Permits: Just forest pass at TH
Route Name: Gerdine/Cool glacier route
Snow Level: 6000 ft
Elevation Gain: 9500 ft
Total Miles: 32.00 mi
Gear: Glacier gear
From Trail Head to Camp: 9.0 hours
From Camp to Summit: 7.0 hours
From Summit to Camp: 4.0 hours
From Camp to Trail Head: 5.0 hours
Weather: Great on day 1 &2, but started pouring the korning of day 3
Jfro, Andrea, Conner, Don, Doug and Juliet finally had the stars align for a good weather window for Glacier Peak. After a long drive, weighing our packs, and wishing we had less to carry, we left the parking lot around 10:40am on Friday. The first 5 miles of trail are gentle and wind through a beautiful old growth forest near a river (although they feel a lot longer on the way out). The next three miles are switchbacks, gaining about 3,000 ft of elevation, followed by a long traverse to White pass. Snow was spotty over streambeds through the traverse but became consistent at White Pass. We weren’t planning to break any land speed records with our pace, but decided to make camp around 6200 ft in the valley before the tarns as we were all pretty spent from the approach. This was a good decision to stay out of the wind on the ridge lines, and we found access to water to pump rather than have to boil.
Overall we tracked the approach as 12 miles and 5200ft of elevation. This is not to be taken lightly, and definitely wears you out. If it’s warm, be prepared with extra electrolytes. Water sources are available along the route now, but may become slimmer as the snow melts.
The next morning we started around 5:30am for a summit bid. We travelled over the remnants of the white chuck glacier and up to Glacier Gap by about 8am. It was less cloudy than expected and the sun was beating down. We found crampons to be useful, not because of ice, but to help grip some of the slushy spots a bit better. Overall the snow pack was pretty consolidated with a lot of sun cupping that made the walk a little more challenging.
We roped up at about 9,000 ft after the traverse under Disappointment Peak on the Remnants of the Gerdine Glacier, and headed up the Cool Glacier along Gerdine Ridge. There were three noticeable cracks opening up on the standard route and I was glad to have a rope for those moments. The glacier travel portion was relatively short, and we made our way to the pumice ridge between Disappointment peak and Glacier Peak. At this point you can stash pickets, rope and any other glacier gear you want, as the rest of the route is just steep snow, but we were not sure about this and kept the ropes on us just in case. The final 700 ft is a steep snowy hill covered in slush.
We arrived at the summit around noon and it was beautiful. Andrea’s good weather mojo continued to hold strong for us. We could see Rainier and an array of many other mountains from the top. We snacked for a bit and took some summit photos before making our way back down the same route, returning to camp about 4:30pm and falling directly onto our foam pads after another long day. I spent the last mile or two getting excited to put on my down booties, and they did not disappoint! While scarfing down as much food as we could manage, Jfro decided that Peak Refuels Beef Marinara meal is one of his new favorites. We made a plan to leave early the next morning to try and get through most of the descent before the heat of the day.
Throughout the night I woke up once or twice to the sound of rain drops, and when my alarm went off I looked outside to see…. Nothing. The clouds had filled in and we were inside a ping pong ball. Doug and Don had a less pleasant evening, waking up to a puddle in a bivvy. We packed up as quickly as possible and tried to warm up with hot coffee as the rain continued to soak everything around us. We followed the boot pack as much as possible, with at least one point where some Gaia maps and gps navigation helped us find our way.
At White pass the fog lifted and visibility became better. We stopped to talk to another group we had seen near the summit yesterday. The group of three had travelled most of summit day with another group of three. On the way back, the second group slowed down and fell behind. The guys we talked to got back to their tents around 11pm on summit day, and woke up to find that the girls team were not at their tent. They were planning to alert authorities in case something happened.
The hike out goes a bit faster than the way in, but after more than 21 miles and 15k elevation change, our bodies were starting to feel it. Those last five miles went on a lot longer than the first day, and I relied on Doug’s “would you rather” questions to keep me occupied.
We got back to the car around 2pm and celebrated our safe return with a change of clothes and car snacks.