Sahale Arm & Glacier Hike: 8.20.05

The weekend of 8/20 I didn't get my camping plans together before Friday night, so I thought I'd change things around a bit and just plan a day hike. I'd been thinking about hiking Sahale Arm for a while and finally decided to do it.

The drive was a long one - almost 3 hours - north on 5, east on 20 for quite a ways, then finally across the river at Marblemount and east on Cascade River Road for 22 miles eventually reaching the parking area and trailhead at 3,600 feet.

This was the most strenuous hike I'd done to-date. From the trailhead to the toe of Sahale Glacier (7,600 ft.) was nearly 6 miles and 4000 vertical feet. The hike up starts out through old trees and soft tread on an easy switchback trail. Maybe a half mile in, the switchbacks hit a pretty significant slide that wiped out quite a large area a few years ago - glad I wasn't around when it happened. Eventually the trail clears the tall trees and you arrive at the pass, where you can take a break, sit down on a log bench, and enjoy the view down into the valley to the east.

A little bit beyond the pass, the trail dips and splits, with one branch heading down to Doubtful Lake, and the other up Sahale Arm. I'd naively thought I'd hike down to the lake for a swim on my way down - but with a loss/gain of 800 feet, I passed the Doubtful Lake trail without a second thought on my way down :-(

After the split, more switchbacks take you through delicious huckleberries. I think the sun must have concentrated their flavor - I smelled them even before I saw them, and they had an almost banana flavor like no blueberry or huckleberry I'd ever tasted before. Needless to say I ate quite a few.

Once you get past the lower arm switchbacks, the trail up the lower part of the "arm" is easy going and beautiful. Views to the south are amazing to start with, and just keep getting better. Eventually a view to the north opens up, and you can get a glimpse of Hidden lake and Sahale Peak and glacier. The trail continues to climb the "arm" along a small stream, climbs talus, and eventually arrives at the foot of Sahale Glacier and the high camp, where there are four or five reasonably nice camp sites perched atop moraine. Get there early if you want one of the camp sites, or plan to camp on the glacier.

I sat on the rocks just below Sahale Glacier and ate lunch - the view was just awesome and well worth the effort of getting there. After lunch I poked around on the rocks and found quite a bit of Iron Pyrite (fools gold) - it's all over the place if you look. I wondered if some of the mines along the trail and down by Doubtful Lake ever produced any real gold.

The trip down was easy and uneventful, and along the way I heard and saw a couple of Pikas in the rocks (but no Marmots). By the time I made it back down to the forest and switchbacks, I was pretty beat. Despite all the other beautiful hikes out there I haven't yet tried, I have to say I'll definitely be back to hike this trail again, maybe next time as a two or three day hike with camp down by Doubtful Lake and a day trip up to the glacier - that sounds like a great way to really enjoy all this beautiful area has to offer!

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Lower view of Sahale Arm

View east to the valley

Doubtful Lake from Sahale Arm

Lunch at Sahale Glacier

Me standing on Sahale Glacier

View from a bit higher up Sahale Arm

"Elbow" view of Sahale Glacier and Doubtful Lake

Talus view from just below the glacier

View to the North and up to Sahale Glacier

View from Sahale Glacier - note the High Camp windbreaks on each of the moraines below
All photos and content copyright (c) Peter Chrisbacher, 2005

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