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Ascent of Sahale Peak on 2018-08-25

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, August 25, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sahale Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8680 ft / 2645 m

Ascent Trip Report

Boston Peak (8,894ft) and Sahale Peak (8,680ft)

Eric Gilbertson and Birkan Uzun

August 25, 2018

I’ve read that Boston Peak is one of those peaks that sees very few repeat ascents. It indeed has quite a reputation for scary, exposed, loose rock, and there is no easy way up. I guess I’m perhaps one of the few people on that list of repeat ascenders.

I’d climbed Boston Peak with Aaron back in 2016, but needed to reclimb it to tighten my Bulger completion clock. Birkan was eager to join, so we set a date of Saturday for the ascent. On Friday I left Seattle at noon, squeezed in a quick climb of Black Peak, and met Birkan at the Cascade Pass trailhead around 10:30pm that night.

My grand plan was to climb Boston and Sahale with Birkan Saturday, then when Birkan hiked back I would drop into Horshoe basin and climb Horshoe and Buckner solo, and maybe make it back to the car that evening. I wanted to give myself the option of camping out in case those peaks took longer than expected (I’d picked up a permit on Friday), so I packed a bivy sack and sleeping bag just in case.

We left the car at 5:30am, hiking through thick clouds up to Cascade Pass. The weather.gov forecast for the day was partly sunny with a 20% chance of showers, but I’ve come to realize that you have to round those forecasts towards the wet end in the western cascades.

We were still socked in at Cascade Pass, and along the whole hike up Sahale Arm to the Sahale Glacier. Around the Sahale Glacier another climber, Dave Golias, caught up to us and said he was also planning to climb Boston Peak.

The clouds briefly cleared for a view as we ascended the glacier. There are only a few crevasses that were melted out and easily visible, so we didn’t bother roping up. Above the glacier we scrambled up the 3rd class route on the right side of Sahale to the summit. Surprisingly, there was a fixed anchor and a fixed rope dangling down the southwest face. I’m not quite sure what that was for, given there’s a third class route to the summit. Also surprising is that the survey marker on the summit has “Boston” inscribed, even though it’s clearly not on Boston Peak.

While on the summit the clouds rolled back in, and we were socked in the rest of the day. Luckily the route is very straightforward almost the whole way between Sahale and Boston. You just follow the crest of a sharp ridge.

I led the way across the ridge, and we downclimbed to the edge of a big snowbank, then scrambled across a very narrow exposed section. At the base of Boston we traversed around to the right on ledges until we reached the Boston Glacier. Last time I had traversed on the snow at the top of the glacier, but this time I tried scrambling on the rocks above it. That worked out pretty well, and on the other side I ditched my crampons and ice ax. This happened to be at the base of the rappel route.

We then traversed around a ledge until we got cliffed out. At about that point it started snowing, and I lost all hope of a partly sunny day. A few big rocks got sent tumbling down to the Boston Glacier below, but nobody slipped. From the ledge we scrambled up the increasingly wet and slippery rock, until we reached the 4th class crux move.

I’d soloed this last time, but felt a bit less comfortable when the rock was wet and snowy, and Birkan was sort of new to fourth class terrain. I’d brought rock gear and the rope, so stuck in a few pieces and led up to the ridge crest. I belayed Birkan up, then we scrambled the last bit up to the summit.

Dave was busy perusing the summit register, which is one of the best I’ve seen of all the Bulgers. It’s in a big cast iron rectangular box, and is a big notebook dating from 1969. It’s in great shape, and it’s fun to see all the famous names in there. I picked out my sign-in from 2016, and made a new one for 2018. I kind of wonder how many repeat ascenders Boston has, though I didn’t take the time to check the register carefully.

Last time I was here we had a single 50m rope and the descent required 3 rappels back to the col above the Boston Glacier (the descent route is different than the ascent route). However, this time I had a 60m rope, and Dave had a 70m rope. We tied the ropes together and it looked like we could make it down in one big rappel.

Birkan had never rappelled before, so Dave went first and Birkan went second. That way I could make sure he was attached correctly and Dave could put him on a fireman’s belay. I’m sure Birkan would have done fine if it was just the two of us also.

The anchor held fine, and soon we were all back down at the col. It hadn’t let up snowing, and the rock was getting pretty wet. Luckily we were done with the sketchiest part, though. I led the way back around the ledge, and over the knife-edge scramble to Sahale Peak. We then descended the Sahale Glacier back to Sahale Camp.

By then the snow had turned to rain, and it was coming down kind of hard. I needed to make a decision then whether I would stick around to climb Horshoe and Buckner or not. It wasn’t too tough of a decision to make. I only had a bivy sack, which meant I would be miserable sleeping in the rain. Also, Horshoe was 5th class on the summit, which I’d planned to rope solo, but that would also be miserable in the rain.

I made the call to hike back to the trailhead with Birkan and Dave and come back when the forecast looked a bit better. We passed a few groups of soaking wet hikers on their way up to camp, and I was glad to be heading back to a warm and dry car.

We got back around 4:30pm for an 11-hour round trip. By then I had formulated a new plan – I would drive out and climb Windy Peak, which I also needed to climb to shave time off my Bulger Clock. Windy was one of only two Bulgers with a trail all the way to the summit, so I knew it was one I could do no matter how bad the weather was. It looked like there even might be enough time to tag it that night, if the drive didn’t take too long..

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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