Glacier Peak Wilderness Part 1: Entiat Crest to Cloudy Pass
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
July of 2020 I had planned to be hiking a long route in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, but a new surge in the pandemic made the travel unwise. I moved the Eagle’s Nest Plans to 2021, and substituted a local Pacific Northwest trip that had been on my mind for some time, the vast 566,000 acre Glacier Peak Wilderness in Wenatchee Forest, Washington. The link here is a map with my actual recorded tracks: https://caltopo.com/m/0J1D
My only experience with the area had been where the PCT crosses the wilderness, now I wanted to dig into the area’s many possibilities for off trail travel, potentially some peak bagging, and solitude. I eventually settled on a 7 day ramble to hit some of the more intriguing spots on the map. Some areas of medium angle snow travel were sure to be had on my route, so I added an axe and spikes to my summer kit and a week of food, and stuffed it all into my 3400 Windrider with room to spare.
I started with the steep hot climb onto the Entiat Crest, and followed it north to my first big goal, a summit of Rampart Mountain. The entire walk of the crest features astounding views, but the views from Rampart’s summit were truly amazing, especially of Glacier Peak. I also got a good glimpse of what the rest of the area had in store for me.
Here the traverse of the crest went a little beyond my comfort zone, full of gendarmes and crumbly rock, so I reluctantly gave up elevation that would have to be regained on my way to my night 1 destination, Larch Lakes. Along the way I went through Fifth of July Pass, which I would later learn was named for the day a surveyor visited it, a bit less charming of an origin story than I had hoped!
I seldom stopped in wooded areas as the mosquitoes were in full bloom, and somehow found myself having done 11,000 feet of gain and loss by the time I reached Larch Lakes. I hadn’t noticed the energy expenditure before, but now in a camp it was all I could do to set up shop and eat before passing out for the night.
The next day I continued my northbound travel to Pomas Pass, where I followed Pomas creek to its junction with Ice Creek.
There is a burn area surrounding the convergence of these two drainages, and the trails along both creeks are intermittently in states of obliteration, with snags and downed trees coming together in a manner that would make a crossfit gym jealous. Eventually the trail solidifies in the upper reaches of Ice Creek's unburnt basin, where the wildflowers were doing their best to compete with the crest of the Entiats, the Spectacle Buttes, and waterfalls cascading down the ridgeline.
All of this would have been enough views for a week of hiking, yet wasn’t the prize of the day. I had my heart set on camping up at one of the Ice Lakes, a pair of alpine lakes nestled under the imposing face of Mt Maude. Use paths faded in and out of snow on the climb to the lakes, which did not disappoint.
Ever had a trip where you carry your ice axe around the entire time without using it, and it’s sole purpose seems to be signify to any other hikers you pass that you are doing something serious and adventurous, you’re not just a ‘normal’ hiker? Well, this was not one of those trips. Morning of day three the axe and spikes came out immediately as I climbed 600 feet up a snowfield to the shoulder of Mt Maude. I chatted with a small group that had come from the west side of the Entiat Crest to summit Mt Maude, and they took this picture of me:
We all had breakfast in this spot, nobody really wanted to leave our view of Glacier Peak to Rainier to Baker to all of the White Mountains across the Chiwawa Valley and turning around to see Mt. Maude and the Spectacle Buttes and Ice Lake and the Chelan Range and… Finally, one of the climbers joked with me that it might be easier to list the things we couldn’t see rather than the things we could.
It was now time for me to leave the Entiat Crest behind and drop down to Spider Valley. From the shoulder of Mt Maude this descent is from 7,700 feet to 4,100 in about 2.7 miles. I have a suspicion the trail following Leroy Creek is meant to grind knees into powder. The views of Seven Fingered Jack offer some consolation, but mostly I was just focused on reaching the valley floor and ending the constant pounding of joints. I zipped through Spider Valley to the next highlight of the day, the non technical climb up the Spider Glacier through Spider Gap, then sneaker skied my way down to Upper Lyman Lake.
At Lyman Lake I had the particularly embarrassing moment of yelling ‘HEY BEAR’ and waving my trekking pole at a Newfoundland seen through a switchback, then sheepishly apologizing to the dog’s owner. Unfortunately the Newfie’s name wasn’t Bear. I had thought I might call it a day at Lyman, but the bugs were particularly fierce there so I made my way up to Cloudy Pass to camp. The second half of my trip would take me to some of the more remote parts of the wilderness, so I bedded down full of excitement at the hiking to come. I had been ping ponging up and down to the tune of 9,000 feet of gain and loss for the day, and I really felt it in camp before drifting off.