Glacier Peak – Cool Glacier Headwall — Skiing Trip Report

Post by blogger | June 18, 2018      
Cool Headwall was a great ski option for the descent!

Our goal: Cool Headwall.

After seeing Glacier Peak (Washington) from our adventure on Eldorado a few weeks prior, a few of us decided that Memorial Day weekend would be an excellent time to walk many miles with heavy packs and perhaps ski off the top.

Glacier Peak is well known for its moody weather, so one can never know what to expect. Last year, Louie and I attempted to summit Glacier in one day, but were turned back by weather. I am not sure what we were thinking and why skiing it in one day seemed like a good idea — that volcano is SO far away. We decided a one day push was not something we wanted to try again. I salute people who are strong and motivated enough to complete this adventure in under 24 hours.

This time we set out to be in the area for three days, with the hope of skiing Glacier and Tenpeak on our second day.

We drove to the North Sauk River Trailhead on Friday night, caught a few hours of sleep and started the long walk around 5 a.m. Saturday morning. The trail walking went by relatively quick, with no surprises or exciting creek crossings; soon we found ourselves putting on skins a half mile after we reached the Pacific Coast Trail intersection. We opted to try to skin continuously instead of following the trail bootpack, which in retrospect was a horrible idea. I’d recommend sticking to the boot back until you reach White Pass.

The long hike in. . .at least the views are lovely.

The long hike in…at least the views are lovely.

Taking in views and smells in a magical forest.

Taking in views and smells in a magical forest.

We found snow...and technical skinning!

We found snow…and technical skinning!

Instead of following the traverse all the way to the next pass, we cut the next leg short, getting up to the ridge and descending to a lake in the next basin. That was a good call to reduce some of the mileage of the overall trip. From this point we could see the top of Glacier Peak. Oh boy, did it look far away.

We continued to push forward through the next valley and made it just below a spring-summer camp spot below the White Chuck Glacier. It was 14 miles and 7500 feet to this point. That, combined with my heavy pack, had me feeling beat.

As we set up our tent, the clouds rolled in. We went to bed hoping to see nothing but sun the next morning, fingers crossed. We woke up in the morning to find just that! It is really a miracle when weather cooperates and conditions align. We were out and skiing towards Glacier around 5:15 a.m., quickly gaining the Gerdine-Cool Glacier just below Disappointment Peak. We ran into only two other parties during our ascent, which was surprising for a three day holiday weekend. We skinned until about 400 feet below the summit and transitioned to crampons. The snow was beginning to soften. We were pumped for the upcoming corn harvest.

Cozy camp site next to a dry rock island -- the best set up.

Cozy camp site next to a dry rock island — the best set up.

Jenny and Lee catching the morning light on summit day

Jenny and Lee catching the morning light on summit day.

The weather could not have been more perfect! Jenny on the skin up.

The weather could not have been more perfect! Jenny on the skin up.

We stood on the summit at 10 a.m., amazing 360 degree mountain views and no wind greeted us. We discussed our descent options: on the way up we looked at the Cool Glacier Headwall and hoped to ski down that instead of the climbing route. After investigating the ridge line down to the Cool Glacier Headwall, we decided to stick to our plan.

Julia feeling small amongst many peaks.

Julia feeling small amongst many peaks.

Endless summit smiles

Endless summit smiles.

As we began our descent, we saw one more set of tracks going down that way as well; the group of two who was just ahead of us skied the same line. Cool Glacier Headwall proper wasn’t in condition this year due to melting, so we had to navigate the ridge a bit lower. We skied over one fairly steep rollover to find ourselves at the top of the first chute that connected back to the climbing route. The snow looked dirty and chunky, so we decided to continue down the ridge to find better conditions. The next ridge roll was even steeper and right above a very large crevasse, definitely a no-fall zone. Being careful and not “too sendy” was key.

Yay! After all that it was time for some awesome skiing. The snow could not have been more perfect. As we were standing at the top of our line, we could now see lots of people on the climbing route; it was a three day weekend after all.

The descent brought nothing but smiles, encouraged by a few hollers from the climbers. We skied down in the most perfect corn I’ve enjoyed in a while. As the snow got stickier, we stopped to rest on a nice rock island and discussed what we wanted to do for the rest of the day.

We were hoping to try for the North Couloir on Tenpeak, but we were all feeling a bit low energy, except for Louie. He managed to talk me into going to check the route out towards Ten Peak, while Jenny and Lee headed back to camp. We skinned across the valley away from Glacier Peak across the Suiattle Glacier and gained the saddle to the Honeycomb Glacier. We continued across the glacier to take a look down the valley bottom — the couloir was not in the books for this trip, but if we come back we will definitely have to check out that line.

The view of our ascent round from across the valley, after Louie and I explored the approach to Tenpeak

The view of our ascent route from across the valley, after Louie and I explored the approach to Tenpeak.

We skinned back to camp, enjoyed dinner and went to bed. The next morning we met with a few friends just below where we had camped and began the long hike out as a posse. After gaining the same ridge we descended from on our way in, we were able to traverse with no climbing skins all the way to White Pass. From there it was a shuffle with skis on, skis off until there was no more snow to experiment with. We made it to about 4800 feet and transitioned to our trail runners.

The walk back was steeper and longer then I remembered. (Sensing a theme here…why is it that the way back always feel harder than the way there?) It was a wonderful feeling to sit down and have a cold beer once we were back at the trailhead. Writing this trip report now, a few days after our trip, the long hike and heavy pack are forgotten. I am ready to do it all over again!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


2 Responses to “Glacier Peak – Cool Glacier Headwall — Skiing Trip Report”

  1. Travis June 19th, 2018 10:26 am

    Love seeing all the posts for Washington! Would love to see packing lists and shots of the mountain with your route highlighted. Thanks!

  2. Jenn June 20th, 2018 8:24 am

    Great, another volcano for my list! Thanks for the beta and pretty pics!

Anti-Spam Quiz:

While you can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box above, you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit. NOTE: BY SUBSCRIBING TO COMMENTS YOU GIVE US PERMISSION TO STORE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INDEFINITLY. YOU MAY REQUEST REMOVAL AND WE WILL REMOVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITHIN 72 HOURS. To request removal of personal information, please contact us using the comment link in our site menu.
If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

:D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube

WildSnow Twitter Feed


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version