Glacier Peak Trip Report 2018 | Miyar Adventures
Glacier Peak Climb 2018

Trip Report by Chenmin Liu, Seattle WA
Originally posted on:
We summited the most remote volcanic peak in Washington - Glacier peak, via the Disappointment Peak Cleaver route! My Gaia GPS tracked 9,846 ft elevation gain over 34.9 mi in 3 days. A great time venturing into the Glacier peak wilderness area. A well defined trail, minimal crevasse, well kicked in steps in the glacier and gentle snow slope all made it a perfect beginner level glacier climb. The best view I've had on the approach to a climb. Meadows, flowers in full bloom, alpine butterflies, and creeks were all on the menu. .

This is a long report mixed with photos. Here are the sections
Day 1 - White pass camp
Day 2 - Glacier gap camp
Day 3 - Summit and descend
Group gear
Personal gear
***Gaia track***

Day 1: TH -> White pass (high camp)

2,100' -> 5,700' (10 mi)

Started at trailhead 9:30am

Reached camp ~3:30pm

Day 2: White pass -> (almost) Glacier gap

5,700' -> 7,000' (4.3 mi)

Left camp 1 ~9am

Arrived at camp 2 1:35pm

Day 3: (almost) Glacier gap -> summit -> TH

7,000' -> 10,500' (3.54 mi)

10,500' -> 2,100' (17 mi)

Camp -> summit: 5h10m, summit -> camp 3h10m

Left camp 2:35am

Summited 7:45am

Back to camp 12:15pm

Left camp 2pm

Back to White pass ~4/5pm

Back to Mackinaw Shelter 7:40pm

Back to car 9:40pm

Day 1 - White pass camp
First 5mi was a chill and flat (1,000' gain) hike in the shade. Didn't need sunscreen or hat. The trail followed along the North Fork Sauk River, which offered a cool breeze. Although there weren't many direct access to the water (for water filtering purpose), unless you bushwhack or downclimb a bunch. I remember 2 spots where you cross the river, one on rocks and one on a bridge. So bring enough water for the 5mi. Plenty of huge logs in the shade for lunch spot.
After 5mi, you reach Mackinaw Shelter (low camp), where you see an abandoned wooden shelter and some tents. There is a direct access to the river for filtering water. No toilet. This camp is generally not recommended as a base camp for a 3-day or shorter climb to Glacier peak, since it's barely any elevation/distance gain from the trailhead. Definitely go further and higher if you can, but this place is great for resting and filtering water.
A beautiful hike, with wild flowers in full bloom, meadows, and view of the surrounding peaks.

Highly recommend bringing approach shoes / running shoes / trail runners. TIL why approach shoes were called approach shoes, and they made your feet so much more comfortable/flexible, and helped you avoid blisters. I couldn't be happier with hiking the 14mi in with my normal Nike running shoes, and it was totally worth carrying my 5 lb mountaineering boots in my pack. The first 12mi was a well defined trail and snow free. There were streams running across the trail, snowmelt, and some muddy spots, but it's easy to avoid getting your shoes wet by jumping over or stepping on rocks. My toes got slightly wet just a few times but they quickly dried out, which wasn't bad at all. On the plus side, the streams and snowmelt provide drinking water. A squeeze filter (we used a 0.6L Katadyn BeFree water filter) will make your life much easier than a pump one as it it takes less effort to filter and you can directly drink out of the filter. There was enough running water during the entire climb that we didn't have to carry extra fuel to melt snow for water.
We hiked up to 6,000' at White pass, where there's a junction of the North Fork Sauk trail and PCT, where you turn sharp left to continue to the peak, or turn right to hike down 300ft to reach the high camp). Such a beautiful camp in the meadow, which even smelt fresh and sweet. It was also busy with climbers, PCT thru/section hikers, and backpackers, but there were plenty of spots. Nice to have a toilet and a stream running here for drinking water. There wasn't much too do at the camp, given it's snow free (no need to melt snow for water). We filtered water for day 2, boiled water for dried freeze food for dinner, and set up tents. Mosquitoes were in full force at this time (probably because of the running stream) since we were sitting still. We even wore jackets under the sun to avoid them and cover our faces with anything we could find. Bring bug spray and bug net if you plan to stay outside the tent for a while.
As of the day before, t-storm was forecasted for tonight. But when we checked again in the morning, t-storm was forecasted for both today PM and tonight. Our original plan was to camp at White pass tonight, and possibly go higher if we had the energy. With the updated forecast, we decided to re-assess as go went, and possibly camp lower at the shelter if the t-storm started rolling in earlier. Luckily it was sunny until we reached White pass. We got weather update from InReach and by texting friends, and were informed that the same forecast still held. So we were settled to stay at White pass, since it's less exposed than any spot higher.
We rolled into the tent at 6pm. Discussed our plan for the tomorrow. The dramatic weather change (t-storm tonight and clear tomorrow all day) made me confused. We decided not to summit tomorrow, just to take it easy and move our camp higher to almost Glacier gap (7,000 ft). It turned out to be a good call. One person in our group even heard the thunderstorm at around midnight.
Day 2 - Glacier gap camp
We got the full alpine experience today! Aka the most mentally draining day, despite being the day with least physical exertion. There was only 1,000' elevation change between the two camps (6k -> 7k), but there were lots of ups and downs through scrambling loose scree, hopping on boulder, stepping on mud, walking on patches of snow, and jumping over streams. Definitely a mental test for me. I learned that being comfortable with scramble could easily be a huge time saver in climbs. Especially in the beginner level climbs where the actual climbing part is not that technical, you can easily differentiate between experienced and beginner climbers by their ability to scramble.
The trail leaving the White pass camp was a flat and very long traverse along the mountain. Many streams running across the traverse (easy for water filtering). Then we went up some loose sand and topped out at 6,800', where we had the first sight of the Glacier peak. It was gorgeous!!! I thought we were almost there, given the current elevation. Nope! I wish. Then we quickly dropped 800' through some loose terrain, to a basin. We saw 2 tents there. Since we had so much today and only 1 goal to move the camp higher, we were going up further to make the summit day a easier. From the basin up to the camp, there is no more well defined trail. But navigation was still easy if you following the carins and a recent GPX track. It's a beautiful basin to be wandering around at - views of glacier, and reflection of peaks in the lake.
There were patches of snow in the basin, but not worth switching to boots, since they were flat and had deep boot tracks. I tried to walk through these as fast as I can to avoid getting my shoes soaked in. As the day went by and the snow melted more, my toes got wet a few times but got dried pretty quickly afterwards. A few stream crossing - not wide, and easy to balance with poles. A few muddy places.
The last 2mi was loose. Although my running shoes barely provided any traction, it's easy enough to keep balance using poles. Going up was this section was easier than going down, given the momentum and probably the center of gravity, so I didn't bother switching shoes. It's actually easier to just keep going once you get into a rhythm, since there's no good spot to stop in the loose scree anyways. On the way down, I opted for mountaineering boots for more traction.

We were happy to run into a few people who successfully summited today (a group did 8hrs round trip from where we planned to camp at). Their beta was consistently about the glacier having steps well kicked in, doable with a rope, and moving fast in the rockfall zone especially later in the day. A c2c climber and a couple turned around because they didn't have enough time.
We reached a nice camping spot in the dirt at 7,000', surrounded by rocks and near a stream, at 1:30pm. After filtering water and made dinner, we also packed what we needed for the summit, to save time for tomorrow AM. We didn't expect to rope up and use crampons right away, so we packed them.
It was very difficult to fall asleep at 5pm, with the sun hitting the tent and with very little breeze inside the tent. Brutal. It took me more than 2 hours, I had to cover my face with a hat. I couldn't even stay in the sleeping bag until almost 8pm

Day 3 - Summit and descend

Summit day!!!

We woke up to the alarm clock at 2am, had hot breakfast, and geared up (gaiters, headlamp and ice ax), and started walking at 2:35am. Without having to put on crampons and rope up, gearing up was quick. The trek leaving the camp was a flat walk on slushy snow, easily manageable with boots. We started our journey with some gentle snow slopes and some rock scrambles.
We put on crampons and helmets at 7,800' where we dropped from a ridge (in dirt) to snow, icy but had good tracks. Kept crampons all the way to the summit and back to this point.
At 8,600', there was a rock fall zone. We heard a few small rocks falling on the way and down. You can see rocks on both sides of the boot tracks. We tried to move quickly in this section. Not a big concern in the early morning when snow was firmer, but def be more cautious on the way down. Breath taking view from the back, with sun rising above the horizon and lightening up the distant peaks.
At 9,000', we found a rock island to the right to rope up and shorten the rope with kiwi coil. We could have gone up further unroped, but wanted to be cautious seeing the slope becoming steeper and not knowing if there was a good platform to rope up later. The boot track that we were going for was shown in the above picture. Trip reports from around this time of the year mentioned that people roped up somewhere between 8,500' and 9,000', and unroped and scrambled the last 500-1000'. There were barely any crevasses. But some really deep cracks, only a palm size wide but too deep to see the bottom. Boot tracks were well kicked in and obvious to follow
At almost 10,000', we arrived at a dirt ridge (left side in the picture), where loose sand began. We could have unroped and removed crampons, but didn't bother because we expected to climb some steep snow slope soon. An obvious dirt path which involved lots of short switchbacks, but were out of the route. Crampons actually helped provide traction in the sand. Some big cracks here. On the way down this section, we unroped to move faster until we got back to snow. Scree ski!!!
Such a cool view behind the ridge. My favorable and most memorable view of the trip.
After the ridge, we were back to snow, the steepest part of the trip (not pictured) for the last ~300'. Again, boot tracks were deep enough to just step in, although the snow was a bit icy to plant ice ax deeply into. I tried to use the ice ax holes created by the previous climbers as much as possible. Take your time in this section. Make sure to plant the ice ax in. Only move your foot if your ice holds, and only move your ice ax if your footing is good. Move either your foot or ice axe, one at a time - not both.
Summited at 7:45am, after 5hr10m from the camp. We enjoyed the 360 degree view and some refreshing Rainier beer for almost an hour. There was summit register you can sign
Some deep blue cracks from a far distance.
We didn't run into any human until we descended back to ~9,500'. Wish them luck!
Last stretch back to the camp. A flat walk in the snow, where we did in the dark this morning. It's interesting to see this watermelon/pink snow, a typical phenomenon caused by algae during the summer in alpine at high altitude (above 10,000 ft).
Learn more the pink snow and its related research project:
At camp, we boiled water for a celebratory lunch and took down the tent.
Snow def has melted more in the basin. Some thin layers of snow that we crossed just the day before were already gone. We traversed a little bit. If we were to follow the carins directly, we would have to cross some quick running stream. Also much more muddy.
Other than the mud and slushier snow, the route was straightforward and known - boulder hopping.
Happy be back to the trail! Trail was wetter and muddier than the day before.
I had the 'great' idea of going all the way back to car after summiting, or at least to the low camp in order to make the last day easier. I was in the mindset of ... if we can do it, why not. I'd rather suffer through day 3, then spending another night out. But I quickly realized that how grueling the trek back to the car was, as soon as we left White pass. I wasn't strong enough to live up to my ambition lol. Apparently what doesn't kill you makes your legs stronger :)
When I got to the shelter at 7:40pm, my body almost collapsed lol. I took a quick break and took a few bites while my climbing partners filtered water for everyone (huge thanks!). To keep me moving, they decided to ask me some deep questions, first being 'what's the meaning of life?' I didn't think much but the first thing came to mind was 'push yourself to the limit.' That's exactly what we've been doing during this climb :) The camp was packed with climbers/backpackers. We started cruising the last 5mi of flat trail to the car. My climbing partners were literally running, so I had to keep up. We couldn't wait to get out of here. Thanks to my climbing partners and my 3-day old McDonald egg muffin for powering me through the last miles.
We got back to car at 9:40pm.

Group gear

(Group of 3)

4 person bug netting tent and tarp (Black Diamond Mega Bug Tent and Mega Light Tent)
MSR Windburner
8 oz fuel canister (used about half for 2 dinners and 1 lunch)
BeFree water filter
30m*8mm glacier rope
2 pickets w/ double runner and biner
Garmin InReach

Personal gear

***Highly recommend approach shoes or running shoes for the approach, which would make your feet much happier :)


Ice axe
Trekking poles
Locking and non locking biners


Glacier glasses
Mountaineering boots
Extra socks, shirts


Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad


Water bladder/bottle
Map/track loaded to GPS/phone
Food & snacks
Blue bags and toilet paper
First aid kit
Bug spray


Power bank


Checked at 5:30am on day 1, before we left Seattle.
Link to mountain forecast: