Black Peak, North Cascades, WA / by Eric Dacus

We, two.

The Northeast Ridge of Black Peak, III 5.6 30°. Reasonable (for the Cascades) approach, fun snowfield to cross, and good climbing made for a great weekend.  When BJ left SLC this spring to head back to Bellingham, WA, we had talked about me flying out to climb something with him in the Cascades.  Its easy to talk about things, and its never sure till you buy the tickets.  But in this case, everything worked out: got the tickets, got the time off, and luckily got a good weather window.

Hiking In

We had originally planned to climb the North Ridge of Eldorado Peak in Boston Basin, but a bridge was out on the only road to the trailhead and shut that down.  There was an alternate approach, but it was much more severe and would not have been stacking the odds in our favor.  So we opted to make Black Peak a second choice.

The hike in was strenuous for me, but apparently pretty moderate by Cascades standards.  We got to camp with lots of time to kill on Saturday, and a mini-deck of cards helped pass the time.

Great way to pass an afternoon

Pre-Dawn Light

The next day started out early, 530am, and after a short hike to the base and up the glacial moraine, we got to the opening snow field.  We had chosen not to bring crampons in for the weight, and, per Murphy’s law, we found the snow field to much more icy than we had expected.  Chopping steps with an ice axe is not that much fun and makes for pretty slow going and we probably could have taken a less direct way across the field and not had to, but brute force and many axe swings got us past this difficulty.

About to need to chop steps

The first 1/3rd of the climb was pretty chossy (loose rock) and exposed, but we were mostly on the side of the ridge and not yet on the knife edge ridge.  Thankfully nothing came loose.  Once we got on top of the ridge the rock quality improved.

The exposure on the knife ridge was pretty wild (only 2 to 3 feet wide in places with 1000 feet of air on both sides), but the climbing on the upper part of the route was low 5th class and a lot less loose rock, and a lot more fun as a result.

We got to the summit about the same time another party came up from our descent route on the south ridge (3rd class scramble).  It was nice to talk to them for a bit and to take pictures and eat before heading down.

The last 5 feet up.

Imaginary Method Grab

Summit pose

The down climbing and scrambling went by pretty quickly, and the only remaining challenge was a loose dirt and scree slide to get us back to the moraine and then back to camp.  There used to be a permanent snowfield that made getting down a quick glissade, but alas, it was not there…

Hiking down with a view

After hiking out we headed back to Bellingham, and it was great to hang out and see folks who used to live in SLC.  Then it was time to head to Seattle and fly home (thanks to BJ picking for me up and hauling me around Washington).  Its amazing how quickly one can get out to the middle of the mountains and back.

Flying Home.

The rest of the pictures on Flickr