I don’t think this route should be called Disappointment Peak Cleaver… it should be call the Trudging Traverse or something of that nature because all we seemed to do was traverse usually by moving in a trudge-like fashion.

We left the North Fork Sauk River TH at 3:45am. The first 5.5 miles of gradually ascending trail are wooded (and in some areas overgrown). We filled filtered water at Mackinaw Shelter and took a short break knowing that the trek was about to go from pretty much flat to very much up. Immediately after the shelter the trail switchbacks out of the forest and into the alpine gaining about 2000 feet. After the final switchback we began our first of many traverses just below the ridge among green meadows of wildflowers. The views are grand from this vantage point and afford us a look at Pilot Ridge and Mount Johnson which we had done the previous week. Below us we saw some intense tree destruction caused by avalanches. There were several little steams along the way and though warm, a soft wind took off the edge.

After what seemed like forever we finally reached the junction with the PCT. From here we continued forward to White Pass (another .5ish miles). White Pass looks like the alps in the Sound of Music, but we didn’t linger long. We took the signed trail along Foam Creek to the left and… traversed again! There were numerous water sources along this trail that seemed to go on forever (in reality it was more like 2 miles, but the warming weather and heavy packs made everything seem an eternity). We turned left off the main trail and onto the well worn climbers trail marked by a cairn in a dusty wash and ascended to the lowest saddle of White Mountain (6600ft). From here we had our first look at Glacier Peak.

The climbers trail then drops extremely steeply into a basin. A clear by narrow trails traverses the left side of  the basin and then up to a notch (the same we saw Glacier Peak peaking out from). From here the view of the mountain and endless moraines, lakes and rocky towers is incredible. We descended into the rocky moraines and babbling glacial creeks. It was too beautiful a place to pass through so we stopped here, took off our boots for awhile before moving on. There were two lower slopes choose from to from to gain the upper moraines. We followed cairns and a trail up the left rocky slope. From here we followed cairns toward White Chuck Glacier which could be seen in the distance. There are numerous camps to choose from and plenty of water in glacial lakes and creeks flowing everywhere.

We left camp at 12:20am. With a full moon we easily made our way over the White Chuck Glacier. We crossed it easily and look the left snow snow gully on the other side to the top of a col. Here it seemed as though the route disappeared over a steep drop off. But after stumbling around a bit we climbed up some rocks to the right and found the trail again. We followed a track that traversed right along a steep snow slope to completely melted out Glacier Gap (high camp). From here we followed a rough trail 100ft over a saddle and then down the other side to the foot of the Suiattle Glacier.

Finally, with all that traversing behind us (or so we thought) we walked across the flat lower glacier to the base of Disappointment Peak Cleaver which was melted, grassy and had a clear trail. We followed the trail until 8600 ft and then dropped off into the snow to rope up. Damien led across the glacier pass quickly by the rocky walls of Disappointment Peak due to the obvious rockfall hazard. We gained the right shoulder and col marking the beginning of Cool Glacier at 9,100 ft. From here we angled left and navigated between a few close knit crevasses before we began our traverse around the summit of Glacier Peak… ugh the traversing!

Finally ,we reached the final section of the climb: the dirty, sandy, dusty pumice ridge and began to climb up the steep trail. The final push is on a snow finger. The route goes up and right on the snow finger and then right at the top to gain the summit. FINALLY! The perfect way to spend the Fourth of July. We were the only team on the summit for a few minutes before the next team arrived. This team was awesome. They brought sparklers up with them… and a golf driver. One guy had a tradition of hitting a few golf balls off of summits!

We were concerned the the descent would be very long, but it were quickly and we arrived back at camp around 2:00pm. We took a 2 hour nap and then, after some discussion, decided to have dinner and traverse out way back to White Pass. I was concerned about the heat on the Foam Creek trail away from the glacier, but it turn out to be breezing and cool on the way to White Pass and the Sound of Music Camps. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset before turning in from the long day.

We hiked our final traverse the following morning and arrived at the car just as the day was beginning to warm up.

Type 2 fun? Absolutely!

 

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