To scramble is defined as a verb meaning to “make one’s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep slope or over rough ground by using one’s hands as well as one’s feet.” Scrambling is exactly what laid ahead of us as we hiked up to the North Cascades National Park‘s Sahale Arm towards its summit block.

I have traveled to the South Island of New Zealand and South America‘s Patagonia but having the North Cascades National Park in my backyard is priceless. I can’t imagine living anyone else in the United States as the Cascade Mountain Range soothes my outdoor sole and brings me to a place I have trouble explaining. Enough with my love devotion to the mountains…

Mountaineering Gear

Packing all things sharp.

Only planning a day trip, I vowed to return next time with overnight permits to camp at one of the most gorgeous areas in the state of Washington. Though, I wasn’t complaining as my step was lighter without overnight gear.

Taking a more gradual approach to ease the 5,324 descent on the knees, we hiked the switchbacks up to Cascade Pass. After reaching the pass, a forest fired burned in the distance. The area has been having many forest fires and is causing sections to be closed down. A ranger checking permits on the trail said it wasn’t a priority fire since others were larger. She has been a ranger for many years and carried a gun on her hip.

She was radioed to provide her position and asked if she has enough resources to hike the 23 miles towards a different fire. We listened as the radio conversation unfold.

After reaching the few camping spots on Sahale Arm, it was time to walk to the snow just a hundred yards away. We switched to mountaineering boots from our approach shoes and added the sharp, spiked crampons for traction on the hard snow. With ice axes in hand, we climbed onto the snow and followed the bootpack around shallow crevasses.

The snow was’t too steep nor spanned far. Wayne, who was attempting Boston for the fourth time for bad weather, continued to be amazing on how little snow covered the glaciers and surrounding mountains. After the first snow crossing, we packed the crampons away and started to scramble up towards Sahale’s summit block. We skirted around just below the summit block and started to traverse on the knife-edge ridge that connected Sahale to Boston Peak.

Boston Peak

Throughout the day, the smokey haze thicken and covered the surrounding peaks. I only imagined the views in the distance that weren’t covered.

Boston Basin

Eldorado (left in the distance) and Forbidden Peak (right) are also on my tick list.

We walked along the ridge. My legs were already shaky. How was I going to continue? Deep breaths and focus got me across the ridge and to the next snow crossing, which was only 100 or so feet. Safety is key, so we strapped the metal to the boots and pulled out the ice axes to balance and aid across the snow. A fall would result in a slide into a large crevasse and none of us wanted to tempt fate.

It was time for route finding. After discussions and reading past trip reports, we found one that seemed to “go.” Inspecting every hold and stabilizing my feet on the loose scree, I continued to focus on the task at hand.

Scrambling and holding awkwardly to the rock, check.

The peak has class 4 scrambling, which is defined on by the Yosemite Decimal System as “simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal.” A fall definitely would have been fatal on the high exposed peak without anything to catch or slow the fall, such as trees or dense brush.

Boston Peak summit log

After the last exposed steep section, we made it to the summit! A metal box protects the summit log, which dates back to the early 1960s. I was surprised on how little climbers had made it to the top. Wayne signed each of our names and added a 81/100 next to his. Boston Peak was his 81st Washington peak, and he was one peak closer to completing the 100 highest peaks on the Washington Bulger List.

Boston Peak summit

Victoriously standing on Boston Peak’s summit.

After a few photos on the summit, it was time to finally use the rope and rappel down the loose rock. Taking turns rapping down while trying not to kick rocks on the way down. We had three raps off of Boston as we retraced our route back to Sahale.

Since we were so close, we decided scramble up to Sahale Peak. Two of the top 100 in one day for me. I know it is possible to get a few in one day, but I was proud of my accomplishment of handling the exposure off a rope and progressing my outdoor exploration mentality.

Smoky North Cascades - Boston Peak

View of Boston from Sahale with a haze of fire smoke.

Standing on the Sahale summit in the golden hour of the day, we knew it would be a long descent back to the car–mostly in the dark. One last rappel, down climb and a glacier crossing used up the remaining natural light.

On rappell

Wayne tossing rope off Sahale’s summit.

We made it back to the Sahale Arm camping area before switching back to our approach shoes and lighting up the trail with our headlamps. After a couple of boulder fields and reaching Cascade Pass, I counted 38 gradual switchbacks keeping me awake to the trailhead. Fifteen hours trailhead to trailhead was a little longer than we anticipated, but it was still an amazing day of scrambling and exploring the mountains.

Trip Date: August 22, 2015

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