The plan was for a lazy climb of Black Peak on the NE ridge in a two day trip. Many do the climb in a day, but adding the extra day allows you to really soak in the scenery and practice evading goats.
We met up in Seattle at 6am, picking up the forth member of our team in Everett around 6:20 before getting up to HWY 20 for the long drive out to Rainy Pass. We got to the trail head just before 10am, having to park near the road due to snow. Before getting on the trail we had to push some old folks out of the aforementioned snow when they mistook their Chevy Cobalt for some sort of off-road vehicle. After taking care of this we were geared up and on the trail at 10:20.
The trail was still mostly snow-covered, but there were fresh tracks making navigation pretty straight forward. About an hour and a half later we finished our ascent of Heather pass and got the first views of the immense eastern flank of Black Peak. Immediately the NE ridge stood out as a rugged saw tooth of a route which got the adrenaline drip going.
From here it isn't too far to the base of the massif, so shortly after beginning our traverse of the southern flank of the basin we stopped for an alpine nap. Our ledge had a stream that we wanted to fill our bottles with before leaving, a plan that was almost voided when J nearly pissed into it!
We left our perch after about an hour, continuing past Lewis lake and up to Wing Lake. We plopped down and set up camp on a couple rock outcroppings. Finding flat campsites off the snow was scarce up here with the heavy snow pack that remained late in the season. This turned out to be greatly beneficial for the approach all the way from the pass, keeping us on a more forgiving snow slope than the boulder field that must be traversed in late season.
Around 6pm we saw a team descending from the SE ridge. They seemed to be taking it slow down a snow slope that looked prime for a 200' glissade. The reason for this quickly became evident when a goat appeared on the ridge and came sprinting down the slope, almost taking out one of the climbers! After pausing for a minute the goat continued his assault down the slope, spraying a rooster-tail of snow up behind him. We asked the team about their companion and learned that the goat had followed them from the basin, all the way up the NE ridge, down the other side, and back to where we had set up camp. This made their climb sound a little more epic considering they had a creature potentially kicking the loose rock from the ridge down on them or crowding the exposed ridge. And much to our chagrin, the dumb thing decided that he would now make us his new friends, hanging out at camp (usually within 20 yards of camp) the rest of the night.
We planned to get going at 5am the next day, and made it out by 5:20 up toward the prominent notch at the base of the NE ridge. Again the snow cover here aided in our efforts over ground that is usually loose and arduous when bare. We made good time up the hillside to the notch, gaining the ridge at 8am.
On the notch the views west were fabulous! Baker and Shuksan immediately popped out along with the Pickets. Looking back at the valley we had ascended the North Cascades were exposed. And best of all, the goat had decided to take a day off from climbing.
The start of the route moves to the left of the first large block and up an easy 4th class section along the ridge and moderate exposure. Beyond this a small ledge presented itself as a good place to rope up. We simul-climbed as two groups of two, trying to keep at least two pieces of pro between us at all times. The route continues mostly along the ridge with a couple variations onto the eastern face. Rock is loose throughout the route so checking every hand and foot hold before weighting it should be the rule. Along the way there are two low fifth class moves that require you to hop on top of 7-10' ledges. These moves become easier due to the improving conditions of the rock further up the route. About half way up the ridge there is one side step around on the west face, but besides this you should not climb this side of the ridge.
At the false summit there was a small patch of corniced snow that we had to cross, giving incredible views down 2000' to the west. From here the final gulley ascends up and right to the summit block. We moved to the left and made the final ~50' up a 4th class gulley: a little more interesting.
Views were spectacular from the summit! The time was 11:10am, not fast, but not bad. Glacier, Logan, and Rainier to the south. The north face of Logan looked pretty intimidating. Nick pulled out two Jr Bacon Cheeseburgers that he had packed up and wolfed them down. After 15 minutes on the summit we made our way down the choss pile to the south. The gulleys are easy to follow and there are many options. Again the snow made this a little less unpleasant. Two long glissades brought us back down to camp at 1pm.
Looking back up at the mountain we reflected on a great climb. It took us 7 hours camp to camp. We packed up camp, said our farewells to the goat, and hoofed it back to the parking lot.
Rope (coiled to 20m);
Half set of nuts;
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