Dark Peak Had a Shady Side / 黯然峯有陰暗的一面

First view of Dark Peak
First view of Dark Peak

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The Lowdown on Dark Peak

Access: Stehekin, Washington
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 1600′-8122′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax
GPS Track: available

Approach to High Camp

When most climbers talk about Dark Peak, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is the brushy approach. But the peak made for an enjoyable climb past camp. Apart from betting on good weather throughout, the trip also involved the extensive logistics planning. I needed to work out the transportation schedule getting from Chelan to High Bridge.

The four-hour ferry ride, followed by the 10-mile shuttle ride put me at the campground in the early afternoon. The minute I left High Bridge, my goal was to get to lower basin camp before dark. The approach involved hiking on the excellent Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for a while before leaving it.

Ferry ride on Lake Chelan
Ferry ride on Lake Chelan

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Swamp Creek Trail

Swamp Creek Trail didn’t seem to get much use these days. Typically, people climbing this peak would access it. The trail was hard to follow at first with some switchbacks. But eventually, the path stayed parallel to the creek for good. Glad I was able to find the big log mentioned in reports and crossed to the east side.

I was able to follow the trail for a good quarter of a mile until it disappeared on me. Unfortunately, I ended up spending more time fighting my way through the brush. As a result, I didn’t get to the lower basin until after dark. But I was glad to get that part out of the way now instead of the next morning.

Swamp Creek Basin sky
Swamp Creek Basin sky

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Dark Peak Climb

Getting to the upper basin was a workout in itself. The climbers’ trail was visible until I somehow lost it in the process. The scenic upper basin made me forget all about the pain I endured to get here. Since I didn’t notice any recent tracks, I kick stepped for 3,000′ up to the saddle. The group of four Mountaineers folks that came up after me took advantage of the tracks I left behind.

The terrain was snow free from the saddle to the summit. Seeing Bonanza Peak in front of me was surreal since I was just on that summit last year. I took all the photos I wanted and then started to make my descent.

Dark Peak summit
Dark Peak summit

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Descent to Swamp Creek Camp

I met the climbers just above the saddle as they were coming up. Then I met them again in the lower basin to hike down to the PCT together. The second night, I slept by the trail with them. So I could also get an early start to get back to High Bridge. From there, we would then catch the shuttle back to Stehekin.

I bought a seaplane ticket for an earlier return to Chelan. So that I could pick up the pups from boarding on the same day. Glad for seaplanes. Not sure if I had the patience for another four-hour boat ride back to civilization.

Summit bliss on Dark Peak
Summit bliss on Dark Peak

See more trip photos here.

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