Glacier Peak Trek (Trip) - Grade 11


Glacier Peak Trek (Trip) - Grade 11


Monday, August 14 - Sunday, August 20, 2017

Note: Registration priority on this advanced trip will be given to those with previous backpacking experience.

Pre-trip Meeting (Mandatory) Sunday, August 13, 2017.

This trek takes advanced backpackers into the heart of one of the most remote roadless regions in Washington.

Above the tree line, meandering meadows stretch out below tattered ridges and summits draped with active glaciers, while below hikers wander through dense forest beside glacier-fed streams. Steep fractured walls and ragged peaks lead to U-shaped valleys tangled with huckleberry and other wildflowers, icy creeks splash gloriously through the valleys from their sharp drainages, and human travelers share the space with myriad wildlife, large and small. Glacier travel over Spider Gap adds a special edge-stretching element to this trip, and a two-night stay at Image Lake offers company with one of the jewels of the North Cascades range. A day hike ridge walk to a still-occupied fire lookout tower on Miner’s Ridge and a hidden camp with a front row seat to Glacier Peak are other gifts of this trail. The ticket to admission to this area is a well-trained body and attitude that can take on the rigors of these mountain miles, ranging from 48-53 total, depending on our choices.

Participants on this advanced trip will help plan more aspects of the journey, including pre-planning, route choices, food preparation, trip leadership, and follow-up. Training for this advanced trip is essential - thanks for your commitment! See here for a trip overview.

Total trip miles: 44-53 miles with full packs, collaboratively decided additional distance in day hike explorations.


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2017 Itinerary

Monday, August 14 - Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pre-Trip Meeting (Mandatory): Sunday, August 13, 2017. Time: 12:30-4:30PM. Location: Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 McKenzie Ave, Bellingham. Directions. Participants should bring backpack and everything on the gear list they plan to bring on the trip. While this meeting is for participants only, we're happy to fill parents in on everything we discuss! 


Meet at Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 MacKenzie Ave, Bellingham at 8:00AM. We’ll drive southeast to the Phelps Creek trailhead, do a final shakedown with gear, then hike upstream along a gently ascending trail. Our nest for the night will be the beautiful Spider Meadows, surrounded by looming peaks, carpeted in wildflowers, littered with glacial erratics.  At six miles from the trailhead, we'll be in an ideal jump-off point to the next day’s ascent.  Read more here.


Day two of any advanced trip tends to offer significant stretch-your-edge challenges, and this one is no exception. We’ll be up and on the trail early, ascending out of Spider Meadows to Larch Knob, where we’ll refuel with rest and food, and stunning views back toward Spider Meadows and the Phelps Creek valley. A tutorial on glacier travel and glissading will follow before we make the climb up and over Spider Glacier, a very doable crossing using hiking poles. After some some snowball throwing, we’ll glissade down-glacier to upper Lyman Lakes, and hike on to our camp for the night beside lower Lyman Lake. See more here


After a solid sleep, another ascent awaits, this time not far to Cloudy Pass, perched just above Lyman Lake. On a clear day, views are superlative, and take in most of the route from the previous day. After soaking in the scenery, we’ll continue to walk through it, traveling for a short time on the PCT before veering west, with jaw-dropping views of Glacier Peak. A very worthwhile detour will take us past wildflower-strewn meadows to our camp at Image Lake, sought after by photographers for the reflection of Glacier Peak in the clear waters (and, side note, there’s an open air toilet here with a commanding straight-on view of Glacier Peak, one of the best we’ve experienced). Read more here and here.


Yay for rest days! A well-earned sleep in will sustain us for a meandering day of exploring the Image Lake area, including a day hike along top-of-the-world Miner’s Ridge to the fire lookout tower that still stands sentinel. A long Peaceful Place time looking out upon splendor will offer contemplative reflection before we spend the late afternoon interrupting the placid reflection in Image Lake with some much-needed washing up!  See more here and here.


Shouldering packs once again, we’ll hike west to Middle Ridge, encountering another detour to a very special campsite with one of the finest views we’ve seen anywhere. Cross your fingers for clear weather, because this spot is ah-mazing: expansive meadows, a multitude of creeks, looming Fortress Mountain, and a front row seat to Glacier Peak. Learn more here.


Early morning risers who want to add more miles to their trip will be up at dawn to scramble like mountain goats to the top of Fortress Mountain, just behind our camp. Rewards will include sunrise over Mt. Baker to the north and Glacier Peak directly west, and countless Cascade peaks surrounding this 8,600 foot summit. After breakfast, all of us will backtrack to Middle Ridge and follow the southward-turning trail to Buck Creek Pass, where we’ll eat lunch under sentinels Liberty Cap and Helmet Butte. Then our descent from the high country begins, saying goodbye to wildflowers and glaciers, and hello to evergreen forests dripping with hairy lichen. Buck Creek will provide the music to our streamside last camp in the wilderness. Read more here.


Our loop gets completed this day, with a descent down the Buck Creek Trail. One of the mentors will head up to the Phelps Creek Trailhead for the bus, then we’re off for a swim in Lake Wenatchee before turning west for home. We’ll plan to debrief the trip, eat dinner, and clean the bus en route, so expect a late evening arrival back in Bellingham.

Pick-up: Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 MacKenzie Ave, Bellingham in the early evening (time depends on trail and road travel time + traffic). Expect a text or call from the road for exact ETA (likely 8:00-10:00PM).

Learning Outcomes: Lessons learned and concepts covered on this adventure include daily in-depth exploration of the bridge to young adulthood and all its attributes, challenges and changes; living out the Wild Whatcom mottos; healthy and supportive interpersonal communication, Leave No Trace (TM) ethics, collaborative leadership development, common sense camping, analyzing hazards and how to mitigate their risk, living with integrity, exploring how our thinking affects our reality, self care, ecology and botany of subalpine and alpine ecosystems, multiple intelligence theory, wilderness awareness and ethics, glaciers and our connection to them, geology, survival priorities, navigation, preparedness, human impact on mountain ecosystems, wildlife and their adaptation to humans, working with and through fears, mountain weather systems, accepting and working with emotions, advanced backpacking skills, practicing gratitude, understanding personal potential, safe emotional and physical edge-stretching, advanced backpack planning skills, overcoming discomfort on longer hiking days, human and natural history...and more!

Participant trip questionnaire and tetanus immunization required to participate.

Trip Training Tips

4+ Day Trips Pack List