WA – North Cascades National Park, Sahale Glacier

OPEN OPEN OPEN. When I arrived at the Marblemount Wilderness Information Office at 6:30am I found about 10 others in line ahead of me awaiting the 7am opening. We were all hoping to secure a walk-up permit for North Cascades National Park where this is the game you must play for backcountry camping if you don’t want to reserve six months in advance.

Finally the doors opened. First up was a group of guys who’d been waiting since 5am. Soon enough two groups in front of me secured the spots I wanted. However, one benefit of living this flexible lifestyle was that I was able to delay my start by a day and thus was still rewarded with a permit to Sahale Glacier Camp. I spent the day taking care of chores and of course eating, including dealing with a fraud alert on my primary credit card. The fun of traveling was figuring out where and when to receive a replacement. This ended up being my best option, 40 miles away from Marblemount.

Finally it was time. When the trail looks like this, you know it’s gonna be a slow slog.

I got an early start and was welcomed by this friend.

These were so tiny and delicate. I’m guessing a type of penstemon.

Monkey Flowers

Looking back down from where I’d come.

I have a love/hate relationship with backcountry toilets like this one at Cascade Pass, especially when they involve more ascending. With the amount of traffic this trail sees I’m grateful to not see white butterflies and piles of human excrement.

Cascade Pass survey/benchmark post.

I was excited about this next section as I’d heard as it attracts much wildlife.

As if on cue, just 10 minutes later we spy this black fuzzy guy on the hillside. Of course, he’s decided to hang out between the switchbacks.

I think he was intoxicated from the flowers and berries he was happily consuming and had no interest in leaving his paradise.

We grouped up, encouraged him to leave but after a long wait we walked by on the high trail without incident.

I continued hiking but several others hung back wanting to savor this close encounter with nature. When I looked back I was surprised to see these guys with their backs to the bear. I think they were so wrapped up in the moment they didn’t realize what they’d done. We met one of these hikers later and found out the situation turned violent when the bear spied a marmot, pursued, killed and devoured his prey. Now that was a wild kingdom experience!

Back to nature’s beauty as the climbing toward Sahale Glacier continued.

Doubtful Lake, which I planned to visit as part of my exit hike the following day, plus a glimpse of Sahale Glacier, my destination for the night.

I didn’t take as many photos as I should have on the hike up to Sahale. After this section, the trail worked it’s way through scree and boulders at a much steeper grade.

Photography breathing breaks are essential.

The marmots weren’t very photo friendly on this trip.

There are only a couple places where you can see Mt Baker.

And finally, I arrived at Sahale Glacier Camp. From the trailhead, it took me a little less than 6 hours to hike these 6 miles with 4000′ of ascending.

Mike was planning on ascending the Glacier. I was his accountability buddy and enjoyed watching his progress.

The glacier is much larger than it appears. Mike is nothing but a tiny speck the lip of the snowfield and false summit.

I watched another person hike up with skis and make a couple runs.

This is from PeakFinder app.

Pooper with a view, no privacy and a trek requiring planning; wouldn’t want to wait until the last minute as it’s a bit of a rocky jaunt.

This photo shows the location of some of the premier campsites. Each of the three gray snow-free mounds just below the glacier hold single campsites.

I chose a campsite nearer the glacier and snowmelt. All the sites have nice rock walls as wind barriers.

With no shade around I was thankful for my umbrella. The sun was intense.

Water water everywhere but thankfully there was a breeze and bugs were pretty much non existent.

I spent way too many hours in camp. I regretted not bringing my microspikes so I could walk the glacier.

Sunset was incredible as the weather was a changing and the valley canyons filled with rolling fog.

First light from my tent.

Early morning visitors, only a pair and not even a little pesky.

First light on Johannesburg Mountain. Little did I know this would be the only sun I’d see all day. This was at 6am. My tent is in the middle and on each of the peaks to the left and right are occupied campsites.

PeakFinder app is so helpful.

I checked weather on my InReach to see if rain was headed my way. I wanted to know if the fog/clouds would burn off or if I best get off this exposed location. I’ve found the forecasts somewhat unreliable but with heavy rain predicted by 1pm, I decided I best heed the warning.

It was looking doubtful that I would visit Doubtful Lake on this gray chilly day.

This is the sketchy part of the trail with mixed slippery dirt, scree and boulders. Not my favorite type of terrain. If you look carefully toward the top of the photo you’ll see a couple just beginning their descent.

I didn’t want to drop into the cloud.

Looking back from where I’d come. You might be able to spy the couple descending behind me as colorful tiny dots.

Run marmot run, don’t let that bear get you.

Sahale Mountain to the left, with Doubtful Lake in the lower middle.

Oh Doubtful Lake how I wanted to visit you but you’ll have to wait for a nicer day.

Down down down I go, descending into the swirling clouds.

Finally I was back into the forested switchbacks where I was hoping for some ripe berries.

It seems I finally found worked my way out of prime wildflower season. There were still some around but not in the quantities I’d experienced a few weeks earlier.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 8-9, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Permits are required and can only be obtained either in advance from the recreation.gov site or from a wilderness office for same day or next day camping. Rangers are out and about checking permits. Mine was checked twice. If you are planning on being an early arrival, check at the door for a number system. The first day the numbers weren’t out. The second day it was raining and we were waiting in our cars. About 15 minutes before opening they put out a box with numbers. It was much more efficient but they should put them out much earlier.
  • This was a great option for WiFi, as was The Eatery.
  • Lots of options can be found in Sedro Wooley; Lorenzo’s was recommended by a friend.

Resources:

Links:

4 thoughts on “WA – North Cascades National Park, Sahale Glacier

    • Rarely. I carry grizzly spray in the areas recommended such as Montana. I’ve carried mace it pepper spray occasionally for dogs and humans. I’ve thought about it in habituated areas such as Tahoe and Yosemite.

      • In 2 of 4 much reported, recent attacks (all ending w/non life threatening injuries, thankfully) it was bear spray which ended the attacks. *Works well on humans as well. Pepper spray is unreliable.

        Looking forward to catching up on recent “Jaunts!”

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