Glacier Peak Wilderness - Day 6
In the morning, we thought we just needed to do a small climb before reaching a long decent. Instead, the trail kept going up, down, left, and right and we were unsure if we were heading in the right direction. The map showed some zig-zagging of the trail, but it was clear it didn't depict most switchbacks. We still spent a long time climbing and the old couple that had camped near us overtook us several times. They were nice and gave some advice about the trails we planned to do later on in our trip. Their intended route also went around Glacier Peak but was slightly different from ours. Eventually we reached the pass we had been climbing up to all day.
Next followed a very long and rocky descent. About half an hour in, we reached a beautiful mountain lake where many PCT hikers were having lunch. Some were talking about how they had already walked 20 km that morning and were planning on doing another 30 km in the afternoon. That was crazy, especially because the next part of our hike would involve a huge descent directly followed by an equally huge climb. We had planned to eat at the lake but got distracted by some people jumping in it. As everybody else went in, I couldn't stay behind.
The water was very cold but felt nice after the blistering sun. After I had dried up, we continued the long way down. It took about 3.5 hours to reach the valley floor and according to some hikers we met, there wasn't a campsite there. Eventually we did pass a small camping area (the only non-super steep piece of ground we had seen since the lake) but there was no water there. While we were taking a break, the older couple caught up with us. They were also considering camping there, as the trail would almost directly climb up a huge mountain again. Either way, we first needed to find water. Ironically we crossed a huge river but there was no way to reach the water. A bit further we luckily found a stream. It was almost 16:00 and both the other couple and us were doubting if we would do the huge climb today or not.
The older couple seemed to want to take the campsite. Therefore, Diane and I decided to keep going and hope there would be another one just before the climb. Unfortunately, we found no room to camp at the base of the steep section. During my previous hikes there usually were no premade campsites, but sufficient suitable areas to camp. During this trip, the designated campsites and the 20 cm wide trail were often the only flat pieces of ground.
As we hadn't eaten enough during the day, I had wanted to cook a good meal before starting the steep climb. However, there was no time for that as it would already be tough to reach the summit before dark and climbing the narrow trail in the dark seemed a recipe for sprained ankles. Instead, we quickly ate a granola bar and got going.
The trail was very steep and we knew there were 36 switchbacks until the top, as we overheard a hiker mention that at the lake. While the hours passed, it gradually got dark in the valley below us. We stopped several times to rest and quickly eat some nuts, but the trail was so difficult to climb this wasn't nearly enough food. After 4 hours of continuous climbing, we reached the summit. There was barely any light out and we were exhausted and starving. And although we had started the climb with 3 liters of water, we were almost out.
There were many campsites shortly after the summit, but there was no water nearby. We had plenty of granola bars left, but without a good warm meal and something to drink we would feel miserable hiking tomorrow. There we decided to keep going. Fifteen minutes later we reached another campsite, but all the streams nearby were also dried up. Another half an hour later we reached another dried up campsite. However, it was almost dark and we really couldn't keep walking any longer after such a tough day of hiking. We decided to camp there. I quickly pitched the tent, made sure Diane was OK, and gave her the GPS messenger in case something happened. I then took our headlight and water bottles and started running down the trail. There was a glacier about a 2 kilometers further and there would almost surely be some water there. After about 10 minutes, I fortunately found a small stream. Now we could actually eat a real dinner. Back at the tent, it was fully dark but it felt good to eat and rehydrate. As we were more than 2000m above sea level, it was also pretty cold. We hoped the older couple hadn't tried to climb the mountain as well.