Trip ReportLost and Found in the Land that Time Remembered: The Transformation of Glacier Peak
May 10 – 13, 2014
Cloud and Snowscape by Josh K
The Cascadian volcanoes rise sunward in a drunkard's longitude like carbuncles on Vulcan’s great arse as it chafes against the Pacific Plates grinding carpet. Of its score of great summits, the naming of only one escaped man’s self congratulation – the most pristine and remote of them all: Glacier Peak.
Providence has seen fit to cloister this ice age Princess. Once a pilgrim’s trade route, her crown now lay 16 miles from the nearest carriage, thanks to the milky Suiattle, which saw fit to send the northern access road to the sea during one torrential October day just over a decade ago.
Cloistered does not mean immune the change, however, as we shall soon see.
Our tiny expedition would court the Princess from the south. Once again, the aerobically idiosyncratic Josh K would pack his panoply of technological wizardry for another venture into the heart of it. This time, however, Mr. K’s friend Andreas would rendezvous with us on our final night – to attempt the peak solo the following morning, and return home with us afterwards.
Mr. K came armed with his own Galaxy, which, true to its name, seemed to contain all that there is. From topographical charts to Telephone Tel Aviv, we would have it all, and two extra batteries, a Kinivo, and an ample supply of Washington’s Finest ensured that we would have it all the time, all around, and Allahu akbar. It seemed that our week might, indeed, beat your year. It was all so fresh.
We piloted our Pleiadian ship through the treacherous heart of Methopotamia, a mossy land rife with carriage pyrates and Jo Jo potatoes of questionable vintage. From road’s end – festooned as it is with the King’s Warnings – for thievery, for improper berthing one’s transport, for the proper disposition of stock - we thanked Mother Nature for suddenly sparing us her near constant tears and forayed into the dusk, bound for the Mackinaw Shelter, a league and a half distant.
Soon the damp gray faded into black like an old fishmonger’s solitary death, and with it, the longings of a love sick grouse. I fell into a walking trance until the haunting howl of a barred owl burst, mistaken at first for my partner’s rebel whoop, shattered it. Eventually, the day’s energy flagged, and with it, the salubrious effects of our Indican salve. Night had set its drag.
Finally, the Shelter, a term generously applied: mud floored, mice infested, and in a near state of collapse. We thought to set it alight and rid the forest of this visual blight, but the damp and slumber conspired to preserve it.
During our ascent to White Pass the following day we encountered two fellows retreating in the face of frequent bombardment from avalanches. Gaining White Pass did prove a delicate affair – commencing with a mile long traverse across continuous avalanche swaths (on a safe slope angle, but Death From Above required a rodent's watchful eye) that extended from ridge top to valley floor. At the far end of this Valley of Death one lone ridge remained un-ravaged - this would provide a narrow corridor over this threatening barrier to the gentler land beyond.
After a couple of hours of being serenaded by the muffled roar of distant avalanches, we gained the sublime, undulating snow-sea of the Whitechuck.
What had once been a living glacier of over a mile in extant during my last foray a score years prior was now a masquerade – only winter’s thin veil of snow enshrouded the bare skeleton of dusty rock beneath. Fourteen years of our modern clime was all it took to render this once mighty lobe from ancient ice to a pea green lake. Only the highest of its three original lobes remains, and it, too, will be gone by mid century.
Gaining the Whitechuck by Josh K
Tvash approaches Glacier Peak by Josh K
I recalled, one early July a quarter century ago, bivouacking on a wonderful granite pedestal, big enough for 3, that found its resting place in the middle of the Whitechuck Glacier (when it still was one). This island in the snow appeared nowhere, however, so so we continued on to Glacier Gap on the Princess’s southern, windy shoulder.
Sunset from Glacier Gap by Josh K
After a chilly night, made chillier by a traitorous sleeping bag zipper, I awoke early and rousted my comatose companion. By 6:30 our longshoes were gliding over diamond dust sastrugi, ski crampons cowbelling, towards the Cool Glacier.
The Princess rose before us, her silken gown spreading towards the horizon in a frozen whirl, her peak adorned with feathers of rime, beckoning. After a leisurely ascent interrupted only by morning tea, we found ourselves at 10:30 drinking in a phantasmagoria of jagged chaos beneath us under brilliant sun.
Near the Summit by Josh K
JoshK on the Summit by Tvash
The still-firm neve made for a rapid descent. The wind picked up and we opted to retreat to a friendlier rendezvous below to wait for our third. Josh took a detour into the basin below to retrieve a wayward pad, I cutting a gentle downward glide path.
Soon after regaining our original track we passed a tongue of granite with a suspiciously flat pate. Could this be the fabled pedestal? Two idle shovels and an untouched pinch of Chronic Inspiration stood in the way of knowing. We began to excavate. And excavate.
Eureka! It was the oasis, or Broasis, if you will, of my youth. The sun quickly dried our newly exposed sanctuary, and I took a knee to thank Vulcan and the God of Gravity for such a rare gift – and to properly cup my lighter.
The Sweater by Josh K
Andreas appeared on the horizon like a grey ship with Kermit green sails. His chiseled, swarthy countenance could just as well have been at home under conquistador’s helmet as his baseball cap. He threw his burden down, removed his boots, and laid claim to his portion of the Broasis.
Tuggy Toy at the Broasis by Tvash
Sunset from the Broasis by Josh K
A spectral sundog chaperoned the setting sun, its rays now mirroring off basin’s concavity to warm our perch. Magic. The heartaches and headaches of the world below, faded as a forgotten dream, and all was right with the world.
The following morning Andreas set off for the peak, just as a nascent lenticular alighted upon it. We watched as he, reduced to a tiny but perceptively moving speck, made his upward progress. With serendipity’s impeccable timing, the lenticular attained its maximum extant as he disappeared into its underbelly, bound for a very brief moment of featureless white glory.
Andreas Returns by Tvash
Sh#t Eater by Josh K
By noon, the three of us were on our return voyage. The avalanche conditions had only worsened in the heat. We cut slope after slope on the descent – sloughing destruction on the world below, then bounced across an enormous, final avalanche fan to gain the safety of the forest, not five minutes before a slushy Niagara suddenly thundered over the cliff above it.
PostHolio by Tvash
JoshK doin the Blowdown by Tvash
Recent Trip Reports