Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Little Giant Loop

Right next door to the popular Buck Creek - Spider Gap loop, this route uses an easy high route to connect Buck Creek Pass with the Napeequa Valley. It's a challenging loop, with cross-country travel to and from High Pass, plenty of brush along the Napeequa, and a rough climb up to Little Giant Pass, but your efforts will be more than fairly rewarded by the scenery and solitude along the way. The views of Glacier Peak and the Dakobed Range as you hike from Buck Creek Pass to High Pass are superb, Clark Mountain and its signature glacier loom large over the Napeequa River, and looking back at the beautifully glaciated Napeequa Valley from Little Giant Pass is a sight unlike anything else in Washington,

The High Pass High Route is described on pages 112-114 in the classic text Routes and Rocks by D.F. Crowder and R.W. Tabor (well worth a look if you're unfamiliar) but more recent instructions can be found in this excellent NWHikers trip report. The "steep snow gully about 50 feet wide" immediately north of High Pass that's referenced in Routes and Rocks has historically been a route hazard that persisted through the summer and the prevailing wisdom was to always carry an ice axe when crossing High Pass. In more recent years, this snowfield has been melting out sometime in late summer and is of no concern at that point, though it may still merit carrying an ice axe earlier in the summer.

The climb to Little Giant Pass from the Napeequa Valley is a notoriously steep, rough, and brushy trail, though ascending it shouldn't pose any more of a problem to experienced travelers than High Pass does. I wouldn't recommend descending from Little Giant Pass to the Napeequa, though I have encountered people doing it and it can be done. In 2009, two horses fell to their deaths while descending from Little Giant Pass to the Napeequa Valley.

Distance: about 31 miles

Elevation Gain: 8,500-9,000'-ish

Maps and More:

Overview Map:


Entering Glacier Peak Wilderness

Helmet Butte coming into view

Glacier Peak from near Buck Creek Pass

Glacier Peak and the Dakobed Range

Approaching High Pass

High Pass, the route goes across the slope on the left side

Triad Lake

Beginning the descent from High Pass to the Napeequa Valley

Muddy marmot tracks

Continuing the descent to the Napeequa Valley

Getting views of Clark Mountain and the eastern end of the Dakobed Range

Closer view of Clark Mountain

First look downstream the Napeequa Valley

Louis Creek

Clark Glacier up close

Looking back upstream along the Napeequa River

The Napeequa Valley: as pretty as an Alaskan glacial valley and almost as brushy

Beetle-killed trees (the brown stands) above the Chiwawa River valley

More info:

Luke's excellent trip report from October 2014