September 27, 2015
Mount Baker Highway, WA
At elevation of close to 2300 m the horn-shaped Hadley Peak is not a small one by the North Cascades standard, but doesn’t seem to raise that much attention comparing to other 2300-meter objectives such as Mt. Rexford. The reason is simple – it’s significantly overshadowed by the nearby Mt. Baker, 1000 vertical meters higher and easily the biggest mountain one can see from near Vancouver. Hadley Peak is basically part of of Mt. Baker, but a fairly striking one in its own if you get close enough to it (and will offer some grand views given its location), so when Simon Chesterton (simonc) from ClubTread suggested this objective I instantly agreed. With more than 600 peaks under his belt Simon is one of the most accomplished peak-baggers as far as I know, and I’m glad to finally meet him.
The ascent of Hadley Peak is basically a long ridge walk over the many, many bumps on Skyline Divide and then Chowder Ridge, with some loose scrambling near the summit, but most of the ridge traverse is in the alpine (so great views), and for the most important, I could finally skip a good portion of the coastal forest slog thank to the logging road that brought us perhaps 1000 vertical meters up from the valley floor. In 45 minutes we broke out of the trees and arrived at the first highpoint of the day. We could see the ridge of Skyline Divide winding its way onwards and our objective a LONG way in the distance, but given the perfect autumn weather our spirit was high. Following this popular trail we managed to skip a couple bumps along the way by staying on the sides.
It didn’t take us long to arrive at the highest point on Skyline Divide, which was also the end of this officially maintained trail. After a short but necessary break we descended quite a ways down to the low pass between Skyline Divide and Chowder Ridge. Things started to get a little bit interesting once starting up the other side. There’s a trickier spot with a bit of route-finding and thank to the fresh snow, the rock and grass was slippery making some careful movements. But once through this bit the terrain got easier again, albeit it’s still a long slog even just to get to the base of our objective. From here on we opted to side-hill on climber’s right side of the many bumps along Chowder Ridge to avoid extensive elevation gain/loss/regain.
Eventually with some perseverance we did make to the base of Hadley Peak. Here the route traverses across the horribly loose scree over to the right hand side ridge before bashing up the SW Slopes on Class 2-3 terrain. The rock was indeed very loose – the type that everything you put weight on seemed to move. In other words, it’s bad even by Rockies standard… Once I figured I’d done enough of side-hilling on this crappy shitty terrain I ascended straight up, through a chimney and shortly after I arrived at the summit. Simon had taken a different line and made there a few minutes earlier than I did. Despite the not-so-pleasant slog, the views were gorgeous towards every direction, with the mighty Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan stealing the show.
After taking hundreds of photos it’s time to head home… Going down the loose slope was easier and much faster and in short time we were back to the side-hill slog across the bumps on Chowder Ridge. On the return we stayed a little bit higher than necessary and had to deal with a bit more up-and-downs (with one optional down-climb). Descending the tricky step back to Chowder/Skyline Divide col was mostly snow-free now and didn’t impose any problem to us. None of us was looking forward to the slog back up to the highpoint on Skyline Divide, but with the views it didn’t seem to take that long, and once we picked up the well-traffic’d trail it’s a mere putting one foot in front of another back to the parking lot. Hordes of hikers were going up for the moon view I assume.
Our round trip time was just under 8 hours and we were moving reasonably fast throughout the trip, and overall I’d highly recommend this objective for the excellent views it offers. The downside was the delays by Sumas border crossing (which took nearly 1 hour)… I ended up not getting back home till pretty much 9 pm, and with a bit of last-minute preparation it’s time to focus on my next objective…