Monday, March 23, 2015
Tahoma was the first epic plan for the weekend, but the road to Sunrise is still gated at Crystal and I've got my heart set on the Emmons. Colin assured me that 3 full days for Glacier Peak is overkill, so we recruited Camille and hit the North Fork Sauk River Trail just after 7 on Friday night. We were aware that there is no camping allowed on the ridge at White Pass, but unaware of 2 campgrounds in the basin to west. We set up camp at the Mackinaw Shelter at 10 and planned for a 3 am wake-up call. After a slow breakfast we started up the 28 switchbacks to the PCT. Snow appeared around 5000' and covered the long traverse to White Pass. We put on crampons for the last mile or so, following some ski tracks above steep slopes. We stopped at a few spots of melted out trail to watch the roasting sunlight on Sloan Peak and the Monte Cristo Group behind us. The skiers whose tracks we followed were camped at the pass. We exchanged pleasantries while taking a break before continuing on. We quickly agreed to change into snowshoes after a few some post-holing. When we reached the saddle two peaks west of Point 6770 our distant target finally appeared across the White Chuck Glacier. Crampons went back on for the traversing descent down the shady side of the ridge. They were again traded for snowshoes as soon as we hit the sun baked glacier. It was getting late in the day, and I was intent on making up for lost time on the way to High Camp but snow conditions were just not cooperating. When we reached High Camp we melted snow and reassessed. Camille decided that she would wait behind so we planned to return by 5, giving us 4 hours for the round trip. This would turn out to be a hopelessly optimistic plan. The Cool Glacier looked smooth as butter, and Colin was confident we could avoid the few crevasses he saw last summer so we left or rope and harnesses. We plonked our snowshoes into the edge of the Cool as the sun left it and hauled ass across to the next saddle, pausing once to watch rock peel away from the east face of Disappointment Peak. On the north side of the glacier we met 2 skiers on their way down. It was nearly 5 o'clock, our planned return time to Camille at High Camp. We were moving far too slow, but i could not resist the summit fever. One look into Colin's eyes and I knew that no discussion was necessary, and we continued on. The next 1000 feet came and went at a painfully slow pace. Colin was lagging behind me but I kept moving as the sun began to set behind Mount Pilchuck. I ascended the final stretch between rime-covered rock and stepped onto the summit in time to catch the last few minutes of sunlight. Colin joined me and we wasted no time before starting the descent. It was 6:15. We were a little worried about Camille, and regretting or decision to continue on. A single headlamp could be seen on the White Chuck, so we flew back down to High Camp as quickly as ore legs would carry us. We were both getting low on water and wanted to catch Camille in case she took the stove with her. Regardless of our choice to continue past our agreed return time, it would have been wise to further discuss contingencies before splitting up our group. Colin was hopeful that Camille would still be waiting for us, but when an hour after sunset we were still below the short elevation gain back to High Camp I knew that was a long shot. I couldn't blame her if she had to get moving to stay warm, or worse that she assumed something had gone wrong. I started to feel terrible for putting our friend in such a position. We were elated to find the stove waiting for us, although it was now clear that we would be chasing Camille back to camp. After quickly depleting or fuel we quickly repacked and headed back as moonlight descended upon the White Chuck Glacier. This was the beginning my separation with Colin. I would stop each time his light was lost behind me, but by the time he reached me my toes began to freeze, and I was growing more concerned that Camille might decide to continue past camp in search for help. We post-holed most of the way across the White Chuck, too stubborn to switch to snowshoes yet again. This was a poor decision as the rapidly cooling surface grew less consistent, breaking randomly under every third or fourth step. The final ascent and return to White Pass was grueling. When I noticed it was 1 am, I waited for Colin to catch up one final time. I expressed my concern that at the rate we were going, we wouldn't reach camp until nearly 3 o'clock. Colin was moving as fast as he could safely and we agreed to split up so that I could reach Camille asap. When I returned to camp I was relieved to find Camille fast asleep. My attention to immediately turned to hot food but the filter was with Colin and I was not excited at the prospect of boiling water from the creek, so I drank my last sip of water and crawled into my bag to await his return. I awoke with my headlamp still on as Colin joined us in the tent and we both passed out, no longer concerned with dinner. When I woke up naturally at 7 Colin asked me what the hell I was thinking and Camille opened her eyes long enough to smile at the realization that we were back safe. They both promptly went back to sleep until I roused them at 2 p.m. to suggest we break camp and get back to Granite Falls while Playa Bonitas was still open. On our way out the trail seemed to have grown since we last traveled it less than 48 hours prior. Like I said - "Type 2 fun, defined.