Misadventures in the Cascades


Glidden, Mason
Crawford, Cole

Dates of Trip: 

June 1, 2019 to June 8, 2019

Part 1 – Dorado Needle

We landed in Seattle early in the afternoon, crammed a load of gear into the rental car, and set off north to the Cascades. We originally planned to climb Eldorado Peak and Dorado Needle, then tackle Shuksan, the North Ridge of Baker, or Glacier Peak. We acquired our permits, rented bear canisters, and camped near Marblemount for an early morning Sunday start.

We had several climbs planned out of Eldorado Basin, but first had to get up there. Shouldering 50lb packs, we started up the trail, although calling it a trail would be generous. After a long day of slogging up scree fields, we finally made it to our campsite, set up our tent, and crashed in preparation for an early wake up the next day.

Starting off from camp at 5am, we roped up and headed off towards the Dorado Needle, our first objective. The approach hike was beautiful, with incredible views all around. Dorado Needle is a 3-pitch climb, with moderate snow on the approach and 3 pitches of 5.4.

We set up a belay at the start of the first pitch and set off. Luckily, the fog cleared after the first pitch, revealing breathtaking views. We quickly made our way to the summit, took a celebratory summit selfie, and began our rap.

However, on the last rap, a rock came loose and fell onto Mason’s face, then ricocheted straight onto our rope. Several core shots later, we decided it was time to bail and go find an ER to deal with Mason’s potentially-broken-nose.

We retraced our path, broke down camp, and headed back down the scree fields. Roughly 12 hours after the accident, we were walking into an ER. The attendant took one look at Mason and asked “Climbing accident?” A few hours later, we were on our way again, this time to a warm hotel and a well-earned shower.

Part 2 – Boston Basin

After the Dorado Needle debacle, we dove right back in. The forecast for Shuksan and Baker looked quite terrible, so we decided to head back to the Marblemount Ranger Station and see if we could snag a last minute Boston Basin permit instead to attempt Sharkfin Tower, Sahale, and Forbidden. Showing up midweek worked to our advantage, and after a proper gear sale repack, we were able to start up to Boston Basin by early afternoon. The approach was steep but involved less bushwhacking than Dorado, and we made good time to our campsite. While Boston Basin is a popular location for both guided trips and guide training, we only shared the campsite with marmots the first night.

The next morning we set off for the southeast ridge of Sharkfin Tower. Our approach included a brief caving detour (the start of David’s outdoor gear modeling career) and a quick jaunt across the lower Quien Sabe Glacier. We quickly reached the first rock band above the glacier and were funneled into a steep snow (45 or 50 degree) couloir. We unroped and staggered our climbs up the 75m couloir so that if anyone slipped they wouldn’t take out the following climber. We regrouped at a terrace, and climbed more steep snow up to the col, which we thought was the base of the climb.

David racked up and cast off - horizontally. After 30 minutes or so, he popped up 20 feet above Cole and Mason, completely confused. He had traversed far to the right on largely chossy, untravelled rock, was unable to progress upwards, and doubled back. By this time, the temperature was dropping quickly and flurries filled the air. Mason volunteered to clean the traverse pitch, sacrificing Cole’s stubborn pink tricam in the process. By the time Mason returned, fog and snow obscured the basin below us. We down climbed the steep snow and hopped a tiny gap back onto the glacier, then glissaded back to camp. Later, after reexamining the route topo, we realized that we had never traversed under the tower and had taken the wrong couloir. The tat David had found was from the rap stations on skier’s left of the correct route.

Back at camp early, we considered the logistics of tackling the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak. After the Dorado Needle incident, David’s rope was unusable and we had brought one of Mason’s 60m half ropes for our glacier travel rope. Simuling in a party of 3 on a half was outside of our risk tolerance, and so we instead resolved to wake up early and attempt Sahale.

On Thursday morning, we woke up at 5am to light snow on our MITOC MSR tent. After a quick breakfast we shouldered our packs and set off on the other side of the Quien Sabe glacier. We roped up as a thick fog coated the snow slopes. We broke out our compasses alongside our phone maps and navigated through the whiteout, avoiding several crevasses and we slowly ascended. After passing a number of guided groups and guides-in-training, the sun finally broke through the fog as we hit the snow below the final summit scramble. We ditched out packs on the Basin side of a huge cornice and roped up again. Mason led the 4th class step, placing a few pickets and gaining the tiny summit block where he belayed up Cole and David. The descent back to camp included some long glissades and a few short rock traverses, and we spent the afternoon playing hearts and cribbage.

We wanted to make another attempt at the correct route on Shark Fin, but the weather had other plans for us. 3 or 4 inches of snow had fallen overnight, and a rock route seemed out of the question. While we could have camped out in Boston Basin another night, we realistically needed to return to Seattle so we could get Mason on his flight to Alaska by Saturday night. We decided to spend the morning doing some crevasse rescue practice. After trudging up the foot of the glacier through new snow, we rigged a snow anchor on several pickets. One by one we rappelled into the crevasse and ascended the rope to escape, while the others huddled in David’s (surprisingly comfortable) bothy. The crevasse was substantial, with a long, wide hallway to one side and a narrow, looming crack that threatened to swallow up any hapless mountaineer that plunged through.

After breaking down camp, we hiked back down to Boston Basin parking through a light mist. The three-hour drive back to Seattle was punctuated by a much anticipated Chik-fil-A stop. We crashed at Chateau Birkan (a MITOC alumni and friend of David’s who was out of town) and sorted gear.

Saturday and Sunday involved lower key Seattle-area adventures. As we are all gearheads, we made a quick stop at Wonderland Gear Exchange - down booties were acquired. We also went for a relaxing afternoon sea kayak trip through the Puget Sound before Mason flew out. David and Cole spent Sunday cragging at Index, ticking Senior Citizens in Space and Great Northern Slab before flying back to Boston.