Sloan Peak/Corkscrew Route

An alpine climb with both glacier and rock climbing skills (3rd class) needed. Sloan has a distinctive profile and the corkscrew is a unique feature: a good tread on a sloping shelf in the middle of large cliffs. Snow can make the approach a challenge while late season climbs may have trouble with the glacier. Times: 4-5 hr to camp, 5-6 hr to summit.

getting there

Drive north on I-5 and take exit to Granite Falls (SR 92 from Marysville or SR 9 from I-405). Drive through Granite Falls on Mountain Loop Highway towards Barlow Pass. Take Forest Road 4096 4 miles to Bedal Creek Trail (Trail No. 705), 2,800 ft.  An alternate route via the North Fork Sauk (Forest Road 49) is described in the notes below and has been more popular in 2012 and 2013.

APPROACH

Hike the trail to 3,560 ft (1.2 miles), just before a major side stream. Head up slope in the trees. At ~4,500 ft a minor flat area is reached. Follow it toward the 5,300 ft saddle between Bedal Peak and Sloan Peak. Just before reaching the open area (drainage), ascend in the trees to 4,800 ft. Then up to approximately 5,000 ft in brushy areas.

At ~5,000 ft traverse the open/bushy slope to the timber to the saddle (pass by the small lake). Head up to the base of the Glacier. Camp on the saddle at 5,330 ft or on ridge overlooking the glacier at 5,800 ft. Be prepared to camp on snow through June.

ASCENT ROUTE

Descend to the glacier. Head southwest for the obvious corner where the left skyline of the summit massif joins the east ridge. Keep high (right) on the glacier, then ascend left to within 100 feet of the east rock face. Watch for evidence of rock fall from the face and move to the left if necessary.

Later in the season, it may be necessary to drop down lower on the glacier to avoid major crevasses. From the corner, follow a rock and heather covered shelf on an obvious goat/climber trail, high across the entire south face, around the corner and partway to the west face, to a prominent gully. Ascend straight up gully to its top at the ridge crest. Move east (left) just below the ridge, go up a short steep step (class 4), and scramble 200-300 feet to summit.

DESCENT ROUTE

Descent is via climbing route.

TRIP PROFILE

SEGMENT TIME (HOURS) ELEVATION GAIN (FEET)
Seattle to Trailhead 2.5
Trailhead to Camp 4-5 3,000
Camp to Summit 5-6 2,900
Summit to Camp 2-3
Camp to Trailhead 2

EQUIPMENT

Standard glacier and rock equipment, including helmet.

NOTES

  • A one-day trip (13-14 hr) is very reasonable for fit parties. If approaching on Sauk River side,  be sure to do the log crossings on the return before dark.
  • Getting from the glacier to the rock can be difficult in late season. The rock and heather shelf can be a problem if wet or snow-covered. The route description in Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 2 for the upper rock portion is of questionable accuracy.
  • Approaching the summit avoid the temptation to head directly for it, stay to the right instead and reach the ridge, then go across to the summit. Scrambling is almost always 2nd class with very few 3rd class moves required. The last 15 ft is 3rd class scrambling  If you find anything harder you are off route.
  • If you are too early, the route through the heather benches of the upper mountain will be covered by snow and routefinding will be very tough. If you are too late the glacier will be impassable.
  • The Bedal Creek Trail approach is different from the Sauk River/Cougar Creek approach recommended in previous Climb Guides. The Cougar Creek trail was not recommended because of brush, a difficult stream crossing and avalanche debris but recent reports now suggest otherwise. 

Alternate Route (North Fork Sauk River & Cougar Creek)

(from  2012 Mountaineer reports)

From Granite Falls take the Mountain Loop Highway to Barlow Pass (32 mi), then drive 7 mi to the North Fork Sauk River Road (Forest Road 49). Take this road 4.5 miles to a pullout (approximately 1,900 feet). Forest Road 49 is newly reopened and in good shape to the trailhead.

There are three crossings of the north fork of the Sauk River in the first one-half mi. All of them have log bridges in place which are pretty easy. Be careful to find the trail to the left after the 1st and 3rd crossings. Trail No. 648 is somewhat brushy and there are plenty of downed trees, but it quite adequate. It is easy to follow in most places and flagged where it becomes harder to follow. I would humbly disagree with the current basic climbs guide. This route is good to go. I would note that if there was snow on the approach, this trail would be hard to follow. We camped in the meadow where the map shows the trail ending at about 5000 ft.

A climbers trail continues on up into the rocks. We climbed up to an obvious snowy saddle on the ridge line and then up onto the glacier/snow and towards the summit.

  • Suitable Activities: Climbing
  • Climbing Category: Basic Alpine
  • Seasons: July, August, September
  • Weather: View weather forecast.
  • Difficulty: Basic Alpine Climb, Strenuous 2, Technical 2
  • Length: 12.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 5,900 ft
  • 7,835 ft
Map
  • USGS Sloan Peak
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