Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Black Peak/South Ridge

An excellent single day alpine adventure in the North Cascades.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The route is snow free until above Wing Lake, where a small basin of snow still exists. It is easily passable with approach shoes and trekking poles.

    There was some loose rocky terrain to gain the ridge crest and on the south ridge itself, but it was manageable with good foot technique and strong communication. 

This climb was part of the Intense Basic 2018 Labor Day Weekend Extravaganza. Nobody in the party had climbed Black Peak before, so we didn't know what to expect. Various trip reports ranged from a leisurely 8.5 hour day hike to a two day overnighter with a multitude of climbing skills required.

We departed the trailhead at around 6:20 AM. We ascended the Maple Pass Loop trail and arrived at Heather Pass within an hour. We took our first break at Lewis Lake, and then another break at Wing Lake, about three hours in to the trek. There, we put on helmets and gained the south ridge. There was a small amount of snow remaining, but nothing that wasn't passable with approach shoes and trekking poles.

Gaining the ridge was steep and loose, but was manageable with solid foot placement and good communication. Once on the ridge, fantastic views of the North Cascades came into view and remained for the rest of the climb up the south ridge. Cairns mark the way up, and most of the ascent is easy first and second class scrambling. Approximately 20 feet below the summit is a fourth class step or two. We discussed bringing out the rope to protect it, but the steps were such that a fall would have been onto a ledge 5-10 feet below, and not catastrophic. Everyone felt comfortable ascending and descending the step without a rope, and did a fantastic job!

The summit views were amazing and smoke free. I don't quite understand why this gem of a climb is not offered more frequently. If anything, it may be more appropriately classified as a T5 scramble. It is not more difficult than the Cascadian Couloir on Mount Stuart, which can be offered as an alpine climb or scramble.

After a nice long nap at Wing Lake, we arrived back at our cars 10 hours 20 minutes after setting out, making for an excellent day!