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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman



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About Us > Adventures > Glacier Peak 2002

Glacier Peak 7/6-7/02

On July 6, 2002, 8 of us (Courtenay and Doug Schurman, Rick Anderson, Laura Nugent, Brad Gibson, Marguerite Hauberg, Richard Johnson, and Ed Dominguez) left the parking lot at 8:30 a.m. for a private climb of Glacier Peak via the Kennedy Ridge/Rabbit Ears route. It was a warm, clear day and the forecast was for good weather Saturday and Sunday, turning to late afternoon showers and perhaps a few thunderstorms Sunday afternoon. Based on that information, we’d suggested shortening our proposed 3-day climb into 2, and hot-foot it off the mountain and back out Sunday afternoon.

The hike in along the trail to Kennedy Hot Springs takes roughly 2 hours with full backpack (about 5.5 miles) and is fairly flat, although 3 switchbacks make you gain and lose enough elevation that it’s quite noticeable on the hike back out. Doug and I had done the Sitkum route just the year before, so the first 5 miles were very familiar; I noted the 15 minutes to the trail register, 45 minutes to the stream where we took our first break, and 3 deceptive switchbacks that resulted in nearly zero net gain.

We reached the Pacific Crest Trail juncture and headed up in earnest after refilling water bottles. Best to get an early start, as some of the second part of the trail is exposed in sun and can be quite warm. For the most part, it’s a beautiful trail, not a lot of people, and a remote feeling to the entire climb. As we gained elevation, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Scimitar, Sitkum Spire, and the summit. We took a fork at Red Pass/Kennedy Ridge and lunched in a snow patch about 1 p.m. At one point, we crossed a stream still buried under substantial snow and started to climb toward a final ridge, but ended up doing quite a bit of bushwhacking until we decided to simply go straight up in order to gain the ridge. From there, it was a clear shot to our high camp at 6,900’. One other party (Rod Mercer’s group) had found a nice camping spot on a bare part of the ridge; we continued two steps higher to give them some privacy. They were on their way down as we were setting up camp, and they’d fallen asleep at the summit in the afternoon sun.

We could see Baker, Shuksan, Eldorado and other mountains all around us, and the high clouds in no way seemed ominous. Barely a murmur of wind as we set up camp and then ate a refreshing dinner before hitting the sack at 8:30 p.m. It was so still all night that I could hear a puff of wind that disturbed one of the stove shields, zippers and footsteps as people got up in the middle of the night, and snoring from people in other tents. The wind picked up in earnest as we prepared to leave camp at 3:15 a.m.

We made great time to the saddle, with a gorgeous sunrise and some brief photo stops, and then headed up a rather steep snow slope toward the Rabbit Ears, which ended up slowing us down somewhat. A twosome passed us right before we started onto the rock scramble section, and as we dropped down on the other side, we could see that the thunderstorms predicted for later in the afternoon were already raging toward the east. Clouds were also dropping in the west, and our beautiful weather was rapidly turning on us. We crossed the steep slope that led to the crater rim just about 9:20 a.m., and about that time we noticed that the twosome had turned around in front of us. We studied the final 500’ section leading up to the summit, and noted the icy part we’d need to protect with pickets; we estimated it would probably take us about 45 minutes to get all 8 to the summit. The sky above us looked ominously gray, and when my hair started to stand on end and Doug could hear static on his picket, we decided we had maybe a minute to get moving back down the mountain before our metal gear attracted lightning bolts into one of our team members. Hearts pounding furiously, and moving as quickly as safely possible, we scampered back to the Rabbit Ears, only to see another twosome edging closer to the summit – how did they escape the static signals that alerted us?

The rain started in earnest as we descended, so close, merely 500’ away from the summit. Mother Nature is fickle; she teased us with views of the summit off and on as we dashed back to our camp. The glissades were fast and fun, and we reached camp by noon, with an hour to pack up and dry out. Marguerite, Richard, Doug and I headed out for the cars about 1:30, reaching them safely in 5 hours, and Rick, Laura, Brad and Ed followed an hour later. I feel good about saying we’ve “climbed the Rabbit Ears route,” even if we didn’t quite tag the top this time. We all enjoyed the diverse climbing, spectacular views, and the new experience of almost being caught in an electrical storm but living to tell about it.

All photographs taken by Courtenay Schurman except where noted (where known).


White Chuck River valley on the approach to Kennedy Hot Springs


Laura, Richard, Brad, Doug (L-R) take a stretch break at 45 minutes


Junction Kennedy Hot Springs / Pacific Crest Trail. Snack break and time to refill water bottles.


Rick and Laura on the PCT


Doug and Court are happy to be on their second GP climb!


Doug refills his water bottle from the icy cold stream


Richard heads up the ridge


Marguerite and Brad pause for water on the ridge


View of the Scimitar glacier on west side of Glacier Peak


This looks like a great spot for a campsite!!


Yum! A picnic with a wonderful view.


The summit from camp


Team Glacier Peak (L-R): Brad, Richard, Marguerite, Laura, Rick, Ed, Doug and (photographer) Courtenay.


Doug and Court with Bibler behind them. Note comfortable footwear: down booties


Cloud cover and Mt. Baker


Doug drinks hot soup.


Sunset over the Cascades.


Sunrise on Sunday.


Cotton candy clouds at sunrise.


Moat around the north base of Kennedy Peak.


Sunrise


Pink Glacier Peak summit at sunrise


Shadows cast by high mountains


Approaching the Rabbit Ears


South side of Rabbit Ears from the scramble route (looking due north)


Storm brewing to the east appears quite ominous


Base of Rabbit Ears, about to cross to the crater rim (middle of photo)


Summit route with storm gray background


Crater rim looking due west


Our summit... too risky to continue in electrical storm. (L-R) Rick, Richard, Brad, Doug, Ed, Laura, Marguerite and (photographer) Courtenay.


Drying out and packing up, to make it out in 2 days/23 miles.



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