Shit! Im tired… Need rest… Don’t stop, you wont get back up! Need rest… Need a smoothie… And a Snickers bar… Don’t stop… You can do it… Count your steps… Look for signs that we are getting closer… YES! The camp ground! Only 2 more miles left… The pace quickened… Cody started to break into a run! Shit Cody! You should have puked earlier! You’re hiking like you’re possessed! I looked at my altimeter… Only 300 vertical feet left! The pace is now that of Olympic Speed walking! Almost there… There’s more horse shit, we must be so close! YES! Skunk Cabbage and a wide trail! A few more feet! BAM! The trailhead sign came up and I saw a red reflection from a taillight! Wahoo!!! Hugs left and right… We made it… It was a few minutes past midnight…
Threw all my shit in the truck and was getting in the drivers seat to alleviate Cody of driving the long haul. He insisted that he can drive and I soon saw why. He got behind the wheel, put on some INTENSE music and hauled ASS out! Going 40 on a one lane gravel road listening to something that sounded very familiar… It was hardcore! Drums, a quick beat, electric guitar… What the hell was it? It was the theme song to Predator II… He was playing it cuz that what he felt like in the woods! HAHA!!! That’s good stuff… Man, I layed down in the back seat, feeling the bumps in the road, the car flying through the trees, seeing the trees pass by with this crazy music… It was nuts… Going in and out of consiousness after a climb like this… It was a very special moment…
Almost in Darrington… We stopped at the shell station to get some food at the convenient store… It was closed but the lady hanging out in front opened it up… We rocked it! Bought like 15 dollars of junk food while laughing our asses off looking tired as shit with our bloodshot eyes… Hmmm… Wonder what they thought of us! Thank God she opened it up! I went to town on my muffin, corn nuts, snickers bar, Gatorade and lifesavers… That was the best junk food I have ever had! Wahoo!!!
I jumped behind the wheel and drove to Gerard’s house… Adios! Cody drove around for taco bell and they were all closed… Cold Cereal and a hot shower it was! Got in my car and was in bed by 345AM…
Thank you Glacier Peak for not killing us…