Trip Report    

Backpack - Sahale Glacier Camp

Two night trip to Sahale Glacier Camp with near perfect conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Route in good condition all the way up.  As per usual, the final approx 500' vertical feet was on talus and scree, which was slow and tedious both ascending and descending. The route through the scree was mostly marked with cairns, but we still lost and re-found the trail several times in both directions. This section wasn't difficult really, just tedious.

    The only water source along the upper section of the trail (apart from at the camp itself) was a cascading stream next to the trail at approximately 6800' - 6900'.  This is about where the green part of Sahale Arm ends and the scree pile begins, so is a natural turnaround point for day hikes that are content to avoid the final 1000' (round trip) of slippery scree ascending/descending.

    At camp we found water at a pretty little glacier-melt stream located about midway between and 300' upslope from the 2nd and 3rd "volcano" tent sites.  You can't see the stream until you are almost on top of it.  Though there was shallow runoff everywhere, this stream had pools of water deep enough to pump from.

    The unpaved sections of Cascade River Road (i.e. most of it) were mile after mile of teeth-jarring washboard.  The road was otherwise in good condition except for a few small sections of potholes, including one which caused this seat-belted but unhelmeted passenger to go airborne and slam his head into the roof of the vehicle. The paved sections of road where in great condition, each a smooth flying dream compared to the washboarding that precedes it. One imagines this is what Chuck Yeager experienced when he broke through the sound barrier.

    Mineral Park Campground was pleasant, and more than adequately served its purpose as a pre-trip point for an early arrival at the Cascade Pass trailhead Each camp site has room for only 2 - 3 tents, so two sites are recommended for a group of six.  Beware that Mineral Park Campground has no running water.  Water can be pumped from the Cascade River, which is reached via a trail labeled simply "Trail" at the NE end of the campground.

Party of 3 for a two night trip to Sahale Glacier Camp via the usual Cascade Pass trail.   (In addition to the 3 people who went, 22 people registered then canceled.)

We left Seattle at 2pm and spent the first night car camping at Mineral Park Campground, the closest NFS campground to the Cascade Pass Trailhead.  Camping there the night before allowed us to do the very long trip from Seattle (including most of the slow-going Cascade River Road) on one day and the long backpack up to Sahale High Camp the next.  Doing both of those on the same day would have made for a very long day indeed.  This also allowed us to pick up our permit in Marblemount the day before the hike, thereby avoiding the long early morning lines at the Ranger Station.  The night at Mineral Park was pleasant but uneventful.

We left Mineral Park at 8am and started hiking at about 9am.  We arrived at Sahale Glacier High camp at about 2:30pm, early enough to claim the best of the coveted "volcano" tent sites.  Our total ascent time was 5:40, including a 1 hour break to eat lunch and pump water and a snack break at Cascade Pass.  The weather was perfect: cool and slightly overcast during the ascent, transitioning into cloudless clear blue skies with excellent visibility just as we arrived in camp.

Conditions continued to be excellent through the afternoon and evening.  Our early arrival gave us plenty of time to set up camp and explore the area at our leisure.  Visibility remained excellent: In addition to the nearly uncountable number of nearby peaks, we could see as far west as Puget Sound and the Olympics, and as far south as Rainier. Hidden Lake, 6.5 miles west of us and no longer hidden from us thanks to our high elevation, glowed after it became engulfed in the lengthening shadow of Hidden Lake Peak but still reflected the illuminated sky above.

The night was uneventful except for a brief windy period at sunset.  Conditions were clear and still all night with a low around 40F.  The clear conditions and new moon made for excellent star viewing, with the Milky Way conspicuously visible directly above us.

The clear conditions continued in the morning, and our party was impressed by the instantaneous jump in temperature when the sun broke over the horizon.  We enjoyed coffee and a leisurely breakfast while watching the early morning light on the peaks.  We left camp just before 10 and arrived back at the trailhead at about 2pm.  The hike out was much warmer than the hike in, but otherwise uneventful.  Total descent time, 4:10.

The trip included many wildlife sightings, including several marmots, several pikas, a handful of ptarmigans, various chipmunks, two groups of climbers, and a mountain goat in camp.