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Booker & Horseshoe, Part 2
(USGS Cascade Pass, GT Cascade Pass)
July 15-17, 2006

 

This page includes Days 2 & 3 of the Booker/Horseshoe trip report.  For Day 1, please click here.

Day 2:  Booker & Horseshoe Summits, plus a Bonus Sunset.

 

Booker

The route to Booker had two obstacles we expected (a nose before the Booker/Buckner col and the notch in the summit ridge), and one obstacle we didnít expect (a hidden gully in between).

 

We set off from camp at 7:15am and traversed around the basin, keeping our elevation around 6500 so we could pass below the nose.  A black bear was browsing on the meadow, but it ran off downhill long before we got close.  We crossed below the nose and headed up the wide gully toward the Bucker-Booker col. A couple hundred feet below the col, we angled off toward the right to avoid a small pocket glacier at the col. We didnít want to get onto the summit ridge itself, because it has a fifth class notch dividing the near end from the summit at the far end.  Instead we angled to stay below a cliff band at the bottom of the summit ridge until we could enter the notch from below.   Along the way, we were surprised to find our path blocked by a steep drop-off into hidden gully (though in hindsight itís visible on the map).  We got around it by dropping about 150 feet; one could also go around the top a couple hundred feet higher.

 

Eventually we stopped to debate the location of the summit notch, because, from below, itís visible only as a big gully in the cliffs, not a notch high above.  Billie practiced patience while Mike and I cordially debated for twenty minutes, accompanied by various waving of maps gesturing of arms, and stomping of feet.   Anyway we ascended the gully on snow till it got steep, then on rock on the right-hand side.  Higher up it turned to lower-angled pebbly ground, barren except for tiny bunches of flowers popping out unexpectedly.  We reached the summit, 8280 feet, at 1:30pm.

 

 

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Summit Routes

 

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Booker

 

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Horseshoe Summit Group

The summit provided dramatic views in every direction.  South was the deeps of the Stehekin River valley, the blue oval of Trapper Lake, and all jumbled pile of peaks out past the Ptarmigan traverse.   West we could see the vertical sweep of Horseshoe Basin, including the steep waterfalls dropping off the edge into the lower basin. 

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Trapper Lake

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Horseshoe Basin

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Paintbrush high on Booker

 

To the north, Buckner towered up out of the valley.  Best of all was the view east to Logan, Storm King, and Goode, on the far side of Park Creek.  Wow, what a steeply cut valley!  All along the far side, huge cliffs ran miles long and thousands of feet high below the peaks.  On our own side, more cliffs dropped off so sheer that we couldnít see the wall below us at all. 

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Buckner

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Logan & Park Creek Pass

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Park Creek Valley, Storm King, & Goode

Horseshoe

At 2:30 we headed back down and reached the 6500-foot nose at 3:45.  From there, Billie returned to camp while Mike and I angled up toward Horseshoe.  Along the way, I saw a ptarmigan with a baby chick, and made the poor mother ptarmigan miserable by following them around to take a photo while she tried to decoy me away from the chick.  Eventually we reached the high corner between Ripsaw Ridge and Bucker, and angled left up to the snowpatch below Horseshoe's summit rock.

 

(Horseshoe is the most questionable peak on the Bulger Top 100 list, because it has only a couple hundred feet of prominence, and itís not really the point thatís named Horseshoe Peak on the map; itís simply the highest point on Ripsaw Ridge.)

 

Above the snow, Horseshoeís summit is a square block, with a notch up on the left crest that leads to the summit pitch.  It turns out there are at least three ways to reach the notch, all of them steep and unpleasant.  On the left is a steep gully route, which we used for our return.  We went up an easier gully on the right side, but then had to get across to the notch on the left.  Mike had previously gone around the back side so we started out that way.  It seemed awfully steep, so we crossed back over the crest and followed a high ledge across to the gully a little below the notch.  Looking back from the notch, any of the routes seemed workable, but they all have steep third class with some fourth class steps.  I liked the left gully best.

 

The summit is actually a dramatic-looking little pitch, quite narrow and steep when viewed from the side, but we were hurrying to finish the day and I forgot to even take a photo of it.  Up above the major notch, a steep narrow ramp angles up to the only technical move, a questionably protectable pull up over a rotten lip into a little notch below the big summit rock.  Mike was thoroughly lacking in enthusiasm about repeating this notable summit, so I led the pitch and arrived at 7:30pm, 8440 feet.  Now we had views north across the wide white expanse of the Boston Glacier, but it was late, so we tied a quintuple length of runners around the big rock for a rappel and headed back down. 

 

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Horseshoe Summit Routes

 

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Ptarmigan Chick

 

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Mike on Horseshoe Summit

Sunset

As we descended the gully, golden evening sunlight hit the rocks below, and I remained there on a little col above the snow, enthralled by the beautiful sunset, while Mike continued back to camp. 

 

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The entire Cascade crest south of me was bathed in warm light.

 

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For the next 45 minutes, I enjoyed the show as the alpenglow angled higher across the peaks and deepened in color.

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Glory & Bonanza as the alpenglow reddens

 Itís like a drama designed to highlight the paramount crests Ė moment by moment, as the sun drops, the shadows climb and the light intensifies, so only a smaller and smaller selection of highest summits stand out, shining like gems crowning the darkened world.

For an additional treat, the sunset also lit up the small nearby tower called ďLick of Flame,Ē making it burn like its name.

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Lick of Flame

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Dome, Glacier, & Spider

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Bonanza & shadow of Horseshoe in last light

At one point I started to head down the steep snow near the top, but was stopped again by the view and remained stuck midway on the cooling snow while the light spanned the spectrum into the sky.  Finally the colors went out and the basin fell entirely into shadow. 

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Formiddable & Magic in alpenglow and afterglow

Horseshoe Basin in shadows

The rest of the return trip was low-angled, and I trotted down the snow with what light remained in sky.  I and made it to camp at 9:45pm with just a brief use of my headlamp on some final rocky stretches.

 

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After eating my dinner in the dark, I leaned my head back against the rocks and discovered one last visual treat.  Propped up against the tiled rock of the basin, if I stretched my peripheral vision to its utmost, I could see the entire rim of summits as dark silhouettes standing up in a wide circle against the night sky above me.

 

Day 3:  Horseshoe Basin to Sahale Arm to Cascade Pass TH

No need to hurry today, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the morning sun and left camp at 9:30am.  This time we traversed a little lower back toward the Sahale gully, where a natural ramp led across the ledges.  The narrower path put us right into the spray of some of the waterfalls.

 

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Billie & MIke at camp

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Traversing back to the rib, past mineral runoff and waterfalls

On the first day, I had been surprised to not see any marmots, but several marked our exit.  At the top of the rib, a marmot was startled by our approach and ran up onto the snow.  It put our pace to shame by ascending all the way up hundreds of feet of snow onto Sahale, before we even got off the rock.

 

When we reached the Sahale Arm trail, a wet front was pushing clouds across the ridge from the west side.  Descending amid the swirls of gray blowing mist, the meadows and flowers appeared in rich patches of green and blue, and animals popped up all along the trail.  First a marmot posed for a close-up.  Then a ptarmigan and four chicks ran down the trail ahead of me!  Oh no, the camera memory was full!  I had to delete some of my 485 precious pictures of the trip, then hurry to catch a picture of two of the chicks.  Oh, joy, another marmot appeared and posed together with the ptarmigan and chicks!   Eventually I made it to Cascade Pass, where a family of mountain goats was visible high up Mixup Arm, and trotted down the rest of the trial to the car at 3:45. 

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 Marmot Closeup

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Clouds on Sahale Arm

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Ptarmigan, Chick, & Marmot

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Lupine & Bistort

Statistics:

Elevations:  Cacasde Pass TH 1700, Cascade Pass 5400, High Point on Sahale 7500, Horseshoe Basin Camp 6500, Booker 8280, Horseshoe 8440.

Approach:  7:30 hours, 6.5 miles, 4000 gain, 1200 loss

Summits:  14:30 hours, 6.3 miles, 4050 gain.

Exit:  6:15 hours, 6.5 miles, 1200 gain, 4000 loss.

Total:  18.3 miles, 9250 gain.

   

Ripsaw

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Ridge

 

Camera Footnote:

This trip also marked the point where the counter on my camera reached 9999 and started over at 0001.  So that's over 10,000 pictures since I bought the camera in December 2003.

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Pictures & Maps:

 

Click here for more photos of the approach & exit for this trip.

Click here for more photos of the summits and sunset during this trip.


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