Black Peak- NE Ridge
July 27th, 2003
Emily and I left the Rainy Pass picnic area at 7am and began our approach
on the already muggy Sunday morning. We reached Heather Pass quickly and
soon dropped into the talus cirque that would lead us to Lewis Lake. In
an attempt to traverse to the lake rather than loose elevation we hopped
right onto the boulder field. We later learned that by continuing down
along the trail, there is a path through the talus that makes the traverse
quite a bit easier.
Emily at Heather Pass.
The NE Ridge is the right hand skyline.
Looking down at a partially frozen Wing Lake.
We hiked up the snow from Wing Lake to where it steepens
and ends into rubbely 3rd and 4th class rock. A bit of scrambling with
a fair amount of loose rock lead to the ridge crest at the base of the
ridge. There was some light wind at the pass so we were able to take our
first real break of the day. The breeze discouraged the mosquitos, but
the more robust horseflies were still buzzing all over us.
After the scramble we met up with another team who was just
starting off on the ridge. We ate lunch and waiting for them to get a
bit ahead. We began with a climb of a short step then coiled the rope
for a walk around the first tower, which lead to a rubbly gully off to
the right. At this point, we met the other team again as they were backtracking
down the gully saying that it was too loose and licheny and not correct.
To our left were a couple of benches that lead over to a steep gully formation,
so Em and I went ahead and traversed the bench into the steep draw. Blocky
low 5th lead up and right to under the middle of a wide tower that starts
the ridge. From here we skirted left on moderate ground to a notch just
past the tower... and the crest was ours! Gaining the crest soon was key,
as most of the major looseness is left behind once on the actual ridge.
Emily on the ridge.
Emily higher up on the ridge.
The climbing along the ridge was superb. Like an airy catwalk,
we running belayed through the entire solid and blocky climb. There was
some looseness here and there, but it was all generally pretty solid rock
with good pro. The difficulty never exceeded 5.4 or so, and was usually
only that difficult for a move or two. Up high on the ridge there is a
steeper tower that looks like it can be easily bypassed on the left or
right, but we chose to climb strait up the middle for a nice short 5.5-6
pitch. Above this the angle of the ridge eases off, and its a short scramble
up to the summit.
On the summit with Mt. Goode in the background.
Just minutes after we arrived the team behind us, two Biologists
from Mt. Vernon, reached the top as well. We ate lunch and took in the
spectacular vantage that the summit of Black gives. Everything from the
Pickets to the Forbidden group to Glacier Peak and Sloan were visible.
The descent was a typical Cascades grovel. After a little
more ridge line down from the summit, we followed foot paths down through
the rubbely gullies. It reminded me of Fisher Peak's descent gullies,
but luckily these were low angled enough to arrest falling rocks quickly.
Soon we were at the col above the East slope, and we foot glissaded on
down to the lake.
Our friends "the swarm of mosquitos" met us at
the edge of the snow, and accompanied us all the way back to the car..
a long, hot, and painful journey. Thanks goes to those bugs for keeping
us on track and break free all the way back! (Though Emily counted 34
bites on one elbow alone). We arrived back at the car 13 hours after we'd
left it. Craving a real dinner, we raced the clock back to Marblemount,
arriving just after 9pm. A quick survey of open restaurants surprised
us: Good Food and The Buffalo Run were open, while my favorite, The Eatery,
was closed. In fact, Buffalo Run is open everyday until 10pm! Unfortunately,
I've never had a fine dining experience there, and this night would be
no exception. All the food is grossly overpriced, and I wasn't feeling
like a signature Buffalo Burger, so I ordered the Philly Cheese Steak
sandwich ($9) and Emily got the Pasta Primavera ($15!). She was incredibly
excited to receive her "freshly cut vegetables tossed in a rich alfredo
sauce over linguini", but it's arrival brought disappointment: An
assortment of crinkle cut carrots (ever seen a crinkle knife in a kitchen?),
those slimy brown mushrooms that seem to appear in everything, and 2 slices
of bitter zucchini. Her dismay was inturupted when she hear me laugh at
the sight of my "dinner". On my plate was the smallest little
Pilly Steak sandwich I'd ever seen. In fact it was served on a toasted
hot dog bun that was cut in half and pinned with toothpicks.. perhaps
to give it a big sandwich feel? Who knows. At least the fries were good.
The nachos look like a good deal though, a huge pile of 'em for only $7.