5000′ in elevation, 24 hours in time, & 12 miles in distance
It was quite the journey. Probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done, and one of the most physically challenging. But definitely the most beautiful 24 hours I’ve experienced.
To be honest, I’m sitting here at a writer’s block deciding how to even go about describing this–pretty indescribable–overnight adventure.
I’ll try from the beginning:
We started at the base of the North Cascades National Park, and went up 30+ switchbacks or so. The grind started right off the bat. Passerbys warned us against the bears up ahead on the cascade pass, but luckily the four of us had bear mace, a bear canister, and an individual bear call that we would spontaneously yell as we neared our way to the top.
As we gained higher elevation, the air became thinner, the temp became colder, and the views became crazier. The Cascade Mountains are stunning, year-round, but The Cascade Mountains in October are just the most insane thing I’ve ever experienced. It was a trade off for sure– enduring the cold of the air for the pleasant warmth of the colors. But well-worth the trade. The cool blues of the mountains and the warm red, oranges, and yellows of the surrounding vegetation was a pretty breathtaking sight, unlike anything I’d ever seen.
As we trekked through the Cascade Pass and passed the blue waters of Doubtful lake, we still had around 4 miles left to the Sahale Base Camp, where we would be tenting overnight. We’d looked up to the top of the mountain, where we anticipated the base camp to be, and pressed on towards it.
The views reminded me a bit of The Lord of the Rings scenery. It was a gorgeous sunset, overlooking the top of the peaks–a beaming orange glow in the clouds. But as the sun continued to set, things started to get dicey. We had reached what we thought was the base camp, only to find that we were mistaken. We were either lost or the camp was even further up than we had anticipated–and neither option was a great one in the dark.
Aching legs, backpacks & all, we continued to hike up this mountain. The night became darker and we no longer had a path to follow. This + a fatiguing group was not a great combo. There was a slight moment of panic where we considered just setting up camp right where we were–rocky & snowy, and on an incline. Worst came to worst, we were ready to sleep on rocks!
Splitting up on a mountain: Not a great idea. But Alex and I decided to separate, scramble up loose rock– and see if we could find the camp further up. With high winds beating against us, loose rock sending us back downwards, we hauled up the last hill infront of us.
…And FINALLY found the camp.
That feeling was pretty unforgettable— I legit felt like someone just saved my life. We yelled back down to Sam & Hannah to follow suit and join us.
Believe me when I say it felt like midnight. It was pitch black, and we felt isolated on top of this cold, windy mountain. We’d had two tents prepared for use, but un-expectant of these frigid conditions, or the snow on the ground, we only used one. We used rocks to hold the tent down, and both tent footprints to guard the snow. All of us then stuffed into the tent and zipped up into our sleeping bags for any bit of warmth we could get.
We had plans to heat ramen noodles, play cards, and spend some time outside, but it was so cold and windy, we could only huddle into our sleeping bags and attempt to sleep 5000′ feet up in the snow. Every once in a while the sides of the tent would get hit by the wind and slap us in the face, or snow from the outside would blow in. Plus, none of us wanted to go out to use the bathroom, because this would mean shedding off multiple layers in the cold.
Man. Talk about survival mode.
Surprisingly, yours truly slept the best out of the group–almost through the night! Not that it was the most luxurious of conditions or anything…we’d woken up at random times, taking our bets on the time, hoping for the sun to come up. But finally, just like that, it was morning. We’d woken up to our water bottles frozen solid, and our hand warmers losing steam. We brushed off the snow from our hair and passed around some mouth wash to start the day. You know–your classic morning.
We tore down camp, got slapped by the cold/wind, and began our rapid decline down the Cascade Mountains. Even more stunning a second time around.
Somehow, we made it down the mountain in about half the time it took us to climb it. We found warmth as we got closer and closer to ground level. Our legs, knees, butts, thighs–you name it–were sore. But man was it worth it.
I mean, this was definitely the craziest adventure I’ve been on, with the most amazing scenery I’d ever seen.
After what felt like 100 switchbacks, we finally collapsed in the car and gave ourselves a break. I don’t know if I’d ever felt crustier than in this moment. WHAT. A. TIME.
Great views, better people, fiery calves and God’s glory–Definitely one for the books.