Friday, September 26, 2014

RIdge running in Glacier Peak Wilderness

My favorite guidebook to running routes in Washington State, Trekking Washington, by Mike Woodmansee has a 46 mile route through the Glacier Peak Wilderness that I have been wanting to do for several years. Matthew and I wanted to run in the area but wanted a shorter route so Matthew found a way to shorten the route down to about 31 miles with 8,000 feet of climbing. The original route starts at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead and ascends the Pilot Ridge trail before connecting to the PCT and then returning on the Lost Creek Ridge trail returning you to the North Fork Sauk Road four miles away from the trailhead where you started. Our alternative route starts and ends at the the North Fork Sauk Trailhead without any need for a car shuttle or running on the road. There are several additional ways one could connect the trails in this area to make a variety of loops. We started on the North Fork Sauk Trail and followed it along the river for about 6 miles when the trail turns and climbs steeply up for about 3 miles before a junction with the PCT. We turned left on the PCT and went about a mile to Red Pass. After a short break to eat and take in the views of Glacier Peak and the White Chuck River Basin we turned around and backtracked on the PCT, crossing White Pass and going another 7 miles or so to Dishpan Gap where we turned onto the Bald Eagle Trail and then onto the Blue Lake Trail. The climb up to the ridge above Blue Lake is incredibly steep and technical as is the climb down on the other side, but it is totally worth it. After exploring Blue Lake a bit, we proceeded on to the Pilot Ridge trail which took us on a long ridgeline high above the valley containing the North Fork Sauk river. After about 5 miles on the ridgeline the trail plunged down the side of the ridge and ultimately takes you back to a crossing of the North Fork Sauk river and the trail we started on about 2 miles from the trailhead. We spent about 9 and half hours exploring these trails near Glacier Peak and I think this was my favorite adventure run of the 2014. I highly recommend exploring the trails in this area, particularly if you like ridge running.

Route map starting from forest road NF-49 off of the Mountain Loop Highway
Trail climbing out of North Fork Sauk River Basin
PCT descending from Red Pass

White Chuck River Basin below Red Pass

Sloan Peak from Red Pass

White Pass

Matthew on the PCT with Glacier Peak in the background
Glacier Peak
Floating Ice in Blue Lake

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