Sunday, September 12, 2010

Return To Sahale Arm

Mike and I went up to Sahale Arm in the North Cascades on Saturday, taking our chances with the weather. We started early, beating any crowd, and had Sahale Camp to ourselves. This was really no big deal at first, considering the whole hike up to the 7600 foot camp was more or less in the clouds. We ran a little, but mainly it was a hike.

We happened across three deer bedded on the way up. Many marmots. According to Wikipedia, marmots hibernate roughly 7 to 8 months a year.

We hiked all the way up to Sahale Glacier, through fresh snow, with the visibility less than 20 feet. The fresh snow made the footing mildly sketchy, but it wasn't that bad.

The hike itself is steep, amounting to a 4000 foot climb from the car to the glacier, at probably about 800 feet of ascent per mile. It is steeper above Cascade Pass, on the way to Sahalee glacier, with essentially two climbs, with something of a plateau in between, above the remarkable Doubtful Lake.

We stood at the foot of the glacier for 15 or 20 minutes, waiting, in a cloud. There were hints of sun and blue sky in some directions, and so we hoped it would open up. Sure enough, slowly, the snow covered glacier began to reveal itself, and then Sahale Peak itself, against a cobalt blue sky. It was downright magical.

Views continued to improve over the next hour. Really special stuff, watching cloud patterns come and go through Cascade Pass, to reveal various peaks and glaciers in all directions. Pelton Mountain. Magic Mountain. Mount Johannesburg. Glacier Peak. The valley down to Chelan. 

In the picture above, there is a little mound in the foreground--that's one of the campsites for Sahale Peak--it is ringed in stones, to protect against the winds. Sahale Peak is this month's cover story hike for Washington Trails magazine, the WTA's periodical. Very worthwhile, though it would be really tough packing a full backpack. Last time up, three weeks ago, I ran into some folks who caught the full moon up there. They called it a once in a lifetime experience. Doesn't have to be, of course.

On the way down, the fall colors became more apparent--much moreso than three weeks ago--as huckleberries, heather and other flora are turning to reds and yellows. The colors will only get richer, presuming the weather holds and the snow doesn't come too fast.

We ran more on the down, but I kept stopping to take pictures. Mike, a much faster runner than me, is very patient, but as he said, he'd just finished Cascade a couple weeks ago, and so I don't think he minded too much. Amazingly to me, he had flown from the east coast the night before, with a 9 PM arrival.

For dessert, as it were, on the way down, we spotted three little specks above Doubtful Lake, perhaps a half mile away, as the crow flies. A mama bear and her growing cubs. We watched them ascend a rock wall that must've been a 5.9 climb.

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