Route: from East (snowy spring conditions)

TR #: 124

Category: Washington (HWY 20)        Summit Elev: 7,061 ft       Rock Type: Sandstone

Partner: Tom Sjolseth

One of my favorite snowy high camps yet.

6500' high camp on Bacon Peak.


Above: Route overlay of our summit route on Bacon Peak and our approach from east side. I took this aerial photo in March 2012, about 3 months before I climbed Bacon.

Route Notes:

It was one of those rare Memorial Day weekends where the weather was actually looking fairly decent in the North Cascades, at least for the first half of the weekend. I definitely wanted to do an overnight adventure. Tom Sjolseth and I tossed around a few ideas, and quickly decided on Bacon Peak. Ever since flying over Bacon Peak with John Scurlock earlier that year in March 2012, I had pegged it as a place I wanted to camp.

With the standard approaches from Baker Lake Road still snowed in, Tom and I decided the quickest way to get to Bacon was from the Bacon Creek Road on the east side of the peak. This route would also give the possibility of climbing Electric and Logger Buttes on the way out, if snow conditions permitted. (As far as I know, the route we took on this trip does not see much human traffic. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a good route, especially for spring conditions.)

We were able to drive to about 1150 ft on spur road 1064 off of the Bacon Creek Road (1060), which leaves HWY 20 just 5 miles NE of Marblemount. Road 1064 pretty much continues off of 1060 after crossing Bacon Creek on a bridge. From there, we hiked the road a ways and then headed straight up. It was 'schwacky for about 500' and then the timber opened up. There was no sign of human travel. We hit a prominent timbered ridge at about 3200' and took this all the way to Bump 4800, which was above the treeline. From here we surveyed the route, and decided to head up a diagonal gully that would dump us right onto the "Diobsud Creek Glacier" on the SE side of Bacon Peak. Snow conditions were favorable, making for a quick ascent despite our heavy overnight packs.

As we traversed the Diobsud Creek Glacier towards the summit area of Bacon Peak, small storm systems danced across the peaks around us, yet we always seemed to be in what we termed the "Bacon Peak Rain Shadow". The stormclouds on the horizon made for dramatic lighting at times.

After establishing a camp at 6500' on a knoll about 500' below the summit of Bacon Peak, we bounded packless to the summit. Our loop trip to the summit and back (see map) allowed us to marvel at the great wind cirque near the summit of Bacon. Apparently this wind cirque was formed from the glacier time. From the car, the total travel time to the summit was just over 8 hours. Not bad for starting at 1150' and having overnight packs!

We enjoyed a beautiful evening, night, and morning at camp. The views were dominated by Shuksan, the Northern and Southern Pickets, Despair, Triumph, Teebone Ridge. I also spent awhile digging around in the rock outcrops near camp marveling at the fossils of palms in the Chuckanut sandstone deposits, a testament to the diverse geologic background of the area. All told, our camp on Bacon is one of my favorite snowy hight camps to date.

On our second day, we struck a balance between enjoying morning light and coffee and getting started on the snow while it was still crusty. We quickly descended the Diobsud Creek Glacier, and then descended a 1200' SW-trending snow gully to access the west side of Electric Butte, where we regained all of the elevation we had just lost as we ascended to a saddle just north of the summit area. Getting to the summit would now require a traverse across the east side snow slopes and a final 500' mixed rock-snow 3rd-4th scramble to the summit of Electric.

But snow conditions on the east side was dramatically more mushy than the snow on the west side. It was only 9:30am and already we were sliding around in 35° slush. And there were cornices on the ridge above. This was not good. And it would only get worse as the day progressed. A quick decision was made to pull the plug on Electric and chop down our plans for Logger. Within 30 minutes, we had glissaded to safe terrain, still alive to tell the tale of what was already a successful and grand adventure to the summit of Bacon Peak. Of course, we still had to make it through some superb North Cascades bushwhacking....

A strange twist to this tale comes in the form of unique tracks that we saw on a frozen Green Lake. The tracks were straight and ran almost the entire length of the lake. Tom and I determined they must be man-made. Initially we thought they might be airplane tracks since the tracks don't appear to reach the shore, but upon further inspection they could be snowmobile or ski tracks and the part that connects to the shore is out of frame. The tracks don't quite resemble ski tracks I've seen in the past (although perhaps they could be wind forms on old ski tracks), leaving snowmobiles the most likely culprit. Snowmobiles are not only illegal in North Cascades National Park, but I suspect it would require some amount of onerous bushwhacking to get to the lake. Somewhat of a mystery.

This was a phenomenal trip, the perfect mix of hard work (~9000' of cumulative gain/loss, most with full packs, and some of it quite brushy), great views, camp relaxation, route-finding, and partner. Tom and I figured a strong party with good snow conditions could climb Bacon via this route car-to-car in a day, but that it was more enjoyable to experience the awesome high camp. I hope everyone else had an equally good Memorial Day weekend adventure!

See the map and photo descriptions on the right for more detail.


Roundtrip distance: 15.5 miles (according to my GPS)
Start elev.: 1150 ft
Bacon Peak: 7061 ft
Elevation gain/loss: ~9000 ft (!) cumulative for entire trip

Day 1 (May 25):
TH to Camp: 7:30; Camp to summit: 0:41; On summit: 0:11; Summit to camp: 0:27; Total travel time: 8:38
  • 5:13 am: Sunrise
  • 5:15 am: Meet and fill out self-registered permit at North Cascades park office in Sedro-Woolley
  • 6:45 am: Arrive at start point (1150 ft) on spur road 1064 off Bacon Creek Road
  • 7:15 am: Start hiking up
  • 9:30 am: Hit snow (3400 ft)
  • 11:45 am: Put on snowshoes (4500 ft)
  • 2:45 pm: Arrive at camp (6500 ft)
  • 3:35 pm: Set out for Bacon Peak summit
  • 4:16 pm: Arrive on Bacon Peak summit (7061 ft)
  • 4:27 pm: Depart summit
  • 4:54 pm: Arrive back at camp
  • 8:54 pm: Sunset
Day 2 (May 26):
Total travel time: 7:34
  • 4:45 am: Steph wakes up to take sunrise photos
  • 5:12 am: Sunrise
  • 6:00 am: Tom wakes up
  • 7:45 am: Start traverse towards Electric Butte, decide against climbing, descend quickly
  • 10:13 am: Lunch/view break
  • 10:54 am: Continue back to car
  • 3:00 pm: Arrive back at car
  • 8:55 pm: Sunset


Approach / Ascent

We started from about 1150 ft on spur road 1064 (off the Bacon Creek Road).
After some initial 'schwackiness, the ascent took a timbered ridge towards Bump 4800 (see map).
Nearing Bump 4800, with views starting to open up around us.
Tom taking a break on Bump 4800, gazing at Electric Butte across the valley. We planned to ascend Electric on the way out the following day.
Just left (east) of summit of Electric Butte. It's rugged terrain in this area!
This photo shows our route to Bacon Peak. From the snow bowl in the middle of the photo, we easily ascended the diagonal snow gully towards the low point in the ridgeline.
Tom ascending the said snow gully.
The snow gully brought us onto the "Diobsud Creek Glacier", with Bacon Peak's summit beckoning us onward.
Crossing the flattish expanse of the "Diobsud Creek Glacier."
We noticed some crevasses beginning to open up. This is the time of year where  crevasses might be hidden by soft snow bridges, so we were careful and paralleled the crevasse lines.
Stormclouds around (yet not above) us produced some dramatic lighting.
After setting up camp on a knoll at 6500', we bounded along packless to the summit. There is a great wind cirque near the summit, formed from the glacier time.
Another photo of the impressive wind cirque.
It took us about 40 minutes to get to the summit from camp.
Billy carried our permit to the summit.
Wind cirque formation in action.

Evening and Morning at 6500' Camp

Looking down at our footsteps on the glacier below.
Mysterious tracks on Green Lake far below.
Cool lenticular cloud.
Mt. Shuksan to the northwest.
A beautiful evening over the Picket Range. Perfect for a labeled panorama...
Clouds catching the last rays of light over the summit area of Bacon Peak (true summit on back left, perhaps just out of view).
A 20 minute exposure of star trails. I wanted to do more night photography, but the warm sleeping bag won over this time.
Morning sun painting the snow pink. Shuksan in the distance.
Shadow of our tent and me.
Tom "sleeping in" until 6am.
I'm not regretting the $1/pack now! 


Summit outcrop of phyllite. Rock on the peak is of the Easton Metamorphic Suite.
Sedimentary rock outcrop near camp.
According to Dr. Randall Babcock, a geologist on the faculty of WWU: "It looks like hydrothermal quartz veinlets, commonly found in Shuksan Greenschist and Darrington Phyllite."
Chuckanut sandstone deposits on Bacon Peak have palm & tree trunk fossils in them. Found these right by camp.

Traverse / Descent

Beginning the descent back down the "Diobsud Creek Glacier."
Glissading a bit.
Following our tracks and paralleling the crevasses on the "Diobsud Creek Glacier."
The views aren't bad.
A small avalanche from the previous afternoon.
Snow snail formation by 8am. Not a good sign for the day's summiting ambitions....
From here we headed down a SW-trending snow gully to get on the west side (in shade in photo) of Electric Butte.
Tom, in about the same place as the previous photo.
Once we descended the gully, we traversed across a snowy lake.
This is what happens when you try to eat M&Ms while walking through terrain with postholing potential.
Looking back over at Bacon Peak. From here it was apparent we could have come down the slopes on the left side of this photo which we had not been able to see from above.
Traversing the west side slopes to get to Electric Butte.
At the saddle shown in the previous photo.
When we got up to the saddle, this is what we saw: A slope we decided we didn't want to mess with, even though we could see the summit of Electric Butte on the other side. So, deciding we'd rather live to climb more summits than die attempting one, we pulled the plug on Electric and got the heck out of there as quickly as we could....
Back at the car. Tom came prepared this time.