Mancation 12.2, The North Cascades

25 07 2012

Mancation 12.2, as it was called hatched from an idea that Mike had a while back.  The Pacific North West is known for its snow capped mountains and dormant volcanoes; know by most by Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainer. According to the National Park Service it is home to the largest volume of glaciers in the lower 48 states.

Mike had been to the area multiple times before on climbing trips and had heard about a lesser known climbing area with several smaller peaks assessable one main basin area. The climbing area contained several glaciers, climbing routes, and great vistas.

Boston Basin is located a short 20 plus mile drive from the Marblemount Ranger Station, in Marblemount, Washington. After obtaining our camping and climbing permits for the back country, we head up Cascade River Road to the unmarked trailhead for Boston Basin. Getting our gear situated took some time and before we knew it we headed up the trail to hopefully find the basin before darkness fell.  The first day of out 7 day adventure was pretty long by the time we hit the trail head, but while packing our gear we were filled with a second wind, and were quite happy to be moving again after so much sitting.

It was hard to not notice the great scenery just at the trail head alone. Everywhere  l looked there were big mountains surrounded by snow and glaciers it was great!

Our  day started at 130 am when we left Mike’s house for the airport and by the time we took off, and headed up the trail it was close to 4 or 5  in the afternoon. With well over 3.5 hours of hiking we knew we would be pushing it to find camp before darkness fell. The trail in was pretty steep and we gained elevation fast. The trail on the way in was quite picturesque, with the dramatic landscape change in the 360 degree panorama, it made for passing time easy.

Cutting across the trail in several areas was melting snow and ice, and crossing those obstacles became the challenge.

Snow bridges, and open water crossing, followed by log hopping gained us access to some to the lower basin area. By the time we cleared the tree line it was after dark and we were met by a wall of snow. Climbing out on the snow after a few hours of being on the trail was a nice relief to the journey and before long we crossed a glacial moraine and found some good snow to pitch out tent for the night.  By now we were flirting with the 24 hour mark of travel time from Ohio to what would later be designated as base camp.

One of my favorite things about traveling into the mountains is the first morning. When you wake up put on your boots for the morning stretch and the scenery takes a hold of you. This trip had a lot of those moments, unzipping the tent door and just taking it all in can sometimes be a day’s work.

The first true day of being in the basin we collected our bearings and set some pretty loose goals. First and foremost was find the composter toilet which had been hand dug out of the snow by the climbing rangers a few days prior, and find the upper camp.  It is hard to get an idea on spacial distance due to the larger landscape features, what I would guess-ta-mate could take 30 minutes later turned out to be a 2.5 hours hike…

Day two we opted to head up the snow fields towards the Quien Sabe Glacier, which would later lead us to Shark Fin Tower or Sahale Mountain.  After waking up at around 0530 and brewing coffee and some breakfast we loaded our packs and headed upslope only stopping briefly at an open area to collect the days worth of glacier melt water for drinking on the hike. At day break the valley was shrouded in fog and it soon led to blue patchy skies. This “weather window” would not last long as we would later find out.

Getting to Sharkfin we observed the main route,a snow col to be blocked by a large moat at the edge of the glacier and rock. I was able to successfully navigate across the moat and onto the rock. As I edged closer to the snow col, I was again stymied by a large block of snow that had broken free from the main snow col and looked quite precarious. So after a little down climbing Mike and I opted to travel a little further up the base of the cliff band and if there was not any other route past the moat, we would bail and head to the top of Sahale for we still had a lot of light left in the day.

It was not much further we found a second snow col with a much smaller moat and quickly gained access to the 35-45 degree snow col and headed up. It was while we were locating the new route the weather was changing for the worse And after only 1 pitch of snow climbing the weather hit us and it began to thunder, rain, and sleet.  Fearing the worst on an exposed ridge we set an anchor and bailed.  

One our way back to camp the storms stopped giving us doubt about our decision, but once we made camp we enjoyed a little boxed wine and all was not for a loss, and the planning for day 3 began to take shape.

 

 

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