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Backpacker Magazine – May 2006

Adventure Guide: Glacier Peak Wilderness

Like crowded campsites and easy trails? Then by all means avoid this deafeningly quiet expanse of rugged, wildlife-rich mountains and forest in Washington's North Cascades.

by: Mike Lanza, BACKPACKER Northwest Editor

Entiat Mountains/Upper Ice Lake
Take this rugged, mostly cross-country hike only if you like your summits and scenery served up with a big helping of solitude.

Hankering for real wilderness challenge? It's just 14 miles long, but this loop in the more arid Entiat Mountains is, step for step, the stiffest outing described on these pages, with difficult routefinding, exposed scrambling, and 2,000 vertical feet of bushwhacking. Which means: There's no one out here. If you like the sound of that, you'll love the unimpeded views of Glacier Peak and its sprawling wilderness, plus the opportunity to bag one of the highest non-volcanic Cascades summits, 9,082-foot Mt. Maude. The camping beside cliff-ringed Upper Ice Lake, which sits in one of the prettiest cirques in these mountains, is unforgettable, too.

Start by hiking 3.2 miles up Phelps Creek Trail 1511. At 4,200 feet, on Leroy Creek's south bank, turn northeast off-trail. Look for a faint but continuous user path; finding it makes this steep bushwhack much easier. Emerging from the trees at about 6,000 feet, angle up and right and look for an unmapped yet surprisingly clear trail--it's even marked by cairns--that traverses the talus southward at around 6,400 feet. A mile farther, at a small basin with campsites, climb straight up to the 7,300-foot saddle west of Point 8033. From there, swing north to another pass, this one about 300 feet higher, then descend to Upper Ice Lake. Pitch camp and hike Maude's south ridge for summit views that stretch as far as the distinctively fractured skyline of North Cascades National Park.

The next day, regain the 7,300-foot saddle and contour south across talus and scree. At 1.5 miles, aim for a gully (not as steep as it looks) splitting the cliffs above a small basin of enormous boulders. A rough, unmapped trail continues south, traversing a narrow, exposed ridge, to Rock Creek Trail 1509. Climb a few minutes on 1509 to a pass, where a good user trail leads (in 15 minutes) to Carne Mountain's 7,085-foot summit and wraparound views. Descend 3.5 miles on Carne Mountain Trail 1508 to the trailhead.

The Way: Follow the Buck Creek Pass directions to Chiwawa River Rd.; travel 22.5 miles and turn right onto Phelps Creek Rd. (FR 6211). The trailhead is at the end of the road.

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