Sahale Peak

*Quick side note – this one is pretty short and sweet and right to the nitty gritty, because Sahale was so beautiful that I would have to work for hours to write the prose worthy of describing it. So I wrote about the climb and left the details up to the pictures.

Often times climbing is a lesson in flexibility and flying by the seat of your pants. Sahale Peak certainly was. Our original plan had been to send our friends Jessie and Spencer to the permitting office early on Friday to get us an overnight permit for Saturday night. Then the rest of our six person party would drive up Friday, sleep at the trailhead and hike in that morning. However, when we got a call midday from Spencer and Jessie telling us that apparently all the day of permits had been gobbled up at 7am that morning, we had to think fast. An overnight quickly turned into a Saturday day climb and we headed up to Marble Mount to join Jessie and Spencer at their campground in Mineral Springs.

Even though Spencer was a bit resistant to our propositioned 3am start we pushed it anyway and by 4am on Saturday morning we were meeting two of our BCC students at the trailhead to begin the hike in. I love an early start. Everything is quiet and cold in the wee hours of the morning, the mountains sporting glimmering snow patches high above. The first part of the trail up to Sahale is the Cascade Pass trail and while very mellow, it is comprised of a shocking number of switchbacks. Up and up we climbed through the trees as the sun crested a far off hill and the hemlocks and firs hid everything from view. Finally we broke through the trees and the views were expansive. We were looking up a valley towards Cascade Pass on one side and behind us was Eldorado, towering and white.

The trail traversed along the top of the valley as the sky turned from lavender to blush and under this early morning light show we rolled into Cascade Pass. From there our route took us up the Sahale Arm, a gorgeous wide ridge, covered in wild flowers and goats. The ridge leads right up to the base of the Sahale Glacier, where we had been attempting to get permits to camp. My heart longed for a permit, it would have been a beautiful place to spend the night. Everywhere you looked granite mountains rose out of the green sloping hills, layers and layers of mountains filled the horizon all the way to Rainier and Adams and the other giants. Everyone that needed to took advantage of one of the best placed privies any of us had ever seen. Then we roped up and stepped onto the glacier.

The Sahale Glacier is by all accounts, a very mellow glacier. There is maybe one or two crevasses that form in late season. We couldn’t see any. But two of our group had never been on a rope before and we wanted to show them the ins and outs of rope travel. So we roped up anyway. The glacier part of the climb was relatively short, although our legs were already pretty worked from the steep scree up to the base. We trudged our way up to the bottom of the rock and de-roped. I had tried wearing my crampons on my trail runners for the first time and while the fit wasn’t comfortable they seemed to stay on my feet. I changed into my rock shoes.

Sahale is basically just a tinsy spire made up of rubble rock. Everyone was sitting at the bottom of it staring up and snacking but I couldn’t wait anymore. This was our first real class 3/4 and I was antsy to see if I could do it. I started up the loose slope towards the summit block. The route spiraled up the rock across fairly easy scrambling – if it weren’t for the certain death down below. Once through the first little traverse there was an easy ledge to rest on and we headed up a little further to see what the next section looked like. There were already six or seven people on the true summit so we ended up waiting in a cramped little hole for a while. A guided group was learning how to rappel off the top so finally we decided to shimmy up a little v-shaped gully instead. I of course, insisted on this part being roped, my over active imagination seeing all of the terrible possible scenarios if someone fell. The rest of our group chose belay or no belay to the summit and eventually we were all standing on the summit block.

The surrounding views were gorgeous, with the crumbling Boston peak next to us taking up most of the horizon. We all oo-ed and aw-ed at the amazing beauty that is the North Cascades while we also set up and prepped a rappel. The rappel was fairly straight forward, only providing one hairy moment when a precarious pile of rocks was almost let loose on the folks down below. Easily avoided with some help from Kyle’s watchful eye and some swift and skillful maneuvering. In no time we were off the summit and back down where the rock met the snow. A short glacier walk later and the summit seemed like a distance dream, another part of another day, an adrenaline filled blip on the most beautiful walk any of us had ever done.

I am quite sure that none of us wanted to leave. We stopped frequently on the way down to breath deeply and stare out over the landscape in a way you can only do when wide open spaces greet the eye. The brooks babbled clearly all around us and even though we had been up early that morning and already summited a mountain that day and were sore and tired and had a long set of switchbacks ahead of us it was one of the most reviving climbs we had done in a while. One couldn’t help but smile.

 

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

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