Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sahale Arm 8/30/2009

North Cascades are undoubtedly the most beautiful part of Washington State. Rugged Peaks, volcanoes, glaciers, wildflowers, blueberry fields... that is just a short list of what this area can offer to those who decide to undergo the grueling 3 hr drive from Seattle and miles of bumpy gravel roads.

Group Shot

One of the most visited trails in the area is one heading gently to Cascade Pass. Hundreds of people hike here every week and for many of them Cascade Pass is the final destination. The trail however does not end here. Cascade Pass is just a gateway to a world of magnificent views and great adventures.

Nearing the pass

One can take few days to backpack 31 miles to Stehekin, peaceful remote community nested in valley son a shore of Lake Chelan, which is only accessible by 55 mile long boat ride or by crossing the mountain on foot.

View From Cascade Pass

Those whose time is limited can take a weekend and climb one of the beautiful peaks located in the immediate area and those who came for one day trip only should at least continue few more miles along Sahale Arm to escape the crowds and enjoy the scenery in little more solitude.

Heavy clouds hugged the mountain tops tightly as we drove to the trailhead. It was doubtful that we'll be able to enjoy any of the spectacular views this area offers during our hike. I started to think I'll title this blog entry: "The Curse of Cascade Pass". Why?

Through the mountains

It was completely socket in during our first visit here in August of 2008. We made it all the way to Sahale Glacier with minimal views, walking in freezing layer of clouds... and as soon as we reached the destination, it started snowing on us.

Eldorado from Sahale Arm

It was a similar story a year later. It was cold and freezing wind blasting extremely fast chased us of the Pass before we even started to think about heading anywhere further.

And it looked like we're out of luck once again. Even the locals at Marblemount gas station where we stopped to briefly stretch our legs ensured us it's unlikely to clear.

Beautiful mountains

They say 3rd time a charm. And it totally worked for us today. Despite all the odds and low elevation of the trailhead, we drove out of the clouds and started the hike under perfectly blue sky.


The first part to Cascade Pass was easy 3.7 miles with only 1800 ft gained. From there the trail led us steeply uphill. We only came for one day so we passed sign pointing out trail to Stehekin that seemed like a less of a leg burner and continued our way up. Soon more mountains rose from behind the ridge, including Eldorado, one of my goals for next year. The beauty of all the jagged peaks surrounding were breathtaking.

10 miles RT and little over 3000 ft. elevation gain.

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