Sahale Peak

July 25, 2019


Cascade Pass / North Cascades Highway, WA

The official name for this peak is Sahale Mountain but the name seems obsolete nowadays that almost every climber I know calls this “Sahale Peak” so I’ll go with the more common name. This peak locates in the center of North Cascades and is famous for its quality mountaineering and the finest views in Washington state it offers. For peak-baggers like myself or listers going after the Bulgers / WA Top 100 then it makes perfect sense to combine Sahale Peak with the nearby Boston Peak in one trip. An ascent of Boston Peak is a more serious undertake and is only recommended for experienced mountaineers, but the ascent of Sahale Peak is no more than “intro level mountaineering” and hence this is one of the more popular objectives in the area. The access is from the end of Cascade River Road and the approach is by Cascade Pass / Sahale Arm trail. A maintained trail goes all the way into the alpine although the long and unnecessary switchbacks do seem annoying at least on the descent.

A day-trip climb of Sahale Peak and Boston Peak had been on my radar for at least two years but in the height of summer I’m always attracted by bigger and farther-away objectives and trips like this could only happen at the very last minute. I noticed a couple days of good weather on Thursday and Friday but rain everywhere on Saturday. I wanted to utilize the two sunny days for some mountaineering objectives and after messaging around a few friends I had Al and Mel joining me on Sahale / Boston on Thursday. At that point I didn’t know what I would do on Friday so I volunteered to drive Al and Mel into the Cascades which meant I had to drive all the way back to Canada that day. This was a mistake because it turned out that in the morning of Friday I had to drive all the way back to the same area for an ascent of Liberty Bell. In addition to that I couldn’t apply the usual car-camping method and instead, we left White Rock at 3 am in the morning, and made to the trail-head three hours later.

Sahale Peak and Boston Peak via Sahale Glacier. GPX DL

I did not take many photos on the approach to Cascade Pass because we were in a thick rainforest doing nothing but boring switchbacks. We did make good time to the pass. Then turning left onto Sahale Arm we started to be bombarded by incredible views especially looking back at the NE Buttress of Johannesburg Mountain. This is one trip that reminded me I must climb Johannesburg Mountain at some point.. The trail was in a very good shape and continued all the way into the alpine. There was a bit of talus hopping below the glacier but the route was well-marked by cairns. We loaded up the water bottles at the campsite immediately below the glacier, and took a long food break ditching unnecessary weight including trail-runners while swapping for mountaineering boots.

The Triplets and Cascade Peak from low down on Cascade Pass Trail

Fast forward. Into the sunshine now onto Sahale Arm

Al taking a break with Sahale Peak in the background.

Panorama of Mix-up Peak, The Triplets, Cascade Peak and Johannesburg Mountain

Al and Mel on Sahale Arm trail with Johannesburg Mountain behind

Doubtful Lake is gotta be one of the prettiest lakes in one of the coolest places

A zoomed-in shot of The Triplets

Al and Mel with Magic Mountain and Mix-up Peak behind

Our first view of Forbidden Peak and Boston Basin

A closer look at Mt. Torment which is just a bump on the west ridge of Forbidden Peak

A marmot in foreground with The Triad behind

Marmot family..

More about the hiking up Sahale Arm. I took at least 200 photos in this stage…

Doubtful Lake, Magic Mountain and Mt. Formidable behind

This is a closer look at Hidden Lake Peaks

Yet another shot of Johannesburg Mountain

The Triplets and Cascade Peak in the foreground

The ascent onto Sahale Glacier looked steep but was actually not, at maximum 30-35 degrees. With previous parties’ foot steps we did not have to use ice axe nor crampons at all. There was one crevasse that required a bit of detouring to get around but other than that, this glacier was tame and trivial. In no time we were at the base of Sahale Peak’s SE Ridge ready for some scrambling.

Plodding up Sahale Glacier

Catching up Mel and Al after filling up my water bottles

The distant Glacier Peak rises behind the shoulder of Mt. Formidable

Al plodding up Sahale Glacier

Higher up on Sahale Glacier

Traversing towards the lower SE Ridge of Sahale Peak

Mel plodding up a separate patch of snow to gain the ridge

On the ridge now. Looking ahead

There was some loose, class 2 terrain to ascend before making to the base of the summit block. I did my homework researching the attack on the summit block and the correct route went around on the east side. We scrambled up increasingly-exposed class 3 terrain on ledges but with loose rocks over to the east side, then climbed one short class 4 move to reach a rappelling station. From there on the route continued traversing in a counterclockwise direction around the summit block to the NE side and the final scramble to the summit was class 3-4 with notable exposure.

Looking sideways across the east face. You don’t want to fall down this side…

The scrambling began. Mel seemed to have some fun

The scrambling soon became sketchier. Exposed class 3 now…

Mel just finishing a strenuous class 4 move with exposure. We might be off route

Back on route here. This is the summit block

Mel traversing an exposed ledge while Al taking photos

Mel and Al climbing up the steep class 3+ to the summit

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

Mel on her last few moves to the top

Boston Peak looks majestic from here

“Sharkfin Tower” in the foreground

The iconic Forbidden Peak catches one’s eye from anywhere

Mt. Baker pokes behind Eldorado Peak

A closer look at Forbidden Peak – climbed exactly a week later than this trip

Mt. Redoubt, Mox Peaks, Mt. Spickard behind Primus Peak and Tricouni Peak

South Face of Jack Mountain close-up shot

A zoomed-in shot of the summit block of Boston Peak.

Mt. Logan is another gorgeous Bulger

Buckner Mountain is yet another Bulger

Climbers descending Quien Sabe Glacier which is another route on Sahale Peak

The views were mind-blowing but we still had Boston Peak to do, so after snapping as many photos I could I immediately took the two ropes out and threw them down. The original plan was to rappel the summit block but we ended up just using the rope as a hand line. The rope unfortunately got stuck so I had to climb more than halfway back up the pitch to free them and then down-scrambled to some easier snow.

Me handline down the summit block of Sahale Peak

Al down-climbing class 3 slabs

Mel getting off the summit block using ropes as a hand line

Another team on their way up Sahale Peak from Quien Sabe Glacier side

The other team with Forbidden Peak behind

We had to get onto snow to get off Sahale Peak

Al posing with Sahale Peak behind

Not doing unnecessary lingering we passed a guided group of 3 climbing Sahale Peak from the north side, then continued onward towards our main objective – Boston Peak.