PrologueWho: Josh Lewis and I
What Climb of Sahale, Boston, Eldorado and Klawatti Peaks
When The last week of August
Why Well...you get the idea
This trip was a long time coming for me. I had been living in Colorado for over four years and been having lots of fun climbing there. I have been working on the Centennials (Colorado top 100) which is like the Bulgers for Washington but I was always very excited to get back home and head to the North Cascades. Over the past few summers I only visited home in July and was only able to do short climbs in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Pretty hard for even me to believe that this trip was my first time to the North Cascades despite growing up in Renton. This year has so far been the best and most successful climbing years in my life spending all winter and spring in Colorado, a climb of Rainier the 4th of July Weekend, then 5 weeks in Montana before a quick trip back to Colorado. I then returned home for the rest of the year in the end of August. I quickly embarked on my first trip to the North Cascades which would include climbs of Sahale Peak, Boston Peak, Eldorado Peak and Klawatti Peak. I could hardly contain my excitement as Josh and I drove to the Cascade Pass Trailhead after I picked him up from Lynnwood. My Bulger quest had begun.
Day 1 - Sahale and Boston PeaksOur trip started with the long drive up the Cascade River Road. This was my first time here and Josh gave me the grand tour. Since we got to the TH around 6pm surrounded by some low clouds, we decided to just camp there and start the next morning. We organized gear and went to bed with the plan to start around 7 in the morning. By 9am we were finally ooff, after sleeping in a bit. We started up the Cascade Pass trail. This trail was pretty easy since the switchbacks were low angled but the added distance was annoying. It took us about 2 hours to get to Cascade Pass where we stashed some gear and started up the Sahale Arm Trail.
Since I had just come off over a year at altitude, the hiking was so easy. We made it to the base of the Sahale Glacier from Cascade Pass in less than an hour and roped up for the glacier. I was surprised how small this glacier was and we crossed it in less time than it took us to rope up. Just as we reached the far end of the glacier at about 3pm we met up with two other guys coming down who had camped at the Sahale Arm campsites. They had told us they just came off Boston Peak and we asked them how it was. When they said it wasn't that bad at all I looked at Josh and I think we thought the same thing. "Wanna try for Boston Peak I ask" and we were both very excited to give it a go! We got some beta from them and off we went to finish the climb of Sahale Peak. Really, it was very easy. We just climbed the talus to the summit block and scrambled around on some easy class 3 terrain until reaching the top.
Now for the real fun. Boston Peak lurked across the way and the ridge traverse for the most part looked like nothing more than an easy walk. We descended some slabs off Sahale and began traversing north. We reached the low saddle in no time and passed by a nice bivy spot.
We continued climbing up the ridge staying on the crest as much as possible to avoid the steep loose terrain to either side. We crossed numerous knife edge sections but they were all pretty solid. Once we got close to the false south summit we traversed right and descended off the ridge to the head of the enormous Boston Glacier. A short walk at the snow/rock contact led us to a ledge at the base of the east face of Boston Peak. The beta we had gathered said to climb 20 feet up to a second ledge and walk it to its end then begin climbing up the face "following the line of the mountain". So we did just that, we climbed 20 feet of loose class 2+ terrain to gain the second ledge and walked a short ways to its end. From there I started to climb, hesitant at first but then I soon realized that the east face was so perfectly ledged out that the climbing rarely even exceeded class 3. Just climb from one ledge to the next following the path of least resistance. The only class 4 move was a small 15 foot chimney near the summit. The rock was no where near as loose as I had been led to believe nor was it all that exposed due to the abundance of nice ledges. The only bad part was that some of the ledges had some ball bearing scree to be sure and avoid. Before we knew it we were on the summit and I was nearly in tears. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Boston Peak would be Bulger number 10 for me...I thought it would be one of my last ones! Josh and I took in the joy of the moment as we were standing on one of the hardesr Bulgers at 6 in the evening with the late afternoon sun lighting all the surrounding peaks in a bright yellow and orange glow. To the west lie a sea of clouds with Forbidden Peak and Eldorado poking above and to the south Glacier Peak and the whole Ptarmigan Traverse was visible and to the East, Logan and Goode dominated the views.
We opened the big metal Mazama Mountaineers box and looked through the book to see so few ascents of this peak. Some well known WA mountaineers in there and I was honored to put my name in the book on page 50. Only 50 pages of widely spaced signatures since 1961. That really impressed me. Since it was getting late we knew we had to get down not just to avoid getting stuck up there in the dark but to also we had to hike down the trail back to the cars. We pulled the rope out and began setting up the first rappel. There were 3 rappels back down to the top of the Boston Glacier which all went smoothly. The hike back to the Sahale Glacier was gorgeous with the late evening light. We reached the Sahale Glacier just as the sun was setting and ran down the soft snow to the trail. We briefly chatted again with the guys who gave us the beta and thanked them and off we went down the trail. We reached Cascade Pass again just as complete darkness came and a bunch of fog rolled in. We took a quick break to snack and finished the long walk down the trail.
Day 2 - Eldorado PeakDay two started with a decent sleep in and a quick reshuffle of gear. We started up the Eldorado climbing route by crossing the log over the Cascade River and slogging up the steep trail. This took hours as we had to hike through the dense forests, scramble up the long boulder field, and hike up the ridge to cross over into the next drainage to the west. We reached snow and roped up for the Eldorado Glacier. Staying right, we climbed moderate snow and got to the incredible ice cliffs formation.
We continued across the long flat portion of the glacier and reached the east ridge of Eldorado sometime in the afternoon. We were also greeted with our first views of Klawatti. After stashing some gear, we continued the easy ascent to the summit of Eldorado, passing over the infamous knife edge at the top.
From the summit the views towards Forbidden Peak, Klawatti Peak, and Johannesburg Mountain were all absolutely fantastic. There are so many great peaks to climb in this area. We began the descent off the east ridge. I decided to avoid the knife edge going down and took the rock on the other side while Josh went down the snow. We quickly met up again and returned to our gear stash. We made good time roping up again for the long traverse we had ahead of us. Since Klawatti Peak was our next goal, we started traversing the Inspiration Glacier up high and walked below the impressive north face of Eldorado. The sun got lower and the lighting we had that evening made for some of THE most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Glacier Peak to the south had such great alpenglow I was in awe at the beauty of the area. We crossed over a sketchy snow bridge and continued down to the cool just to the SW of Klawatti Peak where a perfect camp site was flattened out on some rocks next to the glacier.
Enroute, we had to do a sketchy descent on steep snow to cross over a steep cornice. Upon reaching the col, it was a new high for me as it marked the best place I have ever camped surpassing my previous best camp spot I had last August in Bear Basin in the heart of the Wind Rivers of Wyoming just north of Gannett Peak. We took in the beauty of the sunset with lots of photos, set up the tent, melted water and cooked dinner. Josh got some great twilight photos of Forbidden and our tent while I cooked.
Day 3 - Klawatti PeakWe woke early to find a great sunrise on Eldorado Peak however some high thin clouds diffused the light too much for any real good lighting. We ate breakfast and roped up for the short glacier walk on the upper end of the McCallister Glacier. The plan was to climb the north ridge of Klawatti, traverse across its west face below the Smokestack then climb a gully on the SW face to reach the summit. Let me tell you though, this is one long way around for this peak. Looking back on it, we should have just climbed straight up from where our tent was which would have saved us hours. We began scrambling up the north ridge once we got to the Klawatti/Austrera col and quickly had to negotiate some very exposed fun knife edge sections. Some good routefinding was required to keep the route at third class. We got to the point where we had to traverse the west face, which took for ever since I kept trying to stay high above the vertical cliffs at the base of the face. There is a series of good but narrow ledges you have to find to safely traverse the face and I will save you the trouble by saying, you have to descend all the way to the top of the cliffs to find the best ledges. We had to keep focused the entire time as we continually were routefinding. We were traversing 65 degree loose rock on 6-12 inch ledges with a 100 foot cliff below. It took a mental toll for sure. Once we finally traversed the west face to get around the smokestack, we found a nice rib separating some of the many gullies on the SW face and climbed solid class 2+ to class 3 to the summit. I have never been on a peak surrounded by so much glaciers except for Rainier. But this peak was different than Rainier since there was world class views and rugged peaks everywhere. In my opinion, the North Cascades are the best alpine mountaineering in all the lower 48 states and I can say that without bias ow that I have been extensively all over Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
We returned the route which took much less time now that we knew the way and quickly packed up our gear and roped up to traverse back across the Inspiration Glacier. By now a series of high clouds were blocking the sun which was nice for the glacier walk. We weaved through the big crevasses and made good time getting back to the Eldorado Glacier to which the ensuing hike out was uneventful. A half gallon of milk and Costco muffins were amazing upon reaching the Shell Station in Marblemount.
AftermathTHIS TRIP WAS DA BOMB!!!!
Josh told me many times he thought this area is the best in Washington state, and since I firmly believe Washington has the best alpine mountaineering, the area around Forbifdden Peak including Boston, Logan, Goode, Eldorado, Dorado Needle, and the whole Ptarmigan Traverse is likely the best in the country outside Alaska!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the photos