The summer is approaching its end for me and the work is beginning to pile up. I had originally planned to get out to the North Cascades to climb Black Peak last week, but plans changed, my hiking partner had to cancel, and I had relegated the trip to next summer's list. Fortunately, Lucas (@photoswithfern) mentioned that he and a friend would be attempting a car-to-car (i.e. day hike) of Black Peak on Sunday and had invited me to join. I must have spent most of Saturday thinking on it. My flight back home was on Monday night, I was behind on my school research, and I had just washed all of my gear in preparation for packing.
But the temptation for one last trip in the Cascades was too much, and by 5 AM on Sunday I was in the car headed towards Highway 20. With some breaks and minor mishaps, we didn't set foot on the trail until 10:30. We estimated a car-to-car of the peak would take around ten hours and hiking down in the dark was no issue for us. At the first pass, Black Peak should have been visible but was obscured by low-lying clouds and wildfire smoke. Fortunately, the clouds began to part as we made our way up the talus slopes and the entire peak was in view by the time we began our ascent. Sadly, the smoke never cleared, but that just gives me an excuse to come back!
Once we attained the col, the route up to the summit was fairly straightforward if a bit loose in the gullies. The summit ridge was airy, exhilarating, and a perfect example of why I love hiking. On a clearer day, we should have been able to see Goode and Logan from the summit, but the smoke obscured those views for the most part. In spite of this, the smoke added a dreamy, ethereal quality to the layers of mountains and it was beautiful in its own right. We spent about an hour on the summit and were joined by a party of four climbing the northeast ridge before descending around 4 PM.
Back down at the col, we ran into Jen and Sammy and their dog Diesel. For as big a place as Washington is, it often feels like the hiking world is pretty small, at least when you start tackling the harder objectives that require several thousand feet of elevation gain and scrambling. Over the past couple of years as I've steadily become more comfortable with the outdoors, I've run into more and more familiar faces on the trail. It really does feel like one big family of us united by our shared interests of hiking and climbing!
The descent to the lakes wasn't as bad as the ascent, but the scree field was incredibly loose and we had to crab-walk part of the way down thanks to my terrible route-finding. The party behind us descended a bit further north on the slope than us and seemed to be able to walk the whole way down. Oops.
Wildflowers were in bloom down at the lake, meaning we of course stopped for 15 minutes just to snap pictures, another 15 minutes for beer and snacks, then Lucas even jumped into the water one last time. We reached the trailhead just after darkness fell and got back to Seattle around 1 AM. I couldn't think of a better way to round off my time in Washington – I definitely would have been forever envious had I not decided to join. This also means that I now have a grand total of three (3) Bulger peaks under my belt, with Black Peak coming in just after Dragontail and Maude!
To think that just three years ago, I would have been absolutely terrified to do the scramble up Black Peak. I believe they call this progress?