After Snowfield Peak Kelsey and I planned to do something the weekend of the August 3/4. We took our time picking a climb, other options were Mount Daniel or Gothic Basin. We eventually landed on Sloan Peak via the Corkscrew route which Kelsey had some friends who climbed it the weekend before us so we had good beta on the route. We were joined by her friend Dan and Kat (who I climbed Rainier with). The first decision for the group was a 1 or 2 day climb and whether to use the Bedal Creek or Cougar Creek approach. We chose to do the climb as a 1 day push and because of this we chose the Bedal Creek trailhead (which from all reports seemed like the shorter approach with less elevation gain and no river crossings).
Mount Loop Highway
drive time from Seattle
NW Forest Pass
Dan, Kelsey and I left Seattle at 4:30 Monday and met Kat along the Mountain Loop Highway. Even though the Bedal Creek trailhead is pinned on google maps the roads don’t really match when you are driving out there. Just after the Bedal Creek campground, heading south on the Moutain Loop Highway you turn left at FS-4096, which is marked by a small sign. Google has the road as 4081 which is wrong. A few miles up the bumpy and narrow road you come across the trailhead. I was glad we took my jeep because there were a few sections of the road that looked pretty washed out. The trailhead coordinates are 48°4’19” 121°22’35” and there was room for only 4 cars.
We got hiking around 7:20 am on the Bedal Creek trail, there was a few cleared out avalanche chutes which were very brushy but easy enough to stay on the trail. One of these sections had some stinging nettle which got Kat and I but the stings were dulled by the water covering most of the bushes. After 45 mins from the trailhead at about 3700ft we found the flags leading up the hill to the left. This was the climber’s trail leading to the ridge between Bedal and Sloan Peaks. The trail was steep and in some parts extremely brushy. The flagging was intermediate, whenever you say a flag the boot path was obvious but the further you got away from the flag the more the boot paths seemed to diverge until another flag was visible. The last push before breaking out of the treeline was the thickest of the bushwhacking and I was definitely glad to break through to a talus field.
From the talus field which was under the south side of Bedal Peak, the boot path (now more obvious) traverses to the saddle between Bedal and Sloan, We passed a tarn at 5400 ft which had some nice reflections of both Bedal and Sloan. After this tarn, we lost the trail and decided not to lose any elevation and head straight up the ridge towards Sloan. As we climbed we got great views out to Mt Pugh which I’d climbed 2 years ago and Glacier Peak. We didn’t realize but this wasn’t the ridge that people describe leading up to the glacier of Sloan, that’s northeast of the summit. When we did figure it out we decided to traverse across to the correct ridge over rock slabs. It did involve some scrambling to gain the ridge but the rock was solid. I don’t know if it was necessary to traverse because we probably could have continued up the ridge we were on.
We refilled water from snowmelt and continued up to the base of the glacier where we roped up. We were about 3.5 hours from the car to the base of the glacier. I was given the opportunity to lead the team which was my first glacier lead. I was a little nervous because there were obviously open crevasses that I’d have to navigate us around but thankfully there was also a faint boot track of other climbers to follow. We came across other climbers for the first time on the glacier and they warned us that it was crevasse-y the way they went and maybe keeping lower would be better. I didn’t think I wanted to blaze a new trail, and knowing that they had passed that way we continued on the route we were following. It wasn’t long before we knew what they were talking about. There was a pretty steep snow bridge with crevasses opening up on either side. We were careful to move up and over it. The snow was a little softer than I would have liked making it easier to slip and right at the narrowest part of the bridge next to the crevasse opening it was icy so we took care in our footing to safely move across. After that, it was a short walk to the other side of the glacier to reach the spot to unrope.
We stashed our glacier gear ready for the way down and headed up the very obvious boot trail to scramble to the summit. The trail follows a ledge around to the southern side of the summit before climbing up a rocky gully. The views on this part were amazing, the Monte Cristo peaks were in our face the entire time. The scramble was fun, mostly easy to follow a trail and the exposure wasn’t bad. The last few moves to get up to the summit block were class 3 but none of it felt sketchy. We topped out at 5.5 hours from the car.
We enjoyed lunch on the summit as we took photos, wrote in the summit register and read a poem someone had stashed with the register. It was a little hazy (being a really hot day) but we could see Mount Baker in the North, Rainier to the South and faintly out to the Olympics. As always we had fun naming peaks and finding new ones to climb. We probably had 30 minutes on the summit before starting our descent.
We scramble back to the glacier (not) looking forward to crossing the snow bridge again. On the way down the snow bridge felt a little better because more climbers had crossed it creating good steps and it was in the shade making the snow a little harder.
We unroped on the glacier a little lower and followed the rock slabs down the northeast ridge and had to traverse across the rocks again to get back to the saddle of Bedal and Sloan. The day had well and truly heated up and the way through the open fields before descending into the forest again was really sweaty work. Once in the forest whenever we stopped we were descended upon by biting flies so we didn’t stop much. The trail was a welcome site until Kat and I found the stinging nettles again, It was so much worse than the morning it felt like my legs were on fire. We hilariously just ran through it screaming and swearing until we got through. I didn’t really even know which of all the plants was stinging nettle so I was wildly bashing at the plants with my trekking poles.
We arrived back at the car at just over 10 hours. It really was a great day out and we were surprised (based on all the trip reports we’d read) that we weren’t later. Sloan is definitely doable in a day and I think we were helped a lot by using the Bedal Creek approach (not sure why this doesn’t get more love).