Cascade Pass & Sahale Arm


Backpack - Cascade Pass & Sahale Arm

Six day/five night Cascade Pass Adventure--touring all that is great to see in this exceptional area of North Cascades NP. We will visit Sahale Glacier, Trapper Lake, Horseshoe Basin, Pelton Basin and Boston Basin. This area has unmatched beauty and excellent wildlife viewing. Sahale Glacier Camp is stunning. Expect shorter trail lengths with steep elevation gains, rough boot-path and off-trail travel and snow travel to boot. This is a very challenging trip with high reward. Special Leader's Permission--see extensive Leader's Note

  • Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 34.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 18,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 8,500 ft
  • Pace: 1.0-2.0 MPH

Meet at Cascade Pass TH early to mid-morning on the start day.  Exact time TBD

A challenging trip to a drop-dead gorgeous area.  This trip is non-typical and will incorporate on-trail, off-trail, rough boot-path, snow travel, some creek fording and a possible dry camp--quite the adventure. See all the details below.

Here is the Gaia route:

Day 1 Cascade Pass TH to Trapper Ridge (off-trail camping area).

Take the trail to Pelton Basin then off-trail up the creek valley and up and over the saddle toward Trapper Lake.  The first night at Trapper Ridge may be a dry camp.  Participants will need to carry about 2-3 liters of water about a mile to the camp.  If the camping is not suitable on the ridge we will proceed 1.25 miles further, down steeply, and camp at Trapper Lake.

Day 2 Trapper Ridge to Pelton Basin

Hike with day packs down to Trapper Lake for a swim and several hours of relaxing at the lakeshore.  Return, steeply uphill to camp, pack up and head to Pelton Basin Camp, possibly explore up by the Yawning Glacier. We will have two nights at Pelton Basin

Day 3

Day hike with a small pack to amazing Horseshoe Basin.  Visit the mine ruins and gawk at the views. Stop by the lovely swim hole (granite bathtub) along the trail on the way back. Additional optional explorations, wildlife viewing in and around Pelton Basin in the evening. Spend a second night here.

Day 4

Off to spectacular Sahale Glacier Camp.  Steep slog on trail, but drop-dead gorgeous.  Great place for wildlife sightings and huckleberry picking. We will take our time to savory the journey.  Extra explorations-likely on snow after we set up camp at the amazing rock-wall enclosed sites.

Day 5

From Sahale Glacier Camp we will 'day hike' up the boot-path/trail across the glacier (now sadly a snowfield) to the base of Sahale and Boston Peaks.  We will access the safety of this route and snow conditions to assure a safe route or turn back if not safe or appropriate.  Beyond-amazing views at the top of the entire North Cascades and into Canada.  Return to camp and pack-up and take a trail, route and boot-path to Boston Basin High Camp. We will be camping among the climbers ascending Forbidden Peak.  We will skip the peak this trip! 

Day 6

Likely morning explorations in the beautiful Boston basin.  Then pack-up and head down the steep, rocky and challenging boot-path to the Boston Basin TH.  There are several rocky stream crossings here. Walk 0.6 mile on the road back to our starting TH.

This trek requires procuring Permits from North Cascade National Park via the website:  These are highly coveted camps.  We will need to work together and have some good graces to get these.  

The actual dates of the trip and the precise itinerary may vary from what is listed in the posting and described above.  These are both dependent on campsite availability.  The plan is for the trip dates to be as close to those posted as possible.  We should know the actual dates  and camps at or before May 1.  There is a lottery system set-up for those desiring a chance to get early reservations.  Participants need to be willing to set up a account and sign up for the North Cascades Early Access Lottery ($10 fee) between March 4th and 15th.  If selected you will be given a timeslot between March 25th and April 23rd to reserve any backcountry sites still available. Our chances of getting a lottery spot and an earlier spot increase if we all enter.  All those desiring to participate in the trip need to spend $10 and sign up for this lottery.  The participant with the earliest date will need to work with the leader to procure permits for the whole group.  This lucky participant will need to pay the $40 fee for the whole group.  They will be reimbursed by the other participants ($10 each).   See all the details here:

Due to the special nature of the trip, the need for entry into the North Cascades NP Early Access lottery, registering and paying upfront for group permits in addition to the high conditioning and technical challenges this trip requires; trip registration will be through Special Leader Permission--via application.   I will be accepting applications for the trip and, upon review, will select the folks that will provide the best team compatibility, reliability and have the travel skills and conditioning necessary to assure the best success for the group. 

To be considered, please respond to all the questions/concerns listed below-ASAP.  I will get back to applicants on or before March 10th.  Use the Permission Request tab on the right sidebar of the post to respond.

1)  This is a strenuous and challenging trip due to steep trails/routes/boot paths, snow travel, dry camping (one night) and total number of days-six.  Please tell me about you experiences backpacking that would give me reassurance that you can do this sort of trip?  Have you climbed over 3000' in a day with a full overnight back?  Please list relevant backpack trips, dates, distances and elevation gains.  Participants need to have done at least a three or four night trip in the past year.

2) This trip is six days.  Do you have capacity in your pack and strength/conditioning to carry six days of food and all the supplies needed for the trip--including required Ursack or Bear-canister, microspikes, trekking poles and water-fording shoes?  Please explain your experience with this load.

3) This trip will include off-trail travel, rocky boot-path travel, steep slopes, snow travel, a dry camp and some creek-fording.  What is your experience with these types of travel with a daypack or backpack?  Please address each item noted.  Are you comfortable with these sort of travel challenges?  Please explain.

4)  It is important for the success of the group that folks are of similar goals, style and compatibility. Preference for this trip will be given to those that I have backpacked with before.  I know you and you know my style.  If I have not backpacked with you before, please provide the name of  Mountaineers leader that you have backpacked with as a reference.  List the trips with them.

5) Are you willing to enter the North Cascade NP Early Access Lottery to help the group increase our odds of gaining the permits for the itinerary listed above?  This costs $10.  Will you work with the leader to choose his itinerary and then pay for the entire group if you have the earliest lottery date-about $40? This will be remitted to the lottery winner and permit register-er.

6)  What sort of conditioning, earlier season backpacking trips will you be doing before this trip, this year, to demonstrate proper conditioning for this six-day trip?  Do you have any health issues that could affect your ability to do this trip comfortably and successfully?

7) Do you understand that both the itinerary and dates shown are approximate and may change according to the campsites that are available?  They won't change wildly, but may be different camps, different dates (within a few days--I hope) and a different trip length-likely shorter than longer.  This things I can't control.  If nothing in the Cascade Pass area is workable because the campsite are all full, I may change the trip to the equally beautiful Copper Ridge area (east of Hannigan Pass) in North Cascades NP.  

8)  Microspikes, an Ursack or Bear Canister and trekking poles are required on this trip. Water fording shoes could be helpful also.  Will you bring these required gear items?

9) This trip requires a lot of logistics, permits and financial investment.  On a scale of 1-10, what is you commitment to making every effort to coming on this trip if you chose to register? Please do not request permission now and decide later if you really want to come.  Do the work upfront to decide if you can really do this and then stick to it.  If you can't make this sort of commitment then this trip is likely not for you.

10)  Is there anything else you would like me to know?  Is there any more information you need from me in your decision making?

The group size is limited to four (4) as that is the group limit at Sahale Glacier Camp.  This should be a great trip.  I hope we can get the necessary permits.  I hope you can join.  Rob


Cascade Pass & Sahale Arm

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Food for six days
  • Bear canister or Ursack
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Microspikes
  • Two Trekking poles
  • Optional--fording shoes
Trip Reports