Re: trail maintenance in Glacier Peak
Having just hiked the “impassable” section I can shed some light. It’s my understanding that the Forest Service is planning on repairing the trail (there is a sign at the end of the detour that says that they’re currently working on it). It’s understandable though that it’s going to take years, if it’s even possible. First, the Suiattle River needs to be bridged. How it’s possible, I don’t know. The river isn’t big right now but the flood wash around it is about 500ft (?) wide. That’s a HUGE bridge. The other bridges could more easily be repaired but each one will be quite expensive and prone to future destruction. Then there is an area of switchbacks that was washed away in a landslide. It’s a fairly big zone of loose soil and rocks. A large scar down the entire ridge. This obstacle will probably require some re-routing of the trail. For them to do that while still maintaining the slight incline of switchbacks might require moving the whole trail a bit or a lot. I’d be surprised if they could simply rebuild trail accross the active slide path.
The trail is doable as evidenced by the hikers passing through. The danger areas that I identified were the crossings of Whitechuck Creek (I think), and the landslide area. We crossed Whitechuck on a somewhat sketchy log over dangerous water (this was upstream of the destroyed bridge). I heard that there was a better log downstream if you follow the flagging.
The oft-talked about Suiattle River crossing was fine. When we passed through there was a large tree just barely bridging the river downstream of the trail. It’s a constantly changing stream bed though and this log seems to be on it’s way out. I won’t give away the surprise but this log crossing is a novelty. When I passed through, fording the Suiattle seemed in the realm of the possible. Again, dangerous, but possible. It was maybe knee deep, pretty swift but not totally cloudy. The runout of a swim looked decent.
Our route through the landslide was more dangerous than neccessary. It involved some slight, loose mud footholds on very high angle slopes with dangerous consequences. It was better to simply head straight down the slide path for a little bit. Be sure to scout!
All in all, the trail was great. Beautiful and exciting. But be aware that the old trail did involve a greater degree of risk than most of the rest of the PCT held. It was one of the most dangerous things I did on the trail this year. The government has flagged helpful areas. Follow this flagging.
I mitigated the risk by not traveling solo through this section. I suggest you do the same. I’d also seriously consider taking one of the alternates. I’m sure they’re great and they probably safer. Safety is #1 priority, right? So, make up your own mind. I don’t recommending heading in to this area simply because other hikers are doing it.