Trip Report    

Glacier Peak/Disappointment Peak Cleaver

A fun, safe and successful climb of the Disappointment Cleaver route on a blustery summer weekend.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Overall, the route was in good shape. The boot pack was well cairned and relatively easy to follow. The crevasses were tiny, infrequent, and easy to cross.

  • Branch: Bellingham
  • Leaders: Steve Fox and Jonah Stinson
  • Students: Aaron McMonigle, Jeff Davis, Greg Hattemer

We left Bellingham at 6:00 AM on Friday and got to the North Fork Sauk trailhead around 9:30. The TR parking lot was nearly full but we found a couple spots. Messed around for half an hour gearing up, and were on the trail by 10:00ish. 

The NF Sauk trail was snow free to the PCT, with snow patches in the draws along the Foam Creek trail, and patchy snow in the boulder fields just before camp. There was lots of water all the way to camp, and plenty of bugs - mostly those nasty little flies.  The trail was recently brushed out with some recent repair work on the tread.  No problem creek crossings, and in the shade for most of the way to the PCT.  The last couple miles of switch-backs to the PCT and the entire Foam Creek trail are in the sun. 


We arrived at a flat, boulder strewn terrace below what’s left of the White Chuck glacier (6700’) around 6:00 PM. The camp sites are widely spaced and rocky, but adequate, and there is a good water source from melting snow fields nearby, and great views of Glacier Peak and the surrounding mountains.


Lots of thunderheads were boiling up in the afternoon and thunder and lightning To the south started soon after we made camp, but appeared to be blowing through when we turned in at 8:00. Woke up to light rain around midnight, which quickly ramped up to a full blown down pour, heavy wind, and lightning about a mile off.  This delightful show lasted until 3:30ish, when it tapered off.  We all managed to stay dry.  We got up at 4:00 AM to overcast skies and rain all around us, but not on us.  A clearing trend looked possible, so we set off for the mountain to try our luck.   The boot pack was cairned and fairly easy to follow up through Glacier Gap to the cleaver.  Great camp spots at Glacier Gap with around 10 sites.  We followed the cleaver up to the Suiattle Glacier and roped up with crampons from there to the north side of Disappointment Peak where the Cool Glacier meets the cleaver.  The glacier travel was pretty mellow, with only one small icefall where you cross from the Suiattle Glacier to the Cool Glacier on the east ridge of Disappointment Peak.  The snow was soft enough that crampons were optional, but hard enough that they were helpful.  Towards the top of the Suiattle Glacier, we were pelted with sleet and ice pellets for a while and took a break just below the icefall to assess conditions.  It appeared that the sleet was about to let up, so we pressed on.  The crevasses on the ice fall were obvious, and easy to pass.   By the time we crossed the Cool Glacier and reached the cleaver again, the storm had passed and it started to clear.


We un-roped at the cleaver and trudged up the pumice ridge to the snow gully just below the summit and took a break in the sun! The last 500 feet was easy soft snow and, and at 10:30, we were greeted at the summit by beautiful sun breaks and expansive views in all directions, though a bit hazy from smoke.  


We spent a glorious half hour on top, and then re-traced our route down in the sun, and were back in camp by 3:00. On the way down, the snow was getting soft enough for good plunge steps, but not too sloppy. 

The rest of the day, we lounged around camp eating, taking naps in the shade of boulders, and soaking our feet in the ice-melt pools.   Paradise.


Sunday greeted us with clear blue skies. We got up, packed, and on the trail by 6:30 to beat the heat. Other than some sore feet, and a few more bug bites, we had an uneventful decent to the cars, and were out by 12:30. 


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Meryl Lipman
Meryl Lipman says:
Jul 31, 2018 06:17 PM

Hi Steve,
I am co-leading a Glacier Peak climb 3rd week in August with the Olympia branch and just read your trip report. An Oly group that went up July 20-22 also said crampons were really optional and I am wondering if microspikes would do the trick. It's a Mountaineers climb with 6 students, so it would be good for them to get the experience, but anything that minimizes pack weight will be helpful on that long approach, particularly if it involves not using 2 sets of boots (or hiking the whole thing in mountaineering boots). Can you advise? Also, how many pickets did your group have?