Three regular climbing friends, Nick, Vlado, myself (Norman) have talked about this mountain route for years. I first saw Icy Peak about 6 years ago from Ruth Mountain. We decided on the Nooksack Cirque route after Nick and Vlado tried a one day trip late last November, but came up short. The Becky guide describes this side of Icy Peak as the West Route. You can do the entire climb, this time of the year without walking on any snow or glacier. The NW peak is what Becky calls the highest and it did have the register on top. Only 5 other parties had signed the summit register this year and none from the route we chose. It was great to be into the mountains where some level of remoteness still exists. The Nooksack Cirque trail/route is less traveled than any place I have been. I highly recommend this route for its unique beauty and isolation without being a technical climb far from home. It is, none the less, a significant challenge, especially making the entire car to summit to car in one day. It is the longest mileage in one day for me... approximately 21 miles. The "Pacific Northwest Hiking" guide lists the Nooksack Cirque Trail at 9 miles one way. Then you must find a route up the "west" arm. Total elevation gain from traihead is almost 5,000 feet. Remember too, that the maintained trail is fairly level in the trees, but once it enters the North Fork of the Nooksack River, it becomes, mostly, a rocky river bed hike. Occasionally we picked up the trail again in the woods on the north side of the river, but due to wash outs and no maintenance this far up the river, you must figure out your own way, often going from one side of the river to the other. It's not a major river up here, but it is more than just a shallow stream, even this late. I can only imagine this river during the Spring and/or heavy rains. I "think" this route would be next to impossible during melt out. If you have any input on this, please feel free to add to this where appropriate. I would also recommend making it a two day and enjoy the solitude anywhere you would choose to bivy up the river. We also found abundant water running to about 6,000 feet. From this valley and from the summit you are looking at the north and somewhat east side of Shuksan, starring right up, then accross to the Nooksack Glacier, not often seen, and never any closer without being on Shuksan or its east ridge. We heard and saw numerous masses of ice and rock cascade down from the Nooksack Glacier. We left our car at daylight, about 6:30am, summit at 4:00pm and back to the valley just before dark. We walked most of the way out with headlamps. Be very careful to mark the river bed to find your way back into the woods where the maintained trail is. Let me know if you ever duplicate this trip.
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