Trip Report
Lost and Found in the Land that Time Remembered: The Transformation of Glacier Peak
Thursday May 22, 2014 10:11pm
Cloud and Snowscape
Cloud and Snowscape
Credit: Tvash

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

  Trip Report Views: 2,750
About the Author
Tvash is a climber from Seattle.

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mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  May 22, 2014 - 11:58pm PT
Awesome Looks like some great ski mountaineering.

Trad climber
  May 23, 2014 - 12:01am PT

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  May 23, 2014 - 12:14am PT
top notch! awesome pictures and good writing paint quite the picture here, cheers!

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 23, 2014 - 12:27am PT
Nice writeup and pics! It is the only major Cascade peak I haven't climbed. I couldn't get past Kennedy Hot Springs.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  May 23, 2014 - 12:28am PT
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.

I don't remember enjoying writing on this forum quite this much, Tvash. Great job -- and thank you for sharing the pictures, words, adventure and fun.


Mountain climber
Clackamas, Oregon
  May 23, 2014 - 01:31am PT
I couldn't get past Kennedy Hot Springs.
Was that before or after the hot springs were destroyed?

Tvash. Did you start from the standard TH, or was the road not open that far?

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 23, 2014 - 01:45am PT
Kennedy Hot Springs were destroyed? Pray tell.

Whoa, I just saw the thread on Yikes! Nature is harsh!

Author's Reply  May 23, 2014 - 01:51am PT
The northern approach road has been gone for 11 years. The associated trail, well, it's probably mostly gone too by now.

Kennedy HS has been gone for even longer - buried in a massive mudslide. It was a lukewarm cesspool anyway, so no big. I did my last trip through there in Aug 2003 - a one dayer from Buck Creek Pass to the Suiattle TH - 2 months before the road was destroyed.

The southern approach remains open, but it's substantially longer and it involves going up and over a high ridge well guarded by the hazards mentioned.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 23, 2014 - 01:58am PT
It was actually still quite nice when last I visited in the Pleistocene Era.
Sharing it with a couple of babes didn't suck, either.

Author's Reply  May 23, 2014 - 02:19am PT
I, too, had such an experience , although they were co-workers and both attached at the time. Even copper colored luke warm is good enough when you're far enough from a car.

Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  May 23, 2014 - 10:50am PT
Awesome! Ha! True mountaineers after my own heart, how I pity the rock climber who does not know the "longshoe" (as you put it) and complains of "bad" weather. Thanks Tvash you made my miserable first world morning.........

The heartaches and headaches of the world below, faded as a forgotten dream, and all was right with the world.

Charlie D.

Author's Reply  May 23, 2014 - 11:19am PT
OK, I'll come clean.

WTF does TPFU mean?


  May 23, 2014 - 02:45pm PT
Thanks For Posting Up! Add me to the list of dudes who never got past Kennedy Hot Springs (1975!). Great photos-since I never got to actually set eyes on the peak!

Social climber
  May 23, 2014 - 02:46pm PT
Beautiful photos!

Grey Matter
  May 23, 2014 - 03:15pm PT
Fortunately we were not delayed since we didn't hit the hot spring until the return hike back out. Approx 1982 with the Olympic College (Bremerton) summer mountaineering course.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
  May 24, 2014 - 12:36pm PT
Loved the photos and story. Well done!

Sad about the glacier though. I had a similar experience seeing the Mer de Glace in Chamonix after 30 years of shrinkage.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 24, 2014 - 12:47pm PT
Beautiful Story and prose TVASH ,
I love that area of the country, climbed mount Adams with some bros, 15 years ago.

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  May 24, 2014 - 12:50pm PT

  May 24, 2014 - 01:50pm PT
Now that was a sparkling bowlful of words. Great pictures too. 'Methopotamia': well-played, sir. Cool that you could reconnect with a hidden feature from long ago which appears to be a transported, shrunken copy of the top of El Cap Spire!

Social climber
  May 24, 2014 - 10:50pm PT
hey there say, tvash and josh k...

wow, great share.... thanks... neat crisp photos, too...

very nice!
thanks again...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 25, 2014 - 12:09am PT
Primo TR-ski!

I haven't skinned up in a very long time but you sure have given me the Cascadian itch real bad! Thanks for sharing your outing and fun with us.
Flip Flop

Earth Planet, Universe
  May 25, 2014 - 01:10am PT
Stellar TR. Thanks for making it a fun read.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  May 27, 2014 - 03:47pm PT
I wanted to hear more about the skiing and descent

Trad climber
  May 27, 2014 - 03:55pm PT
wow, been a long time for me

tx for the pix

Author's Reply  May 27, 2014 - 04:13pm PT
That's the thing about ski descents - they happen so fast (you hope) that there's not really a lot to tell.

Firm and fast down to Glacier Gap, nice and slushy below, with the exception of dropping down from the toe of the Whitechuck, - where it was pretty deep and heavy. A bit of survival skiing - big ole turns, 7 point jump turns, etc, came in handy.

In short, a typical Cascadian ski - be ready for anything.

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  May 27, 2014 - 06:04pm PT
There always has been something real special about ski ascents,glad you shared this.
Great looking terrain.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  May 27, 2014 - 06:36pm PT
I could wax eloquently for pages on something as simple as skiing a bunny slope.

It is heaven.

I got to do both the White Glacier route on the south (1977) and Frostbite Ridge on the north side (1987). Got to hit Kennedy Hot Springs on the way out from Frostbite Ridge. It was anti-climatic, not really very hot.

And you guys didn't ski through the blow down???????


Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  May 27, 2014 - 07:45pm PT
"It is heaven"

With you on that SLR.

Author's Reply  May 27, 2014 - 08:37pm PT
Oh, that's Josh K on his SLR. I'm just the supermodel and word hack. I snuck a few of my pics in - taken on a borrowed camera that frankly sucks.

Mine died and I have to replace it this week. I've been observing what Josh's equipment can do with great interest.
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