Sloan Peak Southeast Face + Corkscrew Route via Bedal Creek / 史隆峯

  • Reading time:7 mins read

Sloan Peak, the Matterhorn of the Cascades, is the tallest massif in the Monte Cristo area by Bedal Peak. Its near-4000′ prominence puts the closest higher peak ten miles away on Sitkum Spire of Glacier Peak. Of the various routes, Corkscrew via Sloan Glacier is the most common.

Sloan Peak at last
Sloan Peak at last

See more trip photos here.

Sloan Peak at a Glance

Access: Bedal Creek Trailhead (Road 4096)
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation Range: 2800′-7835′
Gear: helmet, microspikes, crampons, ice ax
GPS Track: available
Route Info: Mickie Centrone, Brian Doolittle, Relic
Dog-Friendly: no

The Preface on Sloan Peak

At last, the trip was 11 years in the making. After our first attempt in 2010, I thought I’d be back the following year. But at the time, my other goals had kept me busy. I didn’t know I’d come back now, let alone take a less-traveled route.

Holy isht, to this day, I still remember how green I was back then. It was my first time walking on a glacier, and it kept me on my toes. But with the two skilled folks I met during my early hiking years, I knew I was in good hands.

Trailside view
Trailside view

See more trip photos here.

Road 4096 by Bedal Peak

I last drove here in an SUV, so it didn’t feel quite as bumpy. But in a compact car, past the third road bend became increasingly rough. It was hard to focus on driving with the shrubs in the middle brushing the underside.

I didn’t think it’d be any worse until the most significant dip showed up before the last switchback. Glad that no one came up behind me as I moved at turtle speed. But that was the worst of it, whew!

A cloudy morning
A cloudy morning

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Bedal Creek Trailhead Rendezvous

I later pulled up near the end of the road with a few parked cars. Then I met four people preparing for their next day’s climb. One of them turned out to be a blog follower Mark Hadland. What do you know?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen people at a trailhead while car camping. But meeting folks from social media in real life was exciting. A few other cars arrived later, then I parked farther down the road and slept.

This way to Sloan Peak
This way to Sloan Peak

See more trip photos here.

Bedal Creek Trail

The following day, I hiked the lower trail with last night’s group through the old-growth forest. At mile 1.5, the standard route went straight uphill. Then I said goodbye to the gang and went south on the old trail.

The defined trail soon crossed Bedal Creek and stayed another half a mile in the trees. Later I went out into the creekbed and followed cairns upstream for a bit. Then the flagging took me through slide alder south of the gully.

A misty gully below Sloan Peak west face
A misty gully below Sloan Peak west face

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Sloan Peak WEST Basin

The markers faded by the edge of the dense forest. Then I walked up the water gully below Sloan Peak’s west face. After going through snow, I turned south at 5000′ with the misty Bedal Creek Valley behind me.

Soon, I made a rising traverse through a broad rock field below the west face. Then I moved up through the steep terrain over slick duff to the west saddle at 5640′. A quick drop through the trees put me out in the open shortly.

Through the west basin
Through the west basin

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SOUTHWEST Basin

So far, morning clouds have obscured my views. But as I went up the southwest basin, I could see the blue sky above me. Going through here felt the longest as I alternated between snow, scree, cliffs, and talus.

The final 200′ was a pleasant walk-up through lupines to Sloan Peak’s 6560′ south saddle. Clouds over the peak had started to shift to see the summit tower. Heck, yaaaaaas, as I turned around and saw the inversion below me.

Southwest basin
Southwest basin

See more trip photos here.

Sloan Peak SOUTHEAST Face

I soon went down the misty southeast basin toward the start of the climb. Meanwhile, I stayed at 6600′ on the snowfield to the north end. Glad that the upper glacier had extended higher so I could move onto the rocks.

The ramp above the ice chucks had running water that complicated things. I checked out other ways to go above the slabs but didn’t see anything useful. In the end, I inched my way up with friction and help from the overhang.

Sloan Peak southeast face
Sloan Peak southeast face

See more trip photos here.

Traversing the Lower Shelf

The higher I went, the more manageable the traverse. But the tilted shelf had made the walk-up very awkward. Whenever possible, I hugged the rock wall while avoiding steep sand-covered slabs. And there were many!

En route, I glanced for places to set up a rappel on the way back. But nowhere I looked felt safe enough to do so, nor did I see any old anchors. Higher up, my footing felt more secure as I stepped through grass slopes.

The only way to go is up
The only way to go is up

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Mid-Fifth Class (Class 5) Crux

The nook with a giant ice chunk noted on SummitPost.org sat at the top of the shelf. Directly behind it was the vertical step that led to the upper route, aka the Corkscrew route. I studied the rocks a bit before making my moves.

Glad the rocks over the crux were dry! But it would’ve gone much smoother had I been taller. I slowly moved through the tough spot before reaching the easier ground. A bit of class 3 scrambling then put me on the upper shelf.

The mid-fifth (class 5) crux
The mid-fifth (class 5) crux

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Final Stretch on Sloan Peak

Things began to look familiar the minute I stepped onto the defined trail. Eleven years ago seemed like it was only yesterday. My heart started racing as I rounded the sharp corner where my friend took a photo of me.

Next came the gully, where we decided to turn around. I remembered this place well because back then, it looked pretty intimidating under fresh snow. Before long, I snaked my way up the west and reached the summit in 300′.

Corkscrew route at last
Corkscrew route at last

See more trip photos here.

Sloan Peak Summit Views

I was beyond ecstatic! Words couldn’t convey the feeling of being here 11 years after the first trip. But I only had the damn list to blame, of course! I’ve admired the peak over the years, but it hasn’t been a goal to want to stand on it.

Views were phenomenal, even under a hazy sky. I remember seeing Mount Pugh, Bedal Peak, and Sloan Peak sitting in a row only weeks before the first trip. And now I could finally say hello back! Oh, you know, it’s the small things.

Western panoramic view
Western panoramic view

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Leaving Sloan Peak

The group of eight came up from the glacier later, and I hung out with them for a while. After 80 minutes of an extended visit, I bid farewell to the lovely folks. It felt great to have only one unfinished business.

After downclimbing the crux, I took my time through the lower shelf. But I still couldn’t find a decent rappel spot and retraced my steps instead. Two more basins and I was on the beaten path for the rest two miles out to the car.

Earlier in the west basin, I chatted with two people on their way to climb Fire on the Mountain. Talk about that epic trip!

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

See more trip photos here.

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