Booker Mountain via Sahale Arm / 經莎哈立山臂上布克山

Booker Mountain summit up ahead

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Happy Labor Day weekend! After battling slide alder last week, this time I enjoyed a 100% brush-free outing.

I wanted to make the best use of the last three-day weekend of this year. So I decided to combine two mountains in one trip. I had initially planned a trip to the Canadian border, and a potential outing to the Lake Chelan area. But it was hard to prioritize since most of my remaining peaks are standalone.

I realized that the pup wouldn’t be able to join me after I firmed up the plan. Both of my destinations for this weekend are within the North Cascades National Park boundary. But I was perfectly okay with him not making the trip since neither place was my dog-friendly.

The Lowdown on Booker Mountain

Access: Cascade Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3480′-8286′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

The Preface

Booker Mountain is the highest point on Park Creek Ridge. It boasts a relatively flat summit crest. So I’ve always had a hard time picking it out of the plethora of North Cascades ridgelines. I only started to pay more attention to it this year. Though, I knew I definitely would have seen it from either Mount Logan or Goode Mountain.

This trip was my third time this year going through Cascade Pass. The unexciting approach was getting old after our last outing. From the trailhead, the weather looked the same as the other two times. The forecast was once again mostly sunny, like on the previous trip. So I kept my fingers crossed.

Another misty start
Another misty start

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Cascade Pass Trailhead to Sahale Arm

The hike up to Cascade Pass went by quickly. From the pass, the clouds looked to be clearing up. There I briefly chatted with a man who used to work for the forest service. Then I went south on the trail to stash my overnight gear and food for the next two days. It went back to cloudy again.

The sky began to clear up as I went up the switchbacks above the pass. The last time I was on Sahale Arm, I went climbing with a friend. Soon, a group exiting warned me about a bear nearby. Sure enough, it came out onto the trail as soon as I got above the trees. But when the bear noticed me, it quickly turned around and walked down the path.

Food gatherer
Food gatherer

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Sahale Arm to Horseshoe Basin

Views up here were always spectacular. The easy hike up to the arm gave views of Eldorado Peak and Forbidden Peak to the northwest. Plus the entire lineup of the Ptarmigan Traverse was right behind me to the south. Several hikers and backpacking groups were hanging out by Sahale Camp.

I hiked past the joyful crowd and then made my way toward the eastern edge of the Sahale Glacier. Then I started heading down on the buttress extending from Sahale Peak. Soon, at 6600′, I located the snow finger gully, minus the snow, and descended into Horseshoe Basin.

Booker Mountain on the other side of Horseshoe Basin
Booker Mountain on the other side of Horseshoe Basin

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Horseshoe Basin Traverse to 6600′ Buttress Bypass

The basin was how I remembered it–beautiful and full of slabs. I tried to stay between 6400′ and 6600′ elevation as I traversed east. At times, the downsloping slabs were wet and slippery from the snowmelt and the waterfalls. Meanwhile, I kept checking to see how far I was from the buttress bypass.

I vividly remember the arduous traverse to get to Buckner Mountain. But man, this was a broad basin! I thought since it’s my third time here, I’d quickly get through this part. But alternating between slabs, moraine, and heather slowed things down a bit. Eventually, I made it to the bypass past a boulder field.

Looking back from the 6600' buttress bypass
Looking back from the 6600′ buttress bypass

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Steep Rock Gully to Book Mountain Proper

After rounding the buttress, the north-trending rock gully awaited. Thankfully, most big rocks were stable here to keep a steady pace. I even stayed close to climbers’ left to avoid any potential rockfalls. The terrain eventually flattened at 7000′, with a stream flowing out of the permanent snowfield ahead.

First, I followed Eric‘s report and hiked up the snow to 7200’. Then I headed south and crossed the field. The goal was to get to the south-trending ridgeline west of Booker Mountain. After getting through more boulders and heather, I was now overlooking the next basin from the ridge. Booker Mountain loomed in the distance.

Permanent snowfield
Permanent snowfield

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The Final Stretch to Booker Mountain

I located a dirt ramp at 7000′ on the ridge and used it to go down into the basin. Without snow, it was a lot of work to get past the moraine in the lower parts. Beyond there, it was just getting through more big rocks and slabs. Eventually, I reached the bottom of the gully and started to head up on scree.

Halfway up the gully, I realized I wasn’t actually in it. But instead, I was standing above a short wall to the climbers’ left. Using narrow ledges and decent handholds, I was able to get down to be back on track. By now, I was very low on energy. So the last 200′ on scree to the top felt like an eternity.

Access gully to reach the top
Access gully to reach the top

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Booker Mountain Summit

It was a long way to up get to this summit! Right away, I looked over at the impressive Buckner Mountain, plus its dramatic Buckner Glacier on the east. The weather improved as the day progressed. The sun was out for the better part of the day. But on the horizon, the dark clouds were starting to form.

The views to the north and the east were better since they were sun-facing. The clouds had lowered in the other directions. As a result, most of the familiar high points were only partially visible. The views of Buckner Mountain, Storm King, and Goode Mountain were still excellent. But Sahale Peak and Boston Peak were starting to fade.

West-northwest panoramic view
West-northwest panoramic view

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Outro

I enjoyed a half-hour stay and then proceeded to head down the mountain. Since I’d get back to Cascade Pass after dark, I dillydallied my way out. It started to rain after I got back to the permanent snowfield. But glad that it only lasted 20 minutes.

The evening colors through the dark clouds were quite dramatic. Glad the landscape kept my mind off the slow climb back up to Sahale Camp.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

See more trip photos here.

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