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|GuideBook||Selected Climbs 2|
|Mailed to WacList||08/14/2006|
My friend Eric from the BoeAlps and I headed out to the Sloan Peak trailhead Saturday evening as we knew the climb was going to take 12-14 hours and had to get an early start. It's 6 miles to the summit and 6000 ft of elevation gain. The first mile is perfectly flat so it's really 5 miles and 6000 ft up so we knew we were in for a strenuous day. We got to the trailhead around dusk, set up a tent in the parking area because of bugs and after a cool beer settled down for a short night. We got up at 5 am and were on the trail at 6 am. We were trying to go as light as possible so Eric convinced me to cut my 30m 8mm rope in half so we could reduce the weight. I'll buy another 30m with him putting in half the money.|
The first 3/4 mile is a little confusing but there are plenty of flags to follow (this is not a route you can follow in the dark with a headlamp). After a few stream crossings we got to the main crossing of the Sauk River. At this point in the year it's quite an easy crossing but it's still knee deep so bringing along sandals is a really good idea. The crossing is easy but the water is moving along pretty quickly. There's a sandbar (rockbar) just upstream that's where you head to. We put our boots back on, hid our sandals to cut down on the weight and off we went. The trail starts up from the rockbar about 30 yards from where you get on it from the river. After a very short flat section it starts to take off and is generally pretty relentless. The trail is unmaintained but well marked with flags but there are a lot of big trees to climb over and under and at times you can't even see your feet from all the brush hanging over the trail (also lots of spider webs to stick to your face).
On the way is a beautiful waterfall that Eric remarked would be a state park in most states but here it is totally unknown since it's along a climbers trail. It reminded me of a waterfall I saw in Costa Rica and of course there was a park there. At 4600 ft you arrive at a small meadow. The trail goes upstream on the rocks and after a very short distance begins again on the left side of the stream. This is the steepest part of the entire hike and it wastes no time in going up at a riduculous rate. Luckily this section is not too long and it rises to a knoll, drops down a little bit and then heads up again to reach the upper basin.
From here the snow begins but it was quite easy going, no need for crampons or ice ax. We climbed on snow for about 1000 vertical feet up into a saddle where the peak and glacier really opened up to us. From here we followed the main rock ridge up until we came to a reasonable place to start our glacier traverse. We donned crampons (marginally necessary), ice ax and rope, left our poles and off we went. The 15m rope was very nice here for two people. We climbed steadily passing some large, deep crevasses and had to cross a couple of snow bridges. At the SE corner of the summit block at the top of the glacier we got off, left all our glacier gear and took the corkscrew trail around the mountain. It's a good trail around the mountain to the southwest side. A gulley marks the beginning of the class 3 scramble to the summit with various alternative class 4 sections to do if you so desire (which I did and were fun). We reached the summit about 12:45, 6 3/4 hours since leaving the trailhead.
The views were amazing!!! We could see from Mt Baker and Shuksan all the way past Rainier and then west to the Olympics and of course east to Glacier Peak which we could almost touch. Also a great view of the Monte Cristo Peaks from a side I had not seen before that included numerous glaciers and a hanging one to boot.
After 45 minutes on the summit we headed down just as two other climbers arrived at the summit. It's an easy down climb back to the trail and the glacier. We decided to take a different route across the glacier that looked like there would be less snow bridges. This time we stayed very high, close to the big wall of Sloan, but far enough away to avoid any potential rockfall. This turned out to be a good route down as it was less steep and had no crevasses to cross. I'm glad we took the other route up as it was much more interesting and beautiful with the crevasses but for the way down we wanted the easiest possible.
We ended up a ways above our poles which was fine as we stopped for some very refreshing glacial runoff, scampered down the rocks to our poles and did standing glissades all the way back to the upper basin. We finally made it back to the trailhead at 6:15 PM, 12 hrs and 15 min after starting out. Another beer for the rode and we were ready to head on home.
I'd really recommend doing this in one day as lugging a full pack up that steep trail and over and under the 4 ft diameter logs would be crueling. There's plenty of water along the entire route until you get to the glacier so it's not necessary to carry too much.
Gear: Alum ice ax, Alum crampons, short rope, and glacier setup. Go as light as possible.