Kololo Peaks by Glacier Peak / 靠冰川峯的可洛洛峯

We had excellent weather last week. So this weekend, I looked forward to seeing more of it. Kololo Peaks to the south of Glacier Peak weren’t always on my radar. I didn’t even know they existed when I first came into the area seven years ago. I planned to spend three days in the area and climb other peaks. But after leaving Kololo Peaks, I decided to save my vacation day for another trip.

Kololo Peaks real summit to the east
Kololo Peaks real summit to the east

See more trip photos here.

Kololo Peaks at a Glance

Access: North Fork Sauk River Trailhead
Round Trip: 29.2 miles
Elevation Range: 2080′-8200′
Gear: helmet, crampons
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

Nork Fork Sauk River Trail to Mackinaw Shelter

Rumor has it that this area is a bustling hub over the Fourth of July. So the pup and I came in this weekend to avoid the masses. Soon after leaving the car, the weather went from partly sunny to mostly cloudy. The well-maintained trail had just a handful of down trees to bypass quickly. We reached the Red Creek bridge crossing at mile 4.5.

Another mile of hiking through lush old-growth, we came up to the Mackinaw Shelter. We didn’t stop there so that we could keep moving and then take a more-extended break on White Pass. Though, I didn’t realize they had decommissioned the shelter until we came out the next day. A group of down trees in half a mile took some time to get through.

Bridging the gap
Bridging the gap

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Hiking up to White Pass

So far, we’ve only gained about 1000′ in the first five miles. What this meant was that we’d need to make up the rest 3000′ in the next four miles. I remembered this part well from the previous trip. Shortly after passing the shelter was the start of the real deal. But thankfully, the many short switchbacks up to 5400′ offset the elevation gain. It started to rain then.

The terrain opened up just as we came out of the forest. Then the trail gradually rose through lush grasslands toward White Pass. We met three climbers on their way down before the Pacific Crest Trail junction. After getting through the snow in several gullies, we finally arrived at the pass. There was one lone tent.

White River Basin from White Pass
White River Basin from White Pass

See more trip photos here.

Hiking up to Foam Pass

Views from the pass into White River Valley weren’t great. The increasing clouds were covering the area. While resting, three climbers came up to the pass. They reunited with their one partner who arrived earlier. There had been plenty of recent tracks in the snow to form a decent path. We began walking not long after the group of four left.

Visibility was so weak as we continued in a whiteout. It felt like taking forever to get through the head of the White River Valley. We were aiming for the west saddle of Point 6770. Just below the ridge, I put on crampons to prepare for the steep downhill on the other side. Shortly, we caught up to the four climbers.

Whiteout in White Chuck River Basin
Whiteout in White Chuck River Basin

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In Search of 6700′ Camp in a Whiteout

After a quick exchange on the pass, the pup and I then proceeded to go downhill. Once we went down to 6300′ in the White Chuck River Basin, we then began to go uphill again. The group of four here to climb Glacier Peak followed behind. But soon, the whiteout made it challenging to see the group’s whereabouts.

There was still lots of snow in the area. So that meant it was unlikely for us to find any water. Slowly, we got up to a flat area at 6700′ just east of Lake 6433. Luckily, I found a dry rock platform just as it began to rain, snow, and then hail. The wind blew steadily. It sure didn’t help with setting up the tent.

Climbers descending
Climbers descending

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Hunkering Down at Camp

There wasn’t a whole lot to do in this weather but to hunker down inside the tent. I tried to use this opportunity to take a nap, but I couldn’t fall asleep to the light outside. So instead, we stared at each other and listened to the wind to continue for the next two hours. When the howling finally stopped, the area was back to a whiteout again.

At 10 PM, we finally got outside the tent when the clouds magically vanished without a trace. And to my surprise, the sky was already full of stars! Without a water source, I had to melt snow to get water for making dinner. Guess there’s a first time for everything! I was hoping to spot Kololo Peaks, but I wasn’t sure if they’re visible from camp.

When life gives you lemons
When life gives you lemons

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Kololo Peak Climb

I awoke to the alarm at 4 AM, shortly before the four climbers walked past our camp. We finally got up at 5 AM to get ready for our climb up to Kololo Peaks. But we didn’t start walking for another 1.5 hours. What gorgeous morning it was, a stark contrast to yesterday’s gloomy weather. The pup ran to greet a skier who had just come from below.

Soon, we headed northeast toward the head of the White Chuck River east basin. At 7200′, I located a snow ramp to get around a buttress from its west. At the top of the snow slopes, we continued to head east on moderate terrain toward Kololo Peaks. We could see the west peak from down below, but the real summit was still out of sight.

The sun is shining
The sun is shining

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The Final Stretch to Kololo Peaks

With the decent amount of snow coverage, we didn’t need to scramble on rocks. The snow continued to take us up to the northwest ridge, where we got onto Suiattle Glacier. From there, we traveled south along the edge of the glacier to the north of the west peak. Then we followed steep snow to reach the top.

From here, the east peak was visibly taller. We walked across the flat top to check out the scenery and then made our way down to the saddle. A quick traverse through exposed rocks and we were finally on top of the east summit. The views were as gorgeous as I had imagined, with Glacier Peak front and center.

Kololo Peaks real summit revealed
Kololo Peaks real summit revealed

See more trip photos here.

Kololo Peaks Summit Views

I was still in shock after a gloomy approach to camp just the day before. The sky could not have been any bluer; virtually all high points were visible from near and far. This summit was the closest I’d seen Glacier Peak without actually climbing it.

Just like last week’s trip, this was another three-volcano day! Mount Rainier to the south and Mount Baker to the left shoulder of Glacier Peak. Mount Pugh, Fortress Mountain, Bonanza Peak, Black Peak, Dome Peak, Copper Peak, Tenpeak Mountain, Sloan Peak, and everything in between.

North panoramic view from Kololo Peaks
North panoramic view from Kololo Peaks

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Leaving Kololo Peaks

On the way back to camp, we both spotted a fox walking across the snow ramp. But it quickly went out of sight after seeing us coming down the slopes. I took a power nap back at camp before packing up. Two more skiers showed up nearby as I broke camp. The pup was loving all the attention from everyone we met.

Back down the basin, we met three more climbers while they took a break by the rocks. They planned a four-day leisurely trip to climb Glacier Peak. We chatted for a good while before finally heading up to Foam Pass. Getting up to the ridge in hot weather was the crux of our trip!

Heading down from Kololo Peaks
Heading down from Kololo Peaks

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Back to White Pass and Out

We met six parties in the past two days, including the two guys climbing Glacier Peak in one long day. Glorious sunny weather plus endless views made getting back to White Pass feel much faster. We took a photo break down at the Red Creek crossing. The one skier we met by the bridge was the last person we saw.

Four more miles until we were back at the trailhead!

Red Creek in the PM
Red Creek in the PM

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sam Garcia

    Love your blog!
    I have plenty of experience on snowfields but am wary of legit glacier travel since I’m typically alone.
    Did you use ropes/any special techniques for this trip?

  2. onehikeaweek

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the feedback! The part of White Chuck Glacier we were on was more of a snowfield than a real glacier. I used a helmet and crampons from camp to the summit. My gear list is also at the beginning of every post. The newer posts anyway.

    Happy hiking!
    John

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