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

Climbers don’t often talk about Dark Peak for its grand views. The “brushy approach” is usually the first thing that comes to people’s minds. But the climb came out to be quite enjoyable for me.

First view of Dark Peak
First view of Dark Peak

See more trip photos here.

Dark Peak at a Glance

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

Getting to High Bridge

Apart from continually checking the weather report, the climb also involved logistical planning. Climbing Dark Peak meant I was at the mercy of transportation, and time. In other words, all the stars need to align to make this a successful trip.

First, it was the 3 to 3.5-hour ferry ride to Stehekin. Then the 10-mile shuttle ride put me at High Bridge in the early afternoon. I left the campground soon after. So my goal was to get up to the lower basin before dark. The trail approach involved hiking on the excellent Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for a while.

Ferry ride on Lake Chelan
Ferry ride on Lake Chelan

See more trip photos here.

Swamp Creek Trail

Swamp Creek Trail didn’t seem to get much use these days. Typically, people climbing via the standard route would need to access it. The trail was hard to follow at first. But eventually, it stayed parallel to the creek. Glad I found the big log mentioned in other reports. Then I crossed it to the east side.

I continued to follow the trail on the other side of the creek. But then it dwindled in a quarter of a mile. So I ended up spending more time than necessary and fighting my way through the brush. In turn, I didn’t get to the lower basin until after dark. But I was glad to have taken care of that part now instead the next morning.

Swamp Creek Basin sky
Swamp Creek Basin sky

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Dark Peak Climb and Summit Views

Getting to the upper basin was also a workout. The climbers’ trail was visible until I lost it at some point. But I managed to find my way up to the upper basin. Soon, the scenery made me forget about all the agony. There were no recent tracks in the snow. So for the next 3000′, I kick stepped up to the saddle. The group of four Mountaineers folks who came up after me made use of my trail.

The terrain was now snow-free from the saddle up to the summit. Seeing Bonanza Peak before me, it felt so surreal. I was just there last year with friends. I stayed long enough to savor the views and took all the photos I wanted. Then I made my way down.

Dark Peak summit
Dark Peak summit

See more trip photos here.

Swamp Creek Camp and Out

I met the four climbers just above the saddle as they came up. Then later, I saw them again in the lower basin as they came down. Then we all hiked back down to the PCT together and camped by the trail. So we all could get an early start to go back to High Bridge. Then from there, we would catch the shuttle back to Stehekin.

I bought a seaplane ticket for an early return to Chelan. So I could get the pups from boarding the same day. So glad for seaplanes! Not sure if I had the patience for another 3.5-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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