Rewards aplenty in Glacier Peak Wilderness

Most remote of state's active volcanoes isn't easy to reach

By

Published:

 

This is just a taste

The whole story of the trek is on The Spokesman-Review's website: http://bit.ly/1cQyayZ

photoHolly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers hikes at Cloudy Pass during a backpacking trek in Washington state's Glacier Peak Wilderness in mid-August 2013. (AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Rich Landers)

(/)

photoEven after hours of rain the previous night, hail stones remain the next morning near Image Lake after a thunderstorm in Washington state's Glacier Peak Wilderness in mid-August 2013. (AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Rich Landers)

(/)

photoHolly Weiler, left, and Samantha Journot of the Spokane Mountaineers climb past Lyman Glacier toward Spider Gap to complete a mid-August loop backpacking trek in Glacier Peak Wilderness.

(/)

LEAVENWORTH -- Holly Weiler was blunt in the Spokane Mountaineers calendar item about the August trip she was leading through the Glacier Peak Wilderness:

"We're hiking a loop -- Trinity Trailhead (near Lake Wenatchee) to Buck Creek Pass, out to Image Lake, back past Lyman Lakes, and up and over Spider Gap to Spider Meadows. It's beautiful AND it's tough. Participants must be capable of hiking 10+ miles a day with a fully loaded pack while going up (and down … and up again) over some tough mountain passes. Limited to six experienced backpackers. Bring the good camera equipment for this one! Also bring an ice axe for Spider Gap (and knowledge of how to use it)."

Visiting the 566,430-acre Glacier Peak Wilderness, and especially its namesake mountain, is a remote experience no matter how you approach it.

Glacier Peak, at 10,541 feet, is Washington's fourth-highest mountain and the most remote of the state's five active volcanoes. "(Glacier Peak) is not prominently visible from any major population center, and so its attractions, as well as its hazards, tend to be overlooked," says the U.S. Geological Survey.Virtually any loop hike of more than three days in the wilderness will range through old-growth forest, alpine meadows, U-shaped glacial valleys and mountain cols over craggy ridges. Huckleberries range from valley floors to as high as shrubs can be found. Mosquitoes and black flies can be thick as fog on a calm day.

Our trek required a mixture of on- and off-trail routes. Inconspicuous culverts and berms constructed by Forest Service crews on the most popular routes get hikers and horses across the countless creeks and bogs.

On Friday night, thunderstorms closed in at midnight and again at 4 a.m. with the shock and awe of the bombing of Baghdad.

We survived, dried out the next morning and continued our trek, passing several groups of hikers that were bailing out of the wilderness after wet, terrifying evenings. They had camped in exposed high-elevation sites to enjoy the view and avoid some of the bugs, but they paid a price.

"Wind blew my tent down on my face and the lightning was bouncing off the walls around us," one guy said. "It was horrible."

Weiler shrugged as they left, and began swatting black flies biting her legs. Journot started slapping too, even though she'd found some relief by spreading mud on her exposed skin.

"Pants are good," I said, standing by calmly as fly carcasses piled up at their feet.

The whole story of the trek is on The Spokesman-Review's website: http://bit.ly/1cQyayZ.