Isolated little patch
Our plan was to take the second day to position ourselves to a high point along the southern ridgeline of Glacier Peak itself. This meant a relatively short day - mostly off-trail and travelling through high alpine basins - to a spot called Glacier Gap, situated on a dividing saddle between two remnant glaciers at an altitude of 7300 feet.
The re-positioning meant we didn't have too far or too long to go - a modest 1400 feet of up and maybe 8 or 9 kilometers (5-ish miles). Unfortunately, though, it was looking like it was going to be what I call a "low-picture" day: we awoke to a solid cloud bank that had settled all around us. Visibility couldn't have been more than a few hundred feet. And, with a heavy snowpack covering everything and no trail or footprints of any sort to follow, routefinding by sight was going to be difficult. I was glad to have my GPS tracklog from 2 years before.
Misty Snow Basins
We started off shortly before 9am, following the slanted basins east of White Mountain's peak. There's a trail here - the Foam Creek Trail - which contours along at a roughly level elevation. Of course with this year's snowpack, none of the trail was visible, so we made our way north by feel, using the tracklog from before as a guide. The snow was a bit too soft for my liking but not horrible to walk on.
Apart from the occasional marmot hole (with impressive access tunnels dug straight through the snow) and a few isolated stands of fir, we saw nothing but white. Thicker and more complete than in 2015. No views of any other mountain features.
We reached the turnoff from the Foam Creek Trail (again totally unmarked because of the snow), climbed up and over a rise and down steeply into the final basin before climbing back up steeply and across the divide over onto Glacier's west side. We were now fully in the alpine, away from trees or any cover. At any exposed spot (like the ridgecrest between basins), the wind was brisk. Combined with the ever-present cloudy mists and occasional drizzle, it at times became unpleasantly cool.
From the divide, we soon turned north, crossing the now ice-free basins of the former White Chuck Glacier. Where everything had been ground and boulders and dirt in 2015, it was now snow... as far as the eye could see (which wasn't far in the 200-foot visibility we had). Our world had shrunk to a globe of white, the footprints and pack of Rosty immediately in front of me, and nothing else. The snow was soft and moderately tedious. 'twas a bit of a sensory deprivation experience, the brain not being inspired by anything. I was looking forward to arriving at Glacier Gap and taking a nice long nap break in the tent.
Glacier Gap Camp
Based on our experience in 2015, we chose an easier route up to glacier gap. Apart from a few short rises in the snow, it was a gentle grade, free of any sort of difficulties. We had seen this terrain mostly bare in 2015 and knew that - even though it showed as glacier on the map - it was totally fine to do unroped.
With no scenery to stop us and no technical difficulties to hamper us, we made good time, arriving at Glacier Gap before 3pm. Amazingly, despite the thick snowpack virtually everywhere, there were in fact a few bare spots near and along the Gap. We even found a small snowmelt stream not far away. Once again, we avoided camping on snow or having to melt snow. Small gifts these were, but still appreciated.
After setting up the tent in the moderately flappy breeze and after filling up on water from the nearby melt stream, we looked around, noted the lack of any views, and decided to retire to the tent for an afternoon nap. The wind was intermittent, varying from a fairly strong wind to deathly calm. This variability created some problems for Rosty's 3-person REI tent, and a couple of times its poles were unable to stop from collapsing inward under sudden gusts. This only happened a few times, though, and as the afternoon progressed, things calmed down enough to fall below the threshold for that sort of thing.
We dozed that achy doze of the extended mid-day sleep, occasionally pulling back the tent fly flap to look outside. By 6pm or so, I looked outside and was almost startled to see actual terrain around me: the oppressive thick cloud that had enveloped everything had lifted a fair bit, and we could see a few hundred feet of elevation up onto the cliffs and peaks near us. There was even a patch of blue sky here and there. This generated a [small] stirring of excitement in me: was this the start of the promised clear-at-altitude trend we had been promised?
We maintained this tiny bit of optimism as we had our dehydrated dinner in the late evening light. If this trend continued to hold, maybe we'd get a window, maybe even an area of clearing above the clouds (always my fav), and we could summit very early the next morning. With that came the realization that that would be followed by a very long hike out (Rosty preferred to get back the next day so he could resume work the day after), making for a very long day. I was up for it, though, if Rosty was. We hit the sack early, prepping for a possible early morning summit attempt.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Glacier Peak Day 2 - click map to view
Glacier Peak South Route Day 2 - Climb Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet