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

Next stop, Kololo Peaks true summit
Next stop, Kololo Peaks true summit

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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.

The Lowdown on Kololo Peaks

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

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 luscious 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 a half mile took some time to get through.

Bridging the gap
Bridging the gap

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Continuing on 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 luckily, the many short switchbacks up to 5400 offset the elevation gain. It started to rain right about now.

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

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

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En Route to Foam Pass

Views into White River Valley from the pass weren’t great. The increasing clouds hovered the area. While on a break, three of the four climbers came up to reunite with their one partner who arrived earlier. There had been recent foot traffic in the snow to establish a decent path. We started moving a little after the group of four took off.

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 pass to the west of Point 6770. Just below the ridge, I put on crampons to prepare for the steep downhill approach on the other side. Soon afterward, we caught up to the four climbers.

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

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En Route to 6700′ Camp in Whiteout

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

The amount of snow in the area meant the unlikelihood of finding a water source. 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 was blowing steadily, and it wasn’t helping 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.

Let's camp here he says
Let’s camp here he says

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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 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 true summit was still out of sight.

The sun is shining
The sun is shining

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The Final Stretch

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 true summit revealed
Kololo Peaks true summit revealed

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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 with Glacier Peak
North panoramic view with Glacier Peak
Descent Back to Camp

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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 out
Heading out

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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

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