Hiking the Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

1 Oct

Yesterday James and I went hiking for the second time! We drove about 3 hours north of Seattle to the Cascades National Park where we climbed to the base of the Sahale Glacier (7200 feet). It was a lot tougher than hiking Mount Bandera, partially because it was a lot longer (6 or 7 hours) and also because we went with Chuck who is a mountaineer and set a pretty challenging pace.

Here are James and Chuck. I think this was right after we were done switchbacking in the forest (apparently we climbed about 1400 feet/426 metres in the first 3km of the hike). Also at various points we could hear the rumbles of rockfall. Chuck said that when summer first hits the melting snow means there’s pretty much a constant roar of falling rocks.

This is us at the Cascade Pass. In the background of this photo you can see snow. Snow! Summer has only just passed, but Chuck said that there are parts of the mountain that the sun doesn’t reach so there’s snow year round.

Notice that I am not wearing my Vibram Sprints. Which was a good call because this hike was a lot rockier than Mount Bandera. We met a guy who was wearing Vibrams but he said that his were the more rugged kind – maybe the Treks, which I am considering getting because my runners gave me blisters.

Facing that rock we’re standing on here is the view to the left: (apparently those steps lead to a bear-proof box with a toilet)

And to the right is the trail that we took:

Chuck was leading, James was right behind him, and I was bringing up the rear. I remember Chuck telling us that this part of the hike smelled like BO because of the rotting organic matter. And James was all like “sure. Cos of the rotting organic matter.” And then he turned to me and was like “by the way, soon it’s going to smell a lot like my farts cos of the rotting organic matter”.

Then in the next 1.6km we gained about 800 feet/243 metres. Up until this point to keep up with James and Chuck I had employed what I called the rubber band strategy – I’d walk as fast as I could, fall behind, run to catch up, then walk as fast as I could, fall behind again, etc. But then we got to a point where the trail turned into a bunch of rocks that I couldn’t run on! This is me, gingerly picking my way over the rocks – check out that look of intense concentration.

It was pretty much rocks interspersed with pretty meadows and we took a brief break to admire Lake Doubtful.

And then it was more rocks! Look at Chuck strolling across them with his hands in his pockets like it ain’t no thang.

You can actually see me in the background using all four limbs for stability. At one point I heard James say to Chuck “she’s very small. They’re like boulders to her.” =(

The last part of the hike just before reaching the base of the Sahale Glacier was pretty much rocks. But not all the rocks were evil. These stacked rock formations are called cairns and they let you know that you’re on the right path. I found them oddly comforting and was always pleased when we saw one.

Look at the angle we were climbing on! (Also the mountains! But mainly the angle) It’s hard to get across just how steep a lot of it was. Look back at that previous photo with me scrambling behind Chuck – you know how you can’t see the rocks behind me? It’s cos they were that steep!

But anyway, we persevered until we reached the base of the Sahale Glacier. One of the websites I read said the one-way trip was 9.5km with an elevation gain of 1200 metres.

High Five!

During lunch we had a view of the lake to the front and mountains pretty much all around us. Except behind us where there was some scary sludgy pink snow (we were told it was pink from the bacteria).

Ew. Let’s focus on the mountains! Mountains to the left!

Mountains (and what I think is the trail we came up on) to the right!

This is me right before I did a pistol squat on top of a rock at the glacier base. Because I am a show-off like that. (Also that’s my new Burton waterproof jacket and I love it!)

James refused to do his Usain Bolt pose and instead went for something a bit more philosophical.

And then it was time to descend. Like the first hike we did I found descending to be the painful part. We’d been hiking for over 3 hours at this point, and I had blisters at the backs of my heels. At least the webbing of my toes didn’t get wedged like they did with the Vibrams, but with the steep descent all my toes got smushed into the front of my shoe. I don’t know which one is worse really.

You can see how far behind I was on the rocky bits. I’d think I was getting through the rocks at a pretty good pace, but then I’d look up and James and Chuck were waiting for me (or taking photos of my rocky struggles).

Whatevs. Once we hit the dusty bits where I could run to catch up – that was my turn to shine!

Also about 1/3 of the way down my hip flexors and knees were absolutely killing me and everything after that was just me gritting my teeth and pushing past the pain. It was totally worth it for the physical challenge and the beautiful views (which you guys are getting for free)

Then we went home, showered, and had some steak. =)

I thought I’d be in agony today, but aside from some really sore feet and aching joints I’m OK and tomorrow I’ll be good as new. If we do it again though, I really am considering the Vibram Treks.

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