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Trip Report

Boston Basin, Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

North Cascades

Trip Report By

WTA Member



Hiked Jul 27, 2021

Type of Hike

Day hike

Trail Conditions

Trail in good condition


Road rough but passable


Bugs were not too bad


Snow free

I have often looked a Google Earth and wondered if a traverse across Boston Basin to Sahale Arm was possible without a whole lot of technical scrambling.  Finally decided it was time to give it a try.

I decided to start at the Cascade Pass Trailhead for the proposed loop.  Road is in great shape for the most part until the recent washout that has just been fixed.  A bit rough there but shouldn't be an issue for any vehicle.  When I got to the trailhead at about 7:00 AM, it was mostly empty.  Restroom was clean and well stocked with TP.

Jogged down the road to the Boston Basin Trailhead and hopped on the trail.  I expected this trail to be much worse than it was.  There are a few spots where you have to use your hands to scramble up some rock sections but for the most part, it felt "easier" than say, the old trail on Mailbox.  Plus the views are a tad bit better.  The three creek crossings were straightforward at that time of the morning and I didn't even get my feet wet. I could see where later in the day in late spring/early summer where they could be a challenge.

After the last creek crossing, you are out of the trees and all I can say is..."wow".  Such an alpine paradise.  Eldorado, Forbidden, Boston are all front and center. Johannesburg looming to the south. Dozens of cascading waterfalls, wildflowers, marmots basking in the sun.  A bit of everything!  I continued to follow the trail towards Forbidden, passing a few campsites and taking it all in.  I scrambled up as far as I felt comfortable and took a break at about 7,200'. 

After my break, it was time to get to work to see if the route would go.  I dropped back down to about 6,600' and started to work my way east across the basin.  The rock ledges made for fairly easy travel and the biggest concern was the small patches of undercut snow from the meltwater of the glaciers.  I navigated these as best I could but this route is certainly for those experienced in this kind of travel. 

I ascended to the toe of the Quien Sabe Glacier and it was sobering to see just how melted out and broken up it was at this time of year.  I took another break here before continuing on.  It was more of the same of working my way across ledges and snowfields.  Through most of this, the terrain was smooth rock with some talus sections.  At one section, large chunks of ice had broken from the glacier and rolled downhill. Let's just say, I moved quickly through this area pausing to get one shot before getting clear.

As I moved further east, I knew I was hitting the crux of the traverse.  There looked to be a difficult section that I was going to need to get through.  I dropped down on slabs to talus deposited from the glacier.  I spied what looked like a ledge system and moved across snow to it.  Sure enough, there was a ledge system that I could access.  This was by far the most technical part of the day and it reminded me of the Red Ledge on the Ptarmigan Traverse.  The ledges are wide but downsloping a bit and there is some exposure that made it feel a bit "airy".  But I quickly moved up the ledges and was back on talus.  I still couldn't see the Sahale Arm so wasn't sure if I was going to make it.

But some more talus traversing and finally I was on a flat "bench" of heather and could see the trail up Sahale Arm. Success!  Since there was plenty of time, I ascended the trail to Sahale Camp and worked my way over to where you drop down into Horseshoe Basin.  I didn't have enough time to check this out so will have to come back. 

The views from Sahale Camp are stunning and I took another break here.  For climbers, the glacier is starting to break up but I didn't see a lot of blue ice on it like I did the glaciers in Boston Basin.

From there, I just followed the trail back to Cascade Pass.  There are water sources at Sahale Camp and coming down Sahale Arm.  I saw a big ol' bear right by the pass but it didn't want a thing to do with me.  Also, quite a few goats in the area.

Then it was switchback city back to the trailhead to close the loop. There are a couple of trickles of water near the pass on the Cascade Pass trail but I wouldn't depend on them in the coming weeks.  Other than that, nothing really major to note on this trail. 

I put bugs not annoying as I hardly noticed any mosquitoes and the horseflies I encountered were so big and slow that they were easy to swat.   However, quite a few people were complaining about the bugs so I guess it's relative.  After last week though, they seemed non-existent to me. 

Amazing traverse!  Statwise it was about 15 miles and with my extra going up and down to check things out, it was 7k of gain.   Strava link provided to give an idea of the route.  I will note that my route isn't the most direct line as I was out "exploring".