Boston Peak

July 25, 2019


Cascade Pass / North Cascades Highway, WA

Boston Peak in the core of North Cascades has reputation of being a scary pile of choss and it sure is. It might not be as bad as people make it sound on the various threads but by Washington standard I agree 100% this is a choss pile. The standard route follows a series of 4th class ledges on the east face and is recommended to ascend unroped to minimize rockfall danger. The descent is usually done by 3 rappels station-to-station. The easiest access is by climbing up and over Sahale Peak which involves sections of exposed 3rd class choss. On the other hand, Boston Peak is also famed for the views. At least two friends of mine who have finished the Bulgers list agreed that Sahale / Boston offers the finest view in Washington state. After the climb I would tentatively agree.

The last-minute plan among Al, Mel and I was to bag Sahale Peak and Boston Peak in a long day from Vancouver. Everything went according to plan and we successfully traversed up and over Sahale Peak in a timely manner, and now in late AM we were traversing increasingly exposed class 3 chossy ridge towards Boston Peak.

Sahale Peak and Boston Peak via Sahale Glacier. GPX DL

I did not do a ton of research of how to reach the base of Boston Peak’s east face and thought we just had to follow the ridge line. This was wrong. We ascended a long section of class 2-3 choss onto a knife-edge arete and started to traverse across the arete. We even passed one rappel station and thought this was indeed the route. The ridge became very exposed and loose that in short time I decided to short-rope Mel while Al scrambling beside us to scope things out. After about one rope length we noticed some footprints on the snowfield much lower down, so wrapped around a boulder and rappelled. I cleared the sling and down-climbed to save money and time. Traversing this patch of exposed snow wasn’t trivial neither because both Al and Mel had ditched their ice axes earlier in the trip, so I went ahead and kicked some big steps. The snow traverse was certainly a no-fall zone because there were multiple man-eating bergschrunds waiting to consume careless climbers.

Descending the north ridge of Sahale Peak. Easy going so far

The imposing summit block of Boston Peak is getting closer and closer

Al demostrating some balancing work

Al scrambling up the off-route section.

Mel carefully working her way down the (on route) 3rd class ridge

The summit block of Boston Peak from an off route position

We had to build an anchor and this is Mel rappelling down to rejoin the route

The correct way was to traverse this snow field. Not easy without gears..

At the base of the east face we scrambled easy 3rd class steps to gain an obvious ledge that ran across most of the face, and wondered where the heck this route went. After about 10 minutes of searching around I was convinced that there’s no way the ascent line to be the same as the rappel route. My original plan was to simply drag the rope up and use the rappel stations to belay Mel on the climb so didn’t bring any trad gears other than one .75 cam and a quadruple-length sling. The easier attack on the face existed on the northern side and I now had to come up with a solution. I decided to tie the two 30-m twin ropes we had together and drag one side up (without a belay), for at least 40-50 m up the face until able to build a station using my single cam and/or the sling, because this way I would only need to build one station instead of two on the face. This worked greatly at the start but the rocks on this peak weren’t very friendly to let the rope pass. The rope got caught on everything and I was forced to climb up a sketchy 4th/low 5th class step in the middle of the face. I had to keep relatively straight up instead of making a diagonal traverse out to the right (which looked easier). Thankfully I did find a neat natural protection to sling around. A shout out to Mel and Al had me realized I had just climbed for a little bit more than 30 meters, shorter than I was hoping for. But this anchor was bomber so I had to use it. Meanwhile Al scrambled to the right of my line and found it no harder than 4th class, but Mel had no choice but climbing the same line I did, but with a top rope belay this was more fun than scary.

Al traversing on the obvious ledge below Boston’s East Face

Mt. Logan and Boston Glacier

Mel starting up. Photo by Alan B.

This is my point of view looking down at Mel and Al starting the climb

The second pitch to the false summit was much easier and way shorter than I thought so in no time we were all on the summit ridge. I let Mel to run a rope length to the true summit while I belayed her from a big boulder on the false summit, and then simply scrambled to the top. We stayed on the summit for at least half an hour soaking in the views and reading the register. This register is a real time who-is-who in Washington state.

Al and Mel on the true summit already.

Summit Panorama from Boston Peak. Click to view large size.

Looking back at Sahale Peak which appears tiny now

We were also much higher than Johannesburg Mountain

The Triad in foreground; Twin Sisters Range in the background

Rising behind the shoulder of Eldorado Peak is Mt. Baker

Mt. Shuksan rises behind the tiny nipple of Dorado Needle

The triangular-shaped Forbidden Peak

The bulk mass of Jack Mountain in black-and-white

Kimtah Peak on Ragged Ridge

A closer look at Mt. Logan

Black Peak in the distance

Huge crevasses on Boston Glacier. This glacier is used to access Buckner N. Face

Behind the top of Booker Mountain are some Chelan area Bulgers

That glaciated massif is Dome Peak. To its left is Sinister Peak

Snowking Mountain looks pretty damn good from this vantage point.

The three climbers that we passed earlier in the day now on their way down

Me on the summit of Boston Peak

Mel and I on the summit

Our group shot on the summit of Boston Peak

Partial Panorama from the summit of Boston Peak. Click to view large size.

Yet another panorama from Boston Peak. Click to view large size.

The descent was done by three rappels station-to-station. This was Mel’s first time rappelling in real scenario and she absolutely crushed it. The snow traverse felt easier on the way back because of the slight uphill grade, and then we managed to pick a better line staying below the ridge crest to avoid that section of knife edge. I unfortunately had to climb and down-climb an unnecessary pitch of 3rd class choss because I stupidly left my trekking pole attached to the (off-route) rappel station. The down-climb felt sketchy as I could find maximum one point of contact that seemed solid to trust – not a huge deal as I came from Canadian Rockies. The rest of the way back across and then down the lower Boston’s ridge was loose and still required a lot of caution.

Me and Al searching for the rappel anchors. Photo by Mel O.

Me and Al setting up the first rappel. Photo by Mel O.

Al leading down the first rappel

Buckner Mountain and Boston Glacier

Mel finishing her first rappel in the alpine. Photo by Alan B.

Rappel station work..

This sideways shot illustrates the steepness of this face pretty well

Al on the second rappel. There’s a bit of overhang here

Looking back at the snow traverse we had to do soon

Mel finishing the Rappel #3

Another view of Buckner Mountain. Such a gorgeous peak

Mel and Al traversing exposed snow on the way back

Now to bypass the knife edge we found this exposed ledge

Al and Mel carefully working their way back across the ledge

Rejoining the ridge now. The exposure was huge

Mel scrambling on the chossy 3rd class ridge but with death exposure

Onto easier terrain now but still a ton of choss

More choss fest…

One last photo of Buckner Mountain.

It was tempting to just descend Quien Sabe Glacier following the tracks but we had left a shit ton of gears on various parts of the route so had to go back the same way, so up the north ridge of Sahale Peak we went. We did not have to climb all the way to the summit of Sahale Peak, and instead, we traversed across the NE Face at about 10 vertical meters lower than the summit, then did one awkward diagonal rappel to get off Sahale Peak. The rest of the descent down Sahale Glacier and then the trail was scenic, but very long and tedious. The switchbacks at the end was so shitty that we took a short-cut on almost every single one that we could see.

Ascending snow back onto the north ridge of Sahale Peak

Have to show two photos of this classic shot with Boston Peak in the background

A closer look at Forbidden Peak

A very zoomed-in shot of Goode Mountain, highest peak in North Cascade N. Park

Way in the distance is Hozomeen Mtn. and Jack Mtn.

Mel scrambling 3rd class slabs re-ascending Sahale Peak

Looking back at Boston Peak

One rappel to get off Sahale Peak

Looking down the easier section of SE Ridge of Sahale Peak

Mel on rappel off Sahale Peak

More scrambling.

A sea of peaks south of Stehekin River. Bonanza Peak is the highest

Descending onto Sahale Glacier

Plodding down Sahale Glacier. It was a fast one

A bit of rock hopping. We went off route here to get water

The valley of Stehekin River is very deep

A review shot of Sahale Peak from Sahale Arm

Descending trail on Sahale Arm

A panorama of Doubtful Lake. Click to view large size.

Mel dashing down the trail.

A curious deer. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by people

One last photo to show the trail descent. Mix-up Peak behind

Our round trip time was 11.5 hours which wasn’t bad considering the amount of rope work we did, and the fact we went off-route on Boston Peak. The drive back home was long and tiring and just as I thought I could maybe take Friday off I got an invite to climb Liberty Bell Mountain. Oh well. It was past 9 pm when we arrived back in Canada and now I had to go shopping for food and repack my gears. This also meant I had to drive all the way back to the same area… I did not sleep until 1:30 am in the morning and the alarm was set at 5 am, as enjoyable as it seemed…