Dark Peak (attempt)
Eric and Katie
August 29-31, 2017
After a rest day in Stehekin swimming in Lake Chelan and eating at the Bakery, we took the morning park bus to Highbridge, dropped off unnecessary climbing gear in an bear box at the trailhead, and started hiking.
We hiked south on the PCT for 8 miles until we reached Swamp Creek Camp around 12:30pm. After a short break we started up the old abandoned Swamp Creek Trail. The trail was pretty easy to follow at first, but after it climbed up to around 3,500ft lots of blowdowns made it tough to find. I eventually lost the trail and crossed over the creek at a shallow spot.
In retrospect, we should have followed the old trail farther through open woods to a good log crossing. Unfortunately, my navigation error meant we were thrashing through alder slide thickets for the next few hours until we met up with the old trail at the good log crossing.
We followed the old trail a bit longer until it disappeared for good, and had a tough time bushwhacking through more dense alder thickets. Finally, just before sunset, we reached a flat open meadow at 4,300ft below a huge waterfall and stopped for the night.
In the morning we consolidated glacier gear into one pack and started bushwhacking up towards the waterfall. We then hiked up a corner on the left side and met up with a faint climbers trail, leading all the way to the next basin.
Here we found a huge meadow and got a nice look at the glaciers on the face of Dark Peak. Unfortunately
the snow was really melted out by this late in the summer, and most of the glacier was ice. What would be an easy snow walk in the spring or early summer would now be more difficult transitioning between snow, steep wet rock, and ice.
We put on crampons and climbed up the first snow slope, then had to traverse onto rock when the snow melted out. We made it a bit higher to the next snowfield, but eventually decided to come back next year earlier in the season when the terrain was less sketchy.
We climbed back down the route, broke down camp, and bushwhacked back down. This time I did a better job avoiding some of the alder patches, and we crossed swamp creek at a good log. We made it to 5-mile camp that night, then the next morning hiked in to High Bridge to catch a bus back. After filling up on pastries at the bakery in Stehekin we caught a ferry back to Chelan and drove back to Seattle that night.