Glacier Basin Trail and Emmons Route Archieve 2007

Glacier Basin Trail - July 26th

The weather last weekend continued to be foul all the way through last Monday. There was no window for parties to get up the Emmons route until Monday afternoon, when two Argentinian climbers put a path up to the summit. The route is continuing in the classic manner up the Corridor to 12,000 feet, then traversing right onto the Winthrop Glacier, followed by a still-solid bridge crossing the bergschrund at 13,000 feet. The route is melting out significantly just above Camp Schurman on the way to Emmons Flats, and continuing on the way to the Corridor. This initial portion has lots of small crevasses to navigate along the way. There are also quite a few crevasses that have opened up around 12,600 feet and above that require some zig-zagging to get around. Generally these cracks can be avoided by traversing climber's right. The route is straightforward to the bergschrund once these crevasses have been passed. Again I am asking climbers to pick up their wands on the way back down. It is nice to keep the route clean and current. Thanks.

The Inter Glacier is starting to show bare ice at around 7,500 feet. The glacier is melting rapidly with the recent rains and warm weather. As of now the icy sections can be avoided to the right and left, but this snow is melting rapidly as well. The route up the Inter is still quite good otherwise. The Glacier Basin trail has received more and more work and has gotten to the point where it really is just as fast as the old path. There are still just a few sections of cobble walking that can't be avoided. It has really come a long way in improvement!

~Phil Edmonds

July 19th

It has been a rough week for climbers on the Emmons side. Between the bouts of lashing rain, horizontal snow, and brisk winds, many teams left Schurman soggy and, frequently, days earlier than planned. A few teams snuck in summit trips early in the week before the precipitation started in earnest but they were the minority.

Conditions above Camp Schurman are still fairly direct and with minimal hazards overall. There are a number of crevasse crossings with sagging bridges. This week's warm temperatures combined with rain at high elevations (13,000 ft) may have caused some of these bridges to fall in. Don't follow other people's old footsteps like a sheep! And anyway, it is snowing up there now, probably covering the old tracks. Teams will likely be forced to find better routes around the changing crevasse patterns, so expect the route to change somewhat once the weather clears and teams approach the post-storm route with a fresh perspective. Overall, though, the route is likely to continue up the corridor to approximately 12,000 ft, traverse climber's right onto the Winthrop, zig-zag up the Winthrop until it passes the bergschrund on the climber's right, then make a bee-line for the crater rim near Columbia Crest. There are quite a few crevasse crossings below the bergschrund, but neither these crevasses nor the bergschrund is distressing.

Don't expect to find any wands on this route. We are trying hard to keep the route clean of fixed wands so as to facilitate a more genuine mountaineering experience for teams who choose to climb on this side. If the weather is marginal and you think you might want wands to mark the route, bring your own and please retrieve them on your descent.

The Inter Glacier is still in good condition with no large areas of glacial ice yet exposed. The snow is slightly rippled, the beginnings of sun cups. But until the sun cups are more advanced, the snow is fine for skiing. Some visitors are still skiing the Inter (a few are skiing the Emmons Glacier from near the summit, too) but the snow ends at the base of the Inter Glacier, well above Glacier Basin. The majority of visitors are taking advantage of the EXCELLENT glissade trough for a fast, enjoyable sitting glissade from the top to the bottom of the Inter. Granted, a sitting glissade isn't as elegant as skiing, but a glissader's pack is usually much smaller than a pack with skis strapped to it!

The trail from White River campground to Glacier Basin was recently improved by the trail crew. It is pretty straightforward now. Many visitors are even reporting that they enjoy the variation of this windy trail to the monotony of the old 6-ft wide (former roadbed) trail. Let the White River ranger station hear your opinion on this; it might influence the shape of the future trail.

~ Paul Charlton


The route remains in good shape. The upper part still crosses the bergshrund and heads straight to the crater rim as described in previous reports. The only major change in the route is at 12,600 feet, where it now heads climber's right to avoid a thinning and sunken snow bridge. I also noted that the "trail" was crossing some scary crevasses unnecessarily. A quick look to the right or left will often show a much safer path.

The warm temperatures have created post holing conditions beginning soon after sunrise. This situation can be helped, I believe, if people descending stick to the same path they climb. This should pack the snow better and make it more supportable. Right now there are numerous foot tracks descending, creating a hazardous pot-holey terrain on the corridor, resembling that of a stampede of buffalo.

REGARDING GLACIER BASIN, this note is from the Glacier Basin Ranger. Climbers have somehow decided that GB is a place for them to drop all kinds of extra gear including tents, ropes, food, garbage, and if I'd allowed, this last Saturday (7/7) would have been the dumping ground for nearly 60 pairs of approach shoes (120-150 shoes!)!! The odd thing is, they're using the bear poles in Glacier Basin camp to stow their gear and some have been leaving bags of food on the ground which of course got broken into by critters and spewed garbage all over camp! This left no room for food from the backpackers staying there, and of course, there's a male bear hanging around GB lately which makes the campers nervous.

If climbers carry something in, they need to carry it out with them. There is NOT room for food storage for 40-50 climbers, and the bear poles are for food storage for those camping at GB.

~Phil Edmonds and the Glacier Basin Ranger Dave Minzel

July 8th

Just to add to Stoney's report... I descended the Emmons Saturday coming from Liberty Ridge and found the main boot track going over some pretty sketchy snowbridges while just 30 yards to the left or the right was a much safer route that was track free...So just use your best judgment when you are climbing and deciding where to step, and remember these wise words from Jeremy Shank: "Crevasses open faster than the boot track changes".

~Cooper Self, NPS

July 3rd

The trail to Glacier Basin is well marked with 2" yellow tape. People still seem to be losing it in a few spots. If you lose the trail, stop and look around to find the yellow markers. Forget following the folks who have been marking their own "new routes" with wands and tape, as they have caused some confusion as to where the trail actually goes.

Once past the damaged sections, the trail is largely easygoing and snow free to the base of the Inter Glacier. The Inter is straightforward with no major crevasse crossings "yet." Those crevasses, however, will open up soon with the warm days of summer. The way-trail from Camp Curtis to the Emmons is melting out quickly and may be snowfree by the end of next week. Watch for rock fall from teammates and other parties. The route along the Emmons to Camp Schurman is mellow, but make sure you ROPE UP! Note the rock/icefall hazard in this Inter Glacier photo!

Last week we had a few storms roll over the upper mountain. We found ankle- to knee-deep snow along the entire route. Teams coming form Liberty Ridge reported waist deep snow (hmmmm)! The avalanche danger was a concern on Saturday but quickly settled out through the weekend. Some of the first teams up the mountain had some route finding errors and ended up traversing all the way over to the Disappointment Cleaver route. Other teams quickly found a direct route. That route is now following a standard line up the Emmons.

The Emmons Glacier route conditions are great but holes are starting to open up between Schurman and Emmons Flats. People have been punching through in a few places. The route goes to the top of the Corridor then turns right @ 11,500'. From there it traverses into the face and switchbacks up to 12,800'. The route trends up and right as you make your way through the bergshrunds. From there it takes you to the crater by Register Rock.

The warm temp and fresh snow and made for sloppy snow on the way down teams have been taking there crampons off at the top of the Corridor.

A Climbing Ranger team climbed the Winthrop Glacier last week too. They found steep climbing while accessing the Winthrop shoulder. After 11,500' the angle eases a bit and becomes straightforward slogging to the top. This route has a wilderness feel to it, as few teams take it. If you want to avoid the crowds, wands, and boot track , this could be your climbing line. Near 12,800', the route then meets up with the standard Emmons line.

Camp Schurman Photo by Stoney Richards, aerial image by Eric Simonson, Inter Glacier photo by Craig Mifflin

~ Stoney Richards

June 26th

The trail to the Glacier Basin Trail is getting beaten in quite well, but be prepared to cross loose cobbles and boulders from time to time. There are also a few unimproved stream crossings, but nothing major. Follow the 2" yellow caution tape used to mark the route.

Due to the cold front passing on June 23/24, I did not get a chance to climb the Emmons, but did enjoy a foot of powder on the Inter Glacier the morning of the 25th. ;) The winds loaded 4-5 inches of nice snow on top of the spring corn. It made for deeper turns on the Inter.

BTW, the Inter Glacier has a few crevasses opening up around 8000 feet, so be careful! Climbers are traversing onto the Emmons Glacier just above Camp Curtis, to access Camp Schurman. Be sure to rope up for both the Inter Glacier and the Emmons!

There is a great image of the upper Emmons here. Check it out, as it clearly shows the upper route and bergschrund.

~ photo (fresh snow on the lower Emmons Glacier) and report by Phil Edmonds

June 22nd

The search for Jeff Graves called our climbing rangers away from Camp Schurman, and prevented a team from reaching the summit via this route. Thankfully, Tim Matsui sent us a nice photo, taken on June 19th. It seems the route is still in excellent shape. If you climb the Emmons this week, drop me a note with your thoughts.

~ Mike Gauthier

June 15

From Camp Schurman, the route is in great shape through Emmons Flats up the corridor to around 11,500 feet. The route then traverses climber's right through a broken area, over decent snow bridges, to the "bulge" above the large icefall on the Winthrop. From there the route is in good shape, heading up and right to around 12,500 feet where there are some snowbridges that are starting to melt out. When these bridges soon become impassable, the route will traverse further climber's right to avoid these crevasses. Once across these snowbridges climbers have been continuing straight up the steeper pitch of glacier until the bergschrund blocks progress. The route then takes a short traverse climber's right towards the saddle and then up around the edge of the bergschrund, and then straight up to the crater rim.

The good weather last Thursday enabled numerous climbers to reach the summit via the Emmons/Winthrop. The route was in great shape for ski mountaineering and it saw a few ski descents.

~Phil EdmondsJune 5th

The Glacier Basin trail is definitely improving. Here is a photo of Washington Trails Association volunteers helping out on the the Glacier Basin Trail project (KUDOS TO THEM)! Most teams should now expect 30 minutes to 1 hour of extra time on your ascent to Glacier Basin.

The Inter Glacier is ice free and only one crevasse is showing. The traverse/descent trail from Camp Curtis to the Emmons Glacier is snow covered and easy to follow, but be careful of rock fall from above.

The Emmons/Winthrop is in great shape for the early season. The line up the corridor has that classic traverse towards the Winthrop near 11,500 feet. From there, it's a mostly straight shot to the top. There really isn't any major difficulty crossing the Bergshrund "yet." Try to avoid following the Liberty Ridge descent line and traversing into the Winthrop saddle.

~David Gottlieb

May 29th

First off, the Glacier Basin Trail is very well marked and easy to follow. I thought there would be more logs to crawl around and over, but for the most part, the newly flagged trail meanders alongside the original washed-out trail and creekbed. There are plenty of rocks to hop, so watch your footing. Most teams are adding 1.5 to 2 hours on their trip to Glacier Basin, compared to time during "normal" conditions.

The Inter Glacier is about as good as it gets, especially for skiers. As of today, there was an excellent boot track to the top of Steamboat Prow, and no serious crevasses to avoid. The problem with this boot track, however, is that most teams would find it easier and safer to traverse east towards Camp Curtis around 8,500 feet or so. The descending traverse from Camp Curtis to the Emmons Glacier is snow covered (very nice) and safer/easier for most teams to navigate. Descending Steamboat Prow is tough for many, as the 4th class loose rock and snow-filled gully can be challenging for climbers with heavy packs.

The Emmons Glacier route is also straight-forward. Most teams find it easy to navigate the few crevasses that are open. There is a lengthy bergschrund to cross near 13,500'. This weekend, everyone went west towards the col in order to summit. It looks as though the bergschrund can be crossed in other areas too, probably more towards the east/DC. This past weekend, we saw more skiers on the upper mountain than climbers. Photos by Mike Gauthier.

May 20th

As most of you know, the GB trail took a hard hit in the flood. Over a mile of trail was obliterated between the trailhead and the area known as "Sherwood Forest". Our trail crew has begun flagging a permanent re-route on the hillside above the old trail bed but this route will not be open for public use this season. Please refrain from using this upper route until further notice!

There is, however, a flagged, temporary route for hikers/climbers to follow through the washed out areas. This connects the remaining sections of old trail via the new creek bed. It is marked with 3" wide, yellow "Caution" tape. Visitors will be advised at the trailhead to follow this marked route "at their own risk". The route is mostly unimproved, requiring frequent travel over loose, shifting rocks and log jams. Most of this report was contributed by Ranger Geoff Walker (one of the rangers who has been giving rides to climbers over the past few weeks!)

Here is a climbing ranger report: The yellow flagging starts about 0.2 miles from the campground where the trail becomes a creek bed with flowing water, etc. Follow the yellow caution tape for the next 1.3 miles into the "Sherwood Forest." Some of the old trail still exists, so please utilize those sections, which also are flagged. The yellow flagging will guide hikers and climbers on the path of least resistance and best footing. Once on the normal trail in the Sherwood Forest the yellow flagging ends. For the most part the route follows the creek-bed. There is one major washout and log jam where the old Emmons Moraine trail used to intersect the Glacier Basin trail. Follow the flagging through here for the best footing. Stay away from the loose slopes and dangerous rocks.

Travelling along the flagged trail should take 1-2 hours to Glacier Basin. Skis and snowboards should be carried by hand along a few short sections. Photos by David Gottlieb.

April 22

The Inter Glacier Fork of the White River washed out a significant portion of the lower Glacier Basin trail. Most of the damage is limited to the first 1.25 miles, or to what is called The Sherwood Forest.

In those places, the heavy flow of water breached the various creeks and tributaries and flowed down the trail. Though the damage to the trail is extensive, the route is still navigable. Already, a handful of climbers and skiers have made it to Glacier Basin and beyond. They have all reported that though there is a delay in getting through the damage, the trail is still passable. They recommended allowing an extra 2 hours in your approach. It is hoped that once a rough trail is cut out, it may only take an extra hour to bypass the damage.

In these photos, you can see the remains of the trail. All of the climbers noted that it will probably be easier to get through the damage while there is more snow on the ground.

Beyond the Sherwood Forest, the trail is in good shape, but covered in snow all the way to Glacier Basin. From the basin, the route up the Inter Glacier is smooth and straight forward.

Last week, two climbers successfully ascended the Emmons Glacier. You can see their foot prints here from Camp Schurman. On the way in, they were able to hitch a ride with a ranger, which saved quite a bit of hiking along the White River Road. Though delayed by the trail damage, the pair did make it to Camp Schurman, weathered a storm, and then pulled out a summit. Kudos to another set of early season independent climbers.

Photos by Jeremy Shank.
April 9th

Initial reports of the Glacier Basin trail are troubling. Here is an early season assessment from the NPS:

Investigating reports of damage to the Glacier Basin Trail, I hiked about 1.5 miles of the trail Saturday [April 7]. I found the trail to be substantially damaged and in many places completely washed away. The Inter-Fork made some dramatic changes to the valley. The damages begin about 1/4 mile out of White River C.G. and continued with a few breaks to the 1.5 mile point. Initially the trail tread is moderately to severely eroded and as I traveled up valley, the destruction became worse with sections of the hillside washed away. The damages include eroded sections up to 15 ft. deep and vertical cutbanks of talus/soil 50 ft. high.

My initial impressions, given the several feet of snow, is that the route will be impassable to most people and will likely require the full replacement of about one mile of trail. It is probable that a new trail will have to be placed higher on the hillside to the north of the original trail location, out of the flood plain of the Inter Fork.

I will revisit the area in about one month, when the snow has decreased, for a better assessment.

For more information on the Emmons-Winthrop route, check out the 2006 reports.