Monday, September 20, 2010

Sahale Arm

Last year I got my first real taste of adventure running when Scott and I did the approximately 40 mile loop around Devil's Dome (Read Scott's writeup here) in the Pasayten Wilderness in the North Cascades.

Approximate map of our route.

My biggest motivation to go out trail running is to experience the scenery, and it occurred to me while running Devil's Dome that much of the best scenery is in wilderness areas or parks that won't grant permits for organized trail running events. At that time, I thought I would do more backcountry running in 2010 and spend less time at organized running events. Well, I could not have been more wrong as I have run an ultramarathon event every month this year so far except for June! And I really haven't done any adventure running at all! With fall rapidly approaching, I wanted to get in a few running adventures in the backcountry before the snow if possible. Last weekend Scott and I returned to the North Cascades to climb up to (but not onto) the glacier at the base of Sahale Peak. Despite starting off in light rain with fog and clouds, this is an amazing route that I highly recommend. It was really more of a hike given the challenging elevation gain (just over 4,000 feet in 6 miles) although many of the switchbacks leading up to Cascade Pass are runnable. As you can see in the photos below, the mountains, lakes and glaciers which abound on this route were mostly hiding in the fog on the way up. Shortly before we reached the campsites at the top of the ridge where the established trail ends, we were surprised by a couple of backpackers descending. They had camped on the ridge the night before and warned us that it had snowed! I have to say I was glad that I had not been camping up there that night. Sure enough, we were soon forging our way through a few inches of fresh snow. Combined with the fog and mist it was pretty much a complete white out when we arrived at the top. Scott made me nervous by approaching as close as possible to the glacier which I thought might be hard to judge given the fresh snow. Then we waited for close to an hour hoping for the skies to clear and we could not have been more richly rewarded! We both took pictures furiously as the mists swirled and cleared and we went from no visibility to stunning views of mountain peaks and glaciers in every direction. Some of the pictures are below and you can find more pictures and description in Scott's writeup.

The route map up to Sahale Arm.

Scott leading the way towards Cascade Pass in the morning mist.

View into the Pelton Creek basin.
Doubtful lake in the mist on the way up.
Scott approaching the snow line.
Sahale Peak (elevation 8680 ft)--it's further away than it looks (we're at about 7800 ft).
I couldn't get enough of the views of the glaciers on these mountains!
Me floating on the clouds!
Sahale Peak from Doubtful Lake.
Looking into the Pelton Basin on the way down from Sahale.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mike--great writeup! Your pictures are awesome! I particularly like the one of Sahalee Peak, especially remembering the wait for it, and to see how blue the sky is there--amazing stuff. Glad we got to do this!