Bore-hole photography demonstrates that the glacier bed was reached by cable-tool drilling in five bore holes in Blue Glacier, Washington. Basal sliding velocities measured by bore-hole photography, and confirmed by inclinometry, range from 0.3 to 3.0 cm/d and average 1.0 cm/d, much less than half the surface velocity of 15 cm/d. Sliding directions deviate up to 30° from the surface flow direction. Marked lateral and time variations in sliding velocity occur. The glacier bed consists of bedrock overlain by a ≈ 10 cm layer of active subsole drift, which intervenes between bedrock and ice sole and is actively involved in the sliding process. It forms a mechanically and visibly distinct layer, partially to completely ice-free, beneath the zone of debris-laden ice at the base of the glacier. Internal motions in the subsole drift include rolling of clasts caught between bedrock and moving ice. The largest sliding velocities occur in places where a basal gap, of width up to a few centimeters, intervenes between ice sole and subsole drift. The gap may result from ice—bed separation due to pressurization of the bed by bore-hole water. Water levels in bore holes reaching the bed drop to the bottom when good hydraulic connection is established with sub-glacial conduits; the water pressure in the conduits is essentially atmospheric. Factors responsible for the generally low sliding velocities are high bed roughness due to subsole drift, partial support of basal shear stress by rock friction, and minimal basal cavitation because of low water pressure in subglacial conduits. The observed basal conditions do not closely correspond to those assumed in existing theories of sliding.