Trip: Boston Peak + Sahale - East Face Trip Date: 08/22/2019 Trip Report:
After getting drenched on a hike to Hidden Lake Peak 8/21, Steffi and I headed up to the Cascade Pass Parking lot where we would camp for the night, hoping for clearer skies in the morning. We woke at 5am, and were moving up the low-grade switchbacks to Sahale Arm by 6am. After a couple hours of hiking in a dense fog, we were ready to setting for a socked in Sahale summit and early return to Seattle, but as we climbed higher blue skies emerged above.
After 3 hours we reached the benign Sahale Glacier, where we donned our crampons and got our first good views of the summit block. We opted not to rope up since the glacier looked very benign, and this late in the season any crevasses would be easily navigable. It took us about 45 minutes to slog to the SE ridge of Sahale, end-running two small crevasses and crossing a wide snow bridge on a third. There was some exposed ice at the start of the glacier but it had all softened considerably. This glacier is very benign but the crevasses are still worthy of caution. Once we got off snow we went back into rock mode and scrambled up to the Sahale summit block. We didn't know there was a nice bootpack higher on the ridge but it wouldn't have made much of a difference.
The climbing steepened from 2nd to 3rd class, and there was a short 4th class section that brought us to a notch between the two summits of Sahale. We then wrapped around the back right side and took an exposed 4th class slab to the summit. It took us a little over four and a half hours to get there from the car, and clouds were hanging around 7500' and staying there, so I decided I would go for Boston.
Steffi had some gnarly blisters from her new boots, so I would be going alone. We only had one rope so we rapped from the summit down the South side, where we talked about our game plan for meeting back up a few hours later at the top of the Sahale Glacier. I took the rope and while Steffi downclimbed the rest of the class 3 scramble, I traversed back to the 4th class step up to the notch and around the summit block to the knife-edge ridge that stood between Sahale and Boston.
Now the real fun begins. The exposure on the ridge scramble was fantastic. For some of the ridge there is a low-angle slab that almost feels like a sidewalk right on the crest, and occasionally there was a climbers trail until a bit after the Sahale-Boston Col. The rock quality gets significantly worse right below the ridge crest, so I stayed on top or level with the knife edge heading up from the Col to a notch south of the last tower before Boston Peak. If you are at any point more than 10 feet below the ridge crest on this portion, you are off route. At one point there is a super cool 2ft wide side-walk slab feature right before you leave the ridge as well. You'll see it on the way back but it's great fun if you can get on it on the way up Boston. Once I got to the aforementioned notch, I spotted the Boston Glacier about 70-100 feet below me, with a faint bootpack headed towards the route. Dropping from this notch to the glacier was the sketchiest part of the whole climb for me, with very large, loose blocks to navigate.
There were a few awesome bivy spots along the ridge, including one right at the Sahale-Boston Col. Second pic is looking back at Sahale
The short snow traverse was straightforward and easy. Head North above the massive bergschrund and below a moat for a couple minutes before heading up a steeper (45 degrees?) 40 foot section to the highest point of snow on the East Face. There's a nice big ledge here and the second ledge mentioned in the summitpost article is visible while dropping down to the snow and on some of the traverse.
The traverse heads up to a small ledge just right of the highest snow pictured
Take the shortest route (class 3/4 for about 15-20ft) up to a long meandering ledge which heads North along the East Face. Eventually this ledge begins turning into a series of small platforms with class 3 steps in between them. Just keep heading up and right until reaching a steep face with a ledge in front of it which heads left. Turning left, there is a short class 3 chimney feature which will bring you to another ledge and the crux of the route.
The crux is a left leaning class 4 chimney with crazy exposure below. I've read an alternative route is to head up the rib to the right but I took the chimney. Once past this, it's a breathtaking class 2 ridge walk to the summit. It took me 37 minutes to reach the base of the climb from leaving the first rap off Sahale, and another 15 minutes to scramble to the top.
I took the left chimney up, using some holds on the slab to the left
The summit is awesome. Let's just leave it at that. The famous summit register dates back to 1967 and has many famous names and great stories throughout. I spent 30 minutes perusing it before begrudgingly leaving, knowing Steffi had been waiting for me back at Sahale this whole time.
The rock quality on the East Face seems to have been cleaned up quite a bit by bulger hunters over the last decade. That said, there are still many loose blocks and every hold should be tested and weighted with care. The exposure on this route is also sustained and intense. From when you leave the Sahale-Boston col it's a no-fall zone until the summit- don't do this climb if you don't like heights.
Getting to the first rap station is a bit airy going over a big crack but is nothing more than class 3. I replaced some webbing and set up the first rappel, which has a great view of the whole descent route. My biggest fear on this part was getting my rope stuck on the pull or pulling loose blocks so I took my time coming down. The rappel route has a lot of very loose blocks and I'm surprised this was the standard ascent route for years. All 3 raps (25m, 20m, 28m) were straightforward, but I did pull down some pebble scree on the final rope pull. The last rap takes you to the start of the route, and a 60m rope was just long enough to get me there. The traverse back to Sahale was everything above in reverse, and was very chill.
Looking back at Sahale
Heading back up to Sahale
I met up with Steffi a few minutes ahead of schedule, and we made our way back down to the car. Luck would have it that the cloud layer which hung at 7500' all day would rise past us as we descended, giving us great views of Johannesburg and the like on our descent. Total time c2c was about 12 hours, and after over 10k feet of vert in the 24 hours which led up to Boston, we were happy to be back. Awesome day.
60m rope for raps Approach Notes:
Up via Sahale Arm and tagged Sahale summit on the way