FORESTS and GLACIERS
(Glacier Peak Wilderness - Cascade Range - NW USA - August 2004)
As we were nearing the glacier,
we sometimes saw a footprint in the soft sand.
A lonely oversize track : the man must have been wearing at least size 12 shoes. Could that be a Yeti in mountain boots ?
We just called him Big Foot.
Last night, I measured with the GPS the distance between our tent and the Glacier Gap : 3,5 km...
Not much. But, according to the map, we should have found here a wide and easy glacier, easy to cross...
The glacier is almost completely gone. In its place, we found steep, vicious and unstable scree moraines, which have only been visited by Big Foot, how long ago ?
We had left the tent at 3am. But the moon was not on duty, and we had to wait for the sunrise to find our way.
We reached Glacier Gap at 7300 pieds (it sounds better than 2225 meters...). The summit is only 1000 meters higher, and the route is easy, but the distance is still 4 km (as the eagle flies...), the book says that it would take another 6 hours, and clouds are coming in...
We have covered less than half the distance : it is more reasonable to turn back.
Wise decision... Rain starts at 4pm, and goes on for the whole night... Our light tent is not designed to withstand those conditions : our sleeping bags are soaked, as everything else (correction : I still had a dry brief, and a short).
The retreat is epic : as we cannot consider camping any more, we have to go back down to the valley, nonstop. Two stages in one stretch. 18 hours, half of them with the headlamp, on a "trail" which is completely hidden under bushes as high as we are, where we can only occasionaly make out Big Foot's track, printed in the mud...
But, as we reached the car at 3am, we found a welcome note from NWHikers ! Very nice !
The rangers told us that
only 8 people summited this year (there is a log book on the summit)
I wonder why so few people visit this mountain ?
After all, it is not that high...
But, of course, in 2004, it takes two days to reach the foot of the mountain. And, obviously, one must carry all the camping equipment, in addition to the food for 5 days, and to the mountaineering gear... Very, very heavy packs... To have a chance to summit, we should have camped at Glacier Gap - which would have meant climbing the moraines with the full packs...
On a "normal" year , the walk-in is only one (long) day : floods have washed away many bridges, during the 2003 fall.
The last part of the walk-in is along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a superb balcony overlooking a huge sweep of forests and mountains where the trace of man is barely visible : not a road, not a building, not a powerline, not even the tiniest piece of trash...
And, of course, almost nobody...
(on the skyline, to the right, we see Mount Rainier - 4393 m - which is much more crowded)