Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sahale Peak via Sahale Glacier

Sahale arm and Sahale in the distance.
The Stats:
Sahale Peak: 8680 ft.
Parking Lot: 3480 ft.
Cascade Pass: 5400 ft.
Our High Point: 8600 ft.
Elevation Gain: 5120 ft.

Just reaching Cascade Pass. 
Sahale peak is a beautifully situated peak in an amazing setting. My wife has wanted to climb it since she first hiked to Sahale arm 10 years ago. I hadn't been to the area in an even longer time. I think I was about 15 or 16 when I visited Cascade Pass with my family. I knew that the Ptarmigan Traverse started from there and was interested in that but I don't remember much else from that visit.

This past spring when my wife said let's go climb Sahale for our annual anniversary hike I was happy to agree. After working at the Alpine Institute for a couple years now and hearing stories from Boston Basin and the Cascade Pass region every day I was ready to get out and revisit this area.

This was our first overnight foray away from our 3 year old son. My dad was excited to ride his new motorcycle over for a visit with his grandson and give us the break we need for this outing. We were able to break away in the late afternoon and begin driving to the Trailhead for Cascade Pass. We arrived with enough time to have our adult beverages and cook our dinner before sneaking off to the bivy sites just a 1/4 mile from the trailhead. The next morning we hit the trail about 7:30. We cruised the 34 switchbacks up to Cascade Pass and hit the pass about 9am.

This guy wanted our lunch, or at least our crumbs.
By the time we hit the pass it was becoming very obvious that we had chosen good day to get married on. Our anniversary was right smack dab in the middle of July, and July this year set a 50 year record for not getting a drop of precip. We had immaculate weather, the visibility was 100%. and we couldn't have imagined a better place to enjoy together.

Looking Southeast over Doubtful Lake.

I also didn't realize it until late in the day when Natalie, my wife, mentioned that we had met our goal of breaking 8,000 feet for our 8th anniversary. This was a nice accomplishment but didn't compare to what our knees thought of the 5,100 ft of elevation gain, and descent, that pounded our knees into submission. This day for us was really about getting away together not about picking a technical objective. However, the physical exertion from covering that much elevation turned out to be a substantial undertaking. Our route up the Sahale glacier is frequently done un-roped but we knew the rock would require a rope for us so we figured we'd refresh our snow skills and rope up on the glacier too.

This guy was hanging around Sahale Glacier Camp around 7600 ft.
After taking over an hour or more to lounge, enjoy lunch, get more water, and rope up we finally headed up the Sahale glacier toward the summit block. The glacier was in good condition and there really weren't any crevasses yet. You could see cracks on either side of the glacier opening up but nothing too menacing. I probed a few times as crossed one low spot but otherwise there appeared to be little need for worry. 

In the foreground, bubbles, in the distance, Glacier Peak.

When we reached the summit block around 2:30 or 3 we were a little surprised by the steepness of the rock. It appeared to be a little closer to 5th class than we had anticipated. This was a bit overwhelming for Natalie but we agreed to move up the rock a little bit and see how things felt. I led up and around the corner about 30 feet and built an anchor to belay Natalie up. She climbed up but was feeling very overwhelmed and couldn't move efficiently. She also knew she would be even more afraid coming down on rappel so we decided it was too late to take as much time as we would need to summit. So, we sat down and blew some bubbles. 

The moon hanging out just north
of Johannesburg peak (not pictured).
Certainly the struggle of working really hard to reach a high point and getting humbled just a few feet short is an apt metaphor for marriage. After 8 years we've had many successes and high points but the marriage itself is the most challenging thing in our individual lives and never gives the satisfaction of standing on top and saying now I've mastered this thing. Marriage offers no promise of completion but rather the promise of a journey with many aspects, vistas, high points, hard decisions, and disappointments. Sometimes you feel like you're roped together, trusting and working on a common goal and sometimes you feel like you're completely out of sight of each other cruising at your own pace. Marriage is not unlike mountain climbing. It pushes us to certain limits and teaches us about ourselves. Okay I'll stop with the metaphors! This moderate climb pushed us to our limit and gave us plenty to reflect on. We couldn't have been happier with the quality of this 8th anniversary outing.

- Tim Page
- Southwest & International Program Coordinator


ianmceleney said...

Yeah Tim and Natalie! Well written.

ianmceleney said...
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