After climbing Mount Pugh I wondered to myself "what do I want to do for my birthday?". Of course what would any alpinist want to do for their birthday? Go for an epic adventure! For a long time I've wanted to bike to Sahale Mountain considering that it's one of my favorite mountains. The word Sahale is a Native American word meaning high place, which fits the description well. It's mountains like these that I consider to be the most beautiful of places in the world. The adventure consisted of about 40 miles of traveling, the first part would be biking from the road closure half way though the valley to the trailhead. After that then to the pass, up Sahale Arm, and to the summit and back.
We had a limited budget on what we could bring for food so Michael and I rigged up 3 bean burritos, a some what filled jar of peanut butter, a small bottle of jelly, a half loaf of bread, and some granola bars which would serve as our food for the entire trip. If everything went according to plan, we would be back Sunday. Unfortunately the rope deal complicated the trip beginning, my friend Mark Straub let us borrow his rope which we then made our way for Sahale.
Day 1: Riding though the Cascade Valley
By the time we got to Cascade Valley the sun was already setting behind the ridge. We had to make good time if we were to make this a success. The bike ride though the valley was a decent challenge in itself. The fact that I was using a bike from the 1980's and had a heavy pack on made it more exciting. Around mile marker 12 was where the construction was taking place, the bridge was in good shape, but they were reinforcing it. Quite often the Cascade Valley has been known for washouts though out the years which this year was no exception to this. A mile later we had a nice down hill ride which meant we would have to go back up on the way back. As we went down another hill I looked up and Johannesburg Mountain looming above with clouds over it which was formidable looking. Once we arrived on the up hill part we pressed on up as much as we could and then walked the bikes. We repeated this for miles though the valley. We did not see another person until the end of the trip. I was a little worried about the thought as we kept going further and further into the mountains, but at the same time it was a comforting feeling to not have to deal with loud noises, to have quietness, and the whole place to ourselves.
As we biked through the woods the sun started to set and it started to get darker and darker. We could see mountains through the trees glowing bright red. One of the mountains I remember was sticking out, my beautiful Sahale! It was quite an amazing feeling being out in these woods in the Cascade Valley.
Eventually we arrive at mile marker 21. We knew that the remaining road from here was steep so we stashed our hikes off to the side behind a log near an old abandoned cabin. After a little bit further we took a break to filter some water and enjoy the scenery. A mile later we arrived at the Cascade Pass trailhead.
As we walked along I would watch as clouds would rise over Cascade Peak and the Triplets with a little moon light giving it a really nice atmosphere to the place. The stars also made for a great show, I felt like a pioneer the way that it looked, just me, my brother, and the mountains. Normally this would be an easy hike to the pass but the bike ride, climbing Mount Pugh, and the heavy pack took its toll on us. It was beginning to feel relentless switch backing through the woods. Later that night we found a good place to camp. I went to sleep fast, which was very solid that night and woke up a little after sunrise.
Day 2: Going for SahaleWe had breakfast which was waffles and syrup. The weather was very nice looking outside although with a bit of winds. Along Sahale Arm we found a small pond which was a good spot to purify water. At first we were skeptical of using it because it was a bit green but it was good enough to use.
After this we hiked on up Sahale Arm until we arrived at the Sahale Glacier. This is where things slowed down. Michael had a hard time putting on his crampons but eventually figured it out. We roped up, attached our prusiks and were ready to go. At first we were making good time up until the slope got steep. There were large crevasses almost completely splitting the glacier making it questionable whether we could even make it. We had to cross back and forth across the glacier to get past them. It was a very cool feeling to be leading my brother up the mountain, feeling some what like a guide.
The crevasses crossed each other which worried me, but to our luck we found a snow bridge that worked well. And who says the Sahale Glacier is not much of a glacier. After a few hundred feet of walking though snow we unroped and headed up the South West Ridge. It started out as a scramble through rocks which were loose as we went up. As we were scrambling on the ridge I got to a point were I did not feel comfortable and decided I would have to turn around and find another way. When I got down Michael said he was done, so the last part I had to solo. Even starting out was worry some for me, I had to be careful and hold on tight to the rock which was solid.
As I pushed myself further and further up the face I was some how almost in some kind of trance, perhaps summit fever. It got to the point were it felt like class 4, crazy emotions started striking me. The moment got more and more intense with each step until I got on the summit ridge about 100 feet from the summit. It was one of the scariest spots I have ever touched (back in 2009), I only took one photo from this spot and carefully put my camera away. Normally I would not have even taken the one photograph but I some how felt compelled to do so, the moment was so beautiful and view was unique. I looked up at the summit which looked at least class 5, way to dangerous to approach, not only did the ridge look loose, but a huge cliff and glacier were below me, and I decided to call it quits here. Boston Peak looked even more intimidating, I did not stay on this spot long because of the dangers, after this trip I found out I was on the wrong ridge. Down climbing it was frightening, I had to be very careful. Finally when I got to the class 3 part I felt a lot better.
As I was heading down a safer route I looked back at the summit block at what could of been the right way to the summit which I believe goes a little around the east part. I decided against it because not only did it look a little iffy, I was solo, and the sun was going to set soon. Even though we spent a good effort trying to summit, I decided it was not worth the risks and that Sahale will be there some day, and besides a return trip when snow covered would be better.
I return to Michael, we rope back up and tried to get down as fast as possible to avoid the glacier freezing over. Heading down was not too bad, the place was starting to get sunset colors, and soon we were off the glacier. We repacked our gear and made a hurry down, it began to get cold quick, especially with the winds. On the way down we came back to our pond to filter more water. It was partly frozen making the process less enjoyable. Filtering the water was extremely cold, my hands started to go numb fast.
Soon it became dark which we arrived at camp with the winds picking up. After eating and such we went to bed. As we were about to go to sleep we started seeing lighting up parts of the tent which frightened me at first because I had no idea what was going on. To our amazement the wind was creating static electricity which glows in the dark, but I was so tired that I soon fell asleep.
Day 3: The Return back HomeWhen I woke up the sun was up which meant it was time to go and pack up our gear. We originally did not expect to stay a second night but considered it possible, so our food supply was short. I drank out of the jelly jar and ate strait up peanut butter.
Heading down was not as difficult as I had expected it to be, for the most part it was easy, although I had become quite thirsty by now due to the lack of water we had left. A ways down the road we hit the creek again and filtered some more water. By this point we were running down the road, although I had to stop because it became a bit much running down the steep road with heavy packs and being tired on a hot day. At least the conditions were nice.
We soon got to our bikes near the cabin and started heading down. After a few miles we got to the down hill section which worried me due to the slope and turns, Michael was way ahead of me, and I did not slow down much because I did not want to fall behind. Later when we got to the bottom of the hill we took a break, Michael noticed the strange noise coming from the bike (this was the same bike I used on my Steven's Pass Attempt Trip which tends to get a lot of friction). Michael "fixed it" or at least for a little while, until the clicking came back, we swapped bikes which was so much easier on me when going up hill. "And I thought going up hill on my bike was bad enough" Michael told me when we got to the top of the hill. We swapped back, for good reasoning to. I took one last look at Johannesburg before riding down the other side of the hill. I would have taken more photos but I already deleted enough photos as it was because I was using a memory card which had 128 megabytes of space which I was disappointed about.
After biking, and sometimes hiking up hill we later got to the construction zone which I was glad to see them at work on the road. After this we biked down hill and then were at the car. From here we drove home. I had to miss Monday of school which we had not expected to miss but ended up having to. This was an exciting adventure which I been so long wanting to return here, I hope to go up to the summit some day. After all, This is my America!