Black Peak from Wind Lake!
Wow! Black Peak, 8,970' from Wing Lake! The South Ridge and Northeast Ridge Routes are both visable.

Black Peak 8,970'!

An August 19, 2001 Trip Report in the North Cascades National Park from Windy Pass.



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The trailhead is off Highway 20 at Rainy Pass at 4,840’. The Park Service was cutting some trees at the picnic area, so we had to park across the Highway at the Pacific Crest Trailhead. My first mistake was to look at the map and think that the trail to Lake Ann branched off of the PCT. Doerte and I backtracked, and found the Lake Ann, Heather Pass, and Maple Pass Trailhead nearby.

After a mile a branch of the trail heads for Lake Ann at 5,475’. A gorgeous lake, and a favorite of dayhikers. We took the right fork to Heather Pass, 6,040’. There is no camping within a quarter mile of Heather Pass or Lake Ann. On beautiful Heather Pass we had a fantastic view of Black Peak in the distance, wrapped in the early morning clouds.

We crossed several rockslides of various sizes, losing 300’ on our way to Lewis Lake. Staying near the bottom of the slides allowed us to take advantage of some bits of trail. Cairns mark a higher route. It is .75 mile from Heather Pass to Lewis Lake at 5,702’. There are a couple of nice camps there, still in the trees.

A good climber’s trail took us up the moraine to Wing Lake, 6,905’. Doerte ate some nice, ripe, and plump Huckleberries along the way. There were lots of friendly Marmots and Picas to entertain us along the trail. Wing Lake is just at the top of treeline, and has many nice camps. Most summit parties camp here and make the ascent the second day, hiking out the second or third day.

Doerte ascending the perennial snowfield to Black Peaks's south ridge. Doerte ascending the perennial snowfield to Black Peaks's south ridge. The snowfield was ice. We went up the scree to the right of the snowfield instead of stopping and putting on crampons.

Becky’s perennial snowfield was mostly a combination of scree and talus on this August day after a dry winter. Slowly we worked our way to Black Peaks’ south ridge at 7,900’. The last 300’ was a struggle of loose scree.

We ascended the South Ridge, staying on the ridge for as long as we could, moving in the scree filled gully when forced. Near the summit we traversed to the right and went up to the false summit. Traversing right some more brought us to a route to the summit ridge, and then over a short exposed notch to the narrow summit at 8,970’. There is no register. The smoke from the Lake Chelan fires obscured the views to the east and south. We had nice views to Boston Basin and Jack Mountain.

Mike still not the summit of Black Peak! Still not the summit! False Summits! We had to climb up this narrow crest and follow it for 100' until we got to another slab resting on top of the crest. A beautiful, but airy summit!

Far below we could see two climbers coming up the Northeast Ridge. This route is class 3 and 4 and has one class 5 pitch. Lage Wernstedt and Whitey Shull first climbed Black Peak in late summer 1926. Hermann Ulrichs climbed Black Peak solo in 1934 via the South Route.

Looking back down to Wing Lake from the South Ridge of Black Peak! Looking back down to Wing Lake from the South Ridge of Black Peak! The haze is smoke from the Lake Chelan Fire. It burned our eyes and smelled like a big campfire.

The smoke got worse as we descended, burning our eyes and filling our noses. We picked up our packs on the ridge and descended the talus and scree back to Wing Lake. The climbers trail was a welcome sight. However, the 300’ gain back to Heather Pass of the talus slopes was torture! One large boulder came down from above as we were crossing the slope giving us a scare. We knew it was coming, but couldn’t see it.

Almost to Lewis Lake on the descent! Almost to Lewis Lake on our descent. Heather Pass is ahead. We are below the smoke!

We were back at the trailhead at 7 p.m. for an 11.5-hour day. 4,730’ gain. A nice tough scramble to a beautiful big alpine peak just 30’ short of being a 9,000er!

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