Recent Trip Reports
Phelps Creek #1511,Spider Gap #1256.2,Cloudy Pass #1256,Image Lake #785,Buck Creek #789,Buck Creek #1513,Suiattle Pass #1279
— Aug 15, 2008
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Completed this loop between 8/15 and 8/19. I am not including pictures as there are many excellent r...
Completed this loop between 8/15 and 8/19. I am not including pictures as there are many excellent recent trip reports with tons of detail and pictures (here and at nwhikers.net). In fact I was surprised by the number of people we saw in the backcountry, many on the same loop. The trip started out hot Friday and Saturday. Camped just below Spider Gap Saturday night. The weather changed and clouds rolled in for Sunday making perfect hiking weather. Lots of snow in the gap on both sides, but temps were warm and it was no problem with only trekking poles. The trail from the gap down to Upper Lyman Lakes is very rough in places with loose talus and false footholds. Caution! Tons of bugs in the meadows above Lyman Lake so we cruised past and up to Cloudy Pass. Spectacular scenery from Cloudy, now my favorite alpine meadow ever. The trail to Image was in good shape and we saw 2 bears in the Image Lake area. Myself and my hiking partner were the only people camped at Image Lake on Sunday night, the only solitude of the trip. Amazing lightning show illuminated Glacier Peak all night and held back the rain. Bugs were bad. Monday started wet and stayed that way all day. We hiked up to the Miners Ridge lookout and spoke with the ranger stationed there. He mentioned some rough weather moving in by Tuesday night with one inch of rain expected. We had originally planned on descending from this point to the Suiattle and trying to ford at some point to get up on the flanks of Glacier Peak on the old PCT. But the incoming weather, a potentially impossible ford, and the fact that the PCT hasn't been cleared in years convinced us to push on in the high country. The trail to Buck Creek Pass was cloudy with only a few views here and there of the volcano. Several groups were camped at the pass. We found a good sheltered spot to set up our tarps and start drying out. Tuesday morning was cold and foggy. We waited a few hours for the fog to lift but the weather seemed to deteriorate every hour. Headed back to the car at Trinity in order to avoid a complete soaking of our already wet gear. The trail back to Trinity from the pass was long and very boring. I can't imagine hiking it up to the pass. The Phelps Creek Trail is much more scenic I'd say, so it's best to do the loop counterclockwise and use the Buck Creek trail as the long, tired slog out. A WTA crew was working hard on the trail about half way down, Thanks!! Met a couple of cool people on the trail and gave one a ride back to his truck and the other and his 2 dogs a ride to Highway 2. My friend and I decided to extend the trip another day and head into Leavenworth for some hearty food and beers. We car camped on Icicle Creek Tuesday night with the intention of drying out and cleaning our gear. That night turned out to be the wettest, and by morning we were ready to head for home. If it rained that hard all night in Leavenworth I can't imagine what it must have been like up in the mountains. An excellent trip which opened my eyes to the possibilities in Glacier Peak Wilderness. I've already started planning my next trip in the area!
Buck Creek #1513,Spider Meadows #1511,Suiattle Pass #1279,Pacific Crest (Glacier Peak) #2000
— Jul 25, 2008
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Spent an exquisite 4 days doing the Buck Creek - Spider Gap loop. We decided to do the route clockwi...
Spent an exquisite 4 days doing the Buck Creek - Spider Gap loop. We decided to do the route clockwise, despite the recommendations of Spring-Manning.
We started out around noon at the Buck Creek TH. The trail is much used by stock, so was a bit dusty, though in good condition. After it follows the river bed, it starts ascending and the views just get better and better.
It is clear that you're entering the high alpine country and the stunning views continue for the remainder of the trip. Each turn yields a more breathtaking view.
We camped our first night at Buck Creek Pass. There was a small creek for water, which I imagine may dry up later in the season.
The next day we continued on over Suiattle Pass and Cloudy Pass and stayed at a lovely little campsite just below Cloudy Pass. The views of Lyman Lake are gorgeous. The bugs here are less pesty than at Lyman, although one could continue on there to camp as well.
The next morning, we sadly packed up and headed over to Lyman Lake, Upper Lyman, and then up and over the Spider Gap Glacier. The snow travel was easy. We brought ice axes, but probably didn't need them. After cresting the Gap, the views down into Spider Meadows are some of the most beautiful that the NW has to offer. We snaked our way down to the Meadows, where some of our friends came to greet us.
We stayed at a camp there for our final night. As it was a Sunday, it wasn't very busy, though on a weekend I can imagine it might be difficult to find a camp site. If available, there is a wonderful and secluded campsite at the head of the valley, just on the riverside. The final morning, we sadly packed up and headed out the final 4 miles to the car.
This is one of the most spectacular hikes I've done the in NW and it is on my top 5 list, certainly. We did it in 3 nights, though could have easily done it in 2 nights. There are many other variations that people were doing, including Image Lake and coming in via Holden.
Buck Creek #789,Phelps Creek #1511,Suiattle Pass #1279
— Jul 21, 2008
Snow on trail | Bugs
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I did a loop up Buck Creek Pass, Middle Ridge to Suiattle Pass, to Cloudy Pass, Lyman Basin, over Sp...
I did a loop up Buck Creek Pass, Middle Ridge to Suiattle Pass, to Cloudy Pass, Lyman Basin, over Spider Gap, down and out Spider Meadows/Phelps Creek. Punched through a snow bridge just before Buck Creek Pass. Saw a sow and cubs on Middle Ridge trail just below Buck Creek Pass. Bugs were horrid from Suiattle Pass to above Upper Lyman. Worst bugs I've encountered in the Cascades. Some snow, poor snow bridges, and rocks to negotiate between Suiattle Pass and Cloudy Pass. Upper Lyman is melted out. Spider Gap was in good shape at mid-day; easy going but I would reccomend carrying 'pons if going early in the day. Snow ends right at the top of the switchbacks dropping down to Spider Meadows. Phelps Creek/Spider Meadows snow free to base of Spider Glacier. Trails are all in good shape except for some minor blow downs which are easily negotiated, and a few snow patches.
Link to Trip Report with pics: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7968607&highlight=
Phelps Creek #1511,Spider Meadows #1511,Miners Ridge #785,Suiattle Pass #1279,Upper Suiattle River #798,Glacier Peak,Triad Creek #792,Buck Creek #1513,Railroad Creek #1256
— Sep 01, 2007
— Lucky Charlie
Blowdowns | Bridge out | Washouts | Overgrown
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The loop trip from Phelps Creek over Spider Gap, past Lyman Lakes, over Cloudy and Suiattle Passes, ...
The loop trip from Phelps Creek over Spider Gap, past Lyman Lakes, over Cloudy and Suiattle Passes, and then return via Buck Pass and the Buck Creek Trail is an outstanding, well-trodden Glacier Wilderness sampler. Our route began and ended with this itinerary, but departed for three days of spectacular old growth, river crossings, and mountain climbing, including a rarely used, elegant line on Glacier Peak, via the Chocolate and Cool glaciers. This obvious, direct approach to Glacier Peak was first climbed in 1906! Since we had tried for months to find information on this approach, to no avail, we weren't quite sure what we would find in 2007.
Leaving Seattle at 7 AM, we drove US2 20 miles beyond Stevens Pass; turned left on Hwy 207 and navigated (county road 22) to the Chiwawa River Road. Twenty-two miles up the Chiwawa River Road, we turned right on Road 6211, The Phelps Creek trailhead is two miles up the road. We spotted a car at the Buck Creek trailhead, just two miles further up Chiwawa River Road.) Total elapsed drive time with car spotting, about 4 hrs.
The Phelps Creek trail (trail 1511) meanders up to and then through Spider Meadow. At the head of the meadow, climb sharply 1,100 ft on well maintained trail. Find camps and good water with spectacular views of the valley just before reaching the remnants of the Spider Glacier, about 6 miles and 3,000 ft.
There are reputed to be views down valley of Mt. Maude and Seven Fingered Jack. Weather was moving in, so we missed the scenery. We spent the night snug in our tents, listening to the sleet pelt our rain flies.
Next morning, we bundled up against the cold and wet. Our destination was Image Lake, eleven miles, 3,500 ft, and three passes away. No break in the weather this day! We made Spider Gap in a short hour, spent the second hour negotiating around the Upper Lyman Lakes - the route is obvious, on the east side of the lakes. We joined the main trail at the downstream end of Lyman Lake (trail 1256). The trail was closed to the right (towards Holden Village) because of the Domke Lake fire. No matter, we made quick work on this showery day over Cloudy and Suiattle passes (Trail 1279), and then imagined the wonderful views of Glacier Peak as we sauntered along the side of Miner's Ridge (trail 785).
Image Lake used to be crowded, but with access from the west cut off because of the closure of the Suiattle River Road, and the Pacific Crest Trail being re-routed off of Miner's Ridge, Image Lake is once again an idyllic spot. The weather broke for us, and Glacier Peak revealed itself in all its majesty. The bears came out to devour overripe blueberries. It even warmed up enough for us to swim the next morning, though everything wet remained frozen stiff until the sun warmed up the world in mid-morning. Those who awoke before the temperature climbed above freezing could shake the ice off their rain flies, saving the one hour of drying time that was needed by those whose icy cover melted in the rising sun. We lingered long over breakfast and our swim, regrouping from the difficult conditions of the previous day.
Our destination on day 3 was the Upper Suiattle River. We planned to follow trail 785 down off of Miner's Ridge on the old PCT, cross the Upper Suiattle River, and then camp somewhere upriver, accomplishing about nine miles. The Miner's Ridge look-out is still manned, at least during July and August. The look-out warned us that we would encounter 63 downed trees between the look-out and the river. Little did the look-out know that we would look back fondly on those 63 trees as being the easiest part of the next couple of days! Torrential winter storms have deeply affected the Upper Suiattle drainage. Creeks have been blown out into sheer-walled canyons; trails have not been logged out in decades and are now buried beneath layer upon layer of old growth blowdown. You can still follow the trails, but the further you go, the more challenging become the route finding physical demands. Some might consider it a shame that former trails have deteriorated into mere routes. For others, the Upper Suiattle drainage presents exciting route finding and stamina challenges. While penetrating the Upper Suiattle requires major effort, the effort is rewarded with outstanding old growth timber, creeks and ridges at their wildest, and wonderful views and routes to and through the high country.
Descending Miner's ridge, we walked out into the washed-out river channel at the first point where there was easy access to the riverbed. After about ten minutes of walking upriver our scouting was rewarded in short order, when we found a fine, large old growth log providing an excellent footbridge across the river. This log looks sturdy enough that it might survive a flood or two. Look for it!
Now on the West bank of the Suiattle, we opted to climb to the top of the ridge rather than claw through the flood debris washed up on the outside bend of the old river channel. A steep 50 ft vertical gain led to fairly open but otherwise trackless woods. Paralleling the river we walked upstream about a mile until we found the footpath of the old trail. Once on the trail, we followed it through easy timber (and abundant yellow jackets) to Dusty Creek. We camped that night near the mouth of Dusty creek. Nine mile, seven hour day, with a loss of elevation of about 3200 feet.
Day 4 would demand much of us, as we made our way up to timberline in Rusk Basin, between the Chocolate and Cool Glaciers. This would be an eight mile, eleven hour day, with 3,000 ft of elevation gain and a wild creek crossing. The Dusty Creek crossing was trivial, on a couple of small logs just upstream from the confluence of Dusty Creek with the Suiattle. On the far side of the creek, the location of the old Upper Suiattle Trail is obvious, on the top of an esker, or ridge formed between two glaciers. There is a lot of blowdown here, but the trail is straight and relatively level so the blowdowns were easy to negotiate. After four miles, we came to the old trail junction. There is still a sign. Left takes you down 400 feet to the Upper Suiattle River, and a wild crossing to the old Triad Creek Trail; right takes you another mile through increasingly wild country to the trail end at Chocolate Creek.
Chocolate Creek lies at the base of a blown-out glacial canyon, a zone of utter devastation a tenth of a mile wide with 200' walls of loose glacial till. From the point where the old trail disappears at the canyon wall, we made our way upstream about five minutes, looking for a defile or way down to the canyon bottom. We found a steep, vegetated slope, matched by a similar steep, vegetated slope directly across the creek on the far side. Down we went. No log at the bottom, but Chocolate Creek in August is tame enough (barely) to wade across. We passed a couple of cairns marking the bottom of the trail that lead up the other side of the canyon.
We clambered up the steep slope on the far side and found ourselves in a forest of game trails. Beckey says, ""Ascend easy timbered slopes S of Chocolate Creek. The broad lower spur narrows at about 4400 ft. It is best to hike along the ridge nose, but keep S of it at about 5650 ft to regain a saddle est. 6150 ft. Camp S of the saddle at 6150 ft in Rusk Basin."" We found this to be a difficult, steep ridge ascent at the end of a long day. Due to the profusion of yellow jackets, we referred to this prominent ridge as ""Hornet Ridge."" We kept close to south edge of the Chocolate Creek Canyon so that we wouldn't lose our bearing. We found good water but rather cramped camp sites at 6,150 feet, below a permanent snowfield, and where the streamline ridge route on Glacier Peak becomes obvious.
We summited Glacier Peak on day 5. Nine hours up and back with day packs via the Streamline Ridge and the Chocolate and Cool Glaciers, about 11 miles, 4600 ft. From Rusk Basin campsite, we ascended the obvious line to the apex of two ridges (7135 ft), and followed Streamline Ridge's crest W. Donning crampons, we stepped out onto the Chocolate Glacier, then easily picked our way around several crevasses. We crossed the Upper Cool, staying just below Guardian Rock, and joined the main route from Disappointment Cleaver on the south ridge. This is a very straightforward, elegant, easy way to summit Glacier Peak. Only 6 hours from high camp to the summit versus the 8 hour estimate in Beckey - we felt pretty good after what turned out to be the easiest day of the trip.
Day 6, descending from Rusk Basin, crossing the Upper Suiattle, then ascending to Buck Pass, is a long, difficult day. It took eleven hours with full packs, estimated distances: 10 miles, -3200ft, +2000 ft. We retraced our steps back down the ridge, across Chocolate Creek to the trail junction, and then descended to the Suiattle River. We spent two hours looking for a safe crossing. The river is too deep and wild for simple wading. We found a log, not as good as the previous log, but good enough, about 200 yards upriver from where the trail debouched onto the river. We strung a fixed line above the log for safety.
We were uncertain where we would find the old Triad Creek trail, but as soon as we crossed the river, we began to see signs. We headed down river only a few hundred feet before we began to find old tread and old cuts a little above the river - enough to give us some confidence. Just beyond the first vague log cuts the way was rough with a gigantic heavy blow down of several trees. Just past that jumble we picked up the trail tread again, only to lose it after another 100 feet or so. The lower part of this trail is more blowdown than clear trail, and we had a time of it finding our way through the mess.
We paid close attention to altitude and the probable location of the trail crossing of Triad Creek, and by that time had confidence that the day would reach a successful conclusion. The higher we climbed, the smaller the trees got and the easier it became to navigate through the blowdown. The next route finding challenge came much later in the day. Near Buck Pass, the trail tread disintegrates in a series of grassy, cluttered meadows full of marmot trails. Just keep on where you think the trail goes, continuing to climb up and out of the headwaters of Triad Creek, and you will be alright! We made Buck Pass just before sundown.
When we woke on the last day, we backtracked a few minutes to the pass itself for that glorious view across the Upper Suiattle to Glacier Peak. We picked out every nuance of our route and shot panoramic pictures to etch the view in our collective memories. Leaving the blowdown behind, we walked the nine miles out to the Chiwawa River Road in four hours (trail 1513).
A highlight of the walk out was encountering a WTA work party. We had seen their signs at the trailhead when we spotted the car. What a difference a bit of trail maintenance makes! The walk out was like walking on a sidewalk compared to what we had become used to in the last three days. We urged the trail maintenance crew to go over the pass to Triad Creek where there is a lot for them to do, but they demurred. They said we could sign on and do it ourselves next year. Now, there's a thought!
Suiattle Pass #1279,Agnes Creek #2000,Miners Ridge #785
— Aug 29, 2007
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Three of us backpacked into Agnes Creek Trail (PCT) from High Bridge on the Stehekin River to Suiatt...
Three of us backpacked into Agnes Creek Trail (PCT) from High Bridge on the Stehekin River to Suiattle Pass, Miners Ridge to Image Lake, and Cloudy Pass Aug 28 - Sept 1. Great weather, great scenery! Agnes Creek is a long valley walk, about 13 miles into where the high PCT trail splits and goes up to the meadows below Sitting Bull Mountain. The valley walk is one of the nicer ones, with views down into the gorges of Agnes creek, and up to the surrounding mountains. The trail wanders through drier areas of lodgepole, through very large cedars and towering hemlocks. Hundreds of trees, some enormous, were blown down across these trails last winter, however on all these trails, every blowdown has been cut ( thanks to the forest service, and the national park, otherwise a pleasant hike would have been an arduous task at best!). Some river crossings have been washed out, however stepping stone crossings have been constructed by someone, and a temporary suspension bridge is in place crossing Agnes Creek at the beginning of the trail (this precludes horse use of the train from Stehekin, there is no horse ford of Agnes creek here.) The high PCT trail is a bit brushy with thimbleberry and bracken growing over the trail. The upper Agnes creek trail between Hemlock camp and Suiattle Pass is very brushy with neck high brush in the avalanche tracks, and some washouts there as well, but all the blowdowns have been cut, and the trail is not difficult to find. THe miner's ridge trail is in good shape, the views of Glacier peak and surrounding peaks stunning. THere appeared to be a small fire burning in one of the drainages of the Suiattle near Glacier peak. We also hiked to Cloudy pass via the cutoff in Suiattle pass. That trail is in good shape as well. The smoke column from the Domke Lake fire viewed from Cloudy pass was awe-inspiring, and scary, that was Sept 30th, the fire must have blown up on that day. We didn't see any large animals, but they must have been nearby, judging from the quantity of bear scat, particularly around Hemlock Camp, and the old cougar scat and newere pawprint in the mud near Cloudy pass, and the constant compaionship of fresh deer prints on the trail. Butterflies were in abundance in the high meadows, especially the blue ones. Late flowers included asters, goldenrod, pearly-everlasting, yellow alpine asters, yellow paintbrush, and others. Bugs were not too bad, some mosquitos at higher elevation, and black flies in the meadows.
- Suiattle Pass (#1279)
- Central Cascades