Friday, October 1, 2010

Sloan Peak - 8/14/10

Sloan Peak Corkscrew Route

We met at Mark’s house in Vancouver at 5 a.m. and loaded up the car in the dark before beginning the long drive to Darrington, Wash. Introductions took place in a dark driveway followed by a dark car ride. It was strange meeting people in person for the first time and not actually seeing them for a couple hours. The only members of this team I knew before this trip were Chris and Kevin, whom I’d met briefly on the summit of Unicorn Peak a few weeks ago.

Fortunately traffic was light and we had no problem getting to the trailhead on time. We stopped at a local grocery store to pick up lunches. I ended up with a Lunchables box, which came as a complete meal with cheese and crackers and a juice box, along with Skittles for dessert!

The hike in was fairly uneventful. The approach trail is unmaintained and has a reputation for route finding challenges, brush, gnarly river crossings, and mosquitoes. There were some sketchy log crossings and the trail was quite overgrown in some areas, but none of these issues caused us significant problems. I managed to keep my feet dry for the entire approach.
Others were not so concerned about staying dry

We had some difficulty locating a decent camp spot large enough for our group of seven. I set up my bivy bag in a cleared area next to a fire ring, but the rest of the group setup their tents in the open meadow below.
The only flat spot large enough for our group

After the Lunchables meal I had for lunch I continued with the kid’s food theme and had macaroni and cheese for dinner. Unfortunately I forgot to add the tuna I’d brought until after I’d eaten the mac n’ cheese and ended up having to eat an entire package of tuna plain, which I’m not especially fond of.
Slabs approaching the glacier

The next day began with a scramble up some steep rock slabs to gain the North Moraine of the Sloan Glacier.

Crossing the glacier

Ordinarily the glacier would be very broken up this time of year, but due to the late spring snows we had this year, the crevasses remained mostly covered.
Corkscrewing climber's trail

After crossing the glacier the climb continues on a climber’s trail with some fun scrambling that corkscrews around the mountain (hence the name of the route), eventually leading to the summit.
View from the top

On our way back to camp the glacier crossing was painfully slow. Although it wasn’t particularly steep or crevassed there were a few members of our group who weren’t especially comfortable with the soft snow that balled up under our crampons, making for slippery footing. After making it across the glacier I used a standing glissade to descend snow fields back to camp, which made for a quick descent.

We packed up camp and hiked out the way we came. We had planned to possibly stay an extra night depending on how long the climb took. It was nice to get home early and have an extra day left on the weekend.

The dining options in Darrington are fairly limited. We opted for a bar donning a sign that read, “Biker and Family Friendly.” I figured with that type of endorsement we couldn’t go wrong. The service was good and the food was actually pretty satisfying. They had some monster hamburgers which are perfect post-climb fare.

This was an exploratory trip for our leader Kevin, meaning he’d never climbed this route before. It was obvious he’d done quite a bit of research on the route before leaving town. Thanks to his preparedness the trip went very smoothly and everyone had a great time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sahale Arm - 7/17/10

As I left the house at 2:30 a.m. Friday I felt mostly rested, but my body did not appreciate being roused at such an unusual hour. After collecting Hye and Shayna, we arrived at the Marblemount Ranger station in a respectable 5 hours from Northwest Portland. We hung out on the lawn for a bit while waiting for the rest of our crew to arrive, and once assembled, caravanned to the Cascade Pass trail head.

From here we began the march up to Cascade Pass. The weather was perfect: cool enough for hiking but with clear skies for unobstructed views. After resting on the patio at Cascade Pass we headed up the Sahale Arm proper. The higher we got on the Sahale Arm, the better the views. As we hiked I recalled the sign I saw posted as we rolled into the town of Marblemount welcoming us to "The American Alps". I’ve never been to Switzerland, but this area is very close to what I’ve imagined.
The hills are alive...

This climb could easily be done in and out in a long day from the trail head, but our trip was designed to flow at a more leisurely pace. Our plan was to camp at the base of the Sahale Glacier and summit the next day, then spend another night at camp before hiking out Sunday.

First break out of camp on Saturday

In addition to the views, one of the main advantages of camping at Sahale camp is that the summit is only 1,000’ away. Our group set off ~8 a.m. Saturday for the leisurely jaunt to the summit block. As we first headed out I was hopeful that we were getting an early enough start that we would have the mountain to ourselves that day. Unfortunately, being a group of 10 meant that there was a fair amount of standing around while our leader, Jeff, setup a fixed line and we each headed up to the summit one after the other. This additional time allowed for several other groups to catch up with us. By the time we were all on top, several other climbing parties were beginning their assault on the summit block from both the Quien Sabe and Sahale Glacier sides of the mountain. After a few quick photos, we made an orderly rappel descent to make room for the other groups.

Hanging out on top

The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out in camp taking naps, snacking, and even a bit of Hacky Sack. There were a couple of goats that hung around camp for most of the weekend, which also kept us entertained. The wind kicked up quite a bit Saturday evening, which meant interrupted sleep for many of us.

Home sweet home

The Loo With a View

Photo taken while using the Loo With a View. Intimidated the poop out of me...literally.

After the hike out on Sunday everyone seemed tired, hungry, and ready for a nap, so we stopped at the Skagit River Brewery in Mount Vernon to refuel before continuing the long drive home. I had a good time getting to know my team members on this trip since I didn’t know most of them beforehand. Thanks to Jeff for putting together a great trip!

I’ll be headed back to this area for a climb of Sloan Peak next month, so stay tuned for another trip report.