backpack: North Cascades – Cascade Pass

Three night backpacking trip in the Cascade Pass, Sahale Arm, Pelton Basin and Basin Creek areas

Day 1

3.7 miles with 1,700 ft. gain, 600 ft. loss

My first time visiting the North Cascades National Park, I was blown away on the drive in, with towering peaks with snowfields and glaciers viewable from the parking lot. This is the first year that backcountry permits are required for the Cascade Pass area and we were lucky to score three nights at campsites at Pelton Basin and Basin Creek.

The trail to Cascade Pass goes up 37 switchbacks, which were hot, dusty and buggy on the day we hiked in. We were headed to the group camp at Pelton Basin.

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

view from the parking lot!

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

hiking up to Cascade Pass, with a view of El Dorado and it’s large glacier

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

one of 37 switchbacks

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

amazing views on the way up

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

finally done with the switchbacks

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

subalpine beauty

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

looking back at the hike in

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

view of Pelton Basin from Cascade Pass

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

heading to our camp at Pelton Basin

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

Pelton Basin group camp kitchen and bear boxes

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

group campsite

Day 2

day hike to Sahale Arm: about 5 miles, 1,500 ft. gain

On the second day, we woke up to foggy conditions, but decided to go ahead and do a day hike to Sahale Arm since we had to move camp the next day to Basin Creek, another 1,700 ft. lower than where we were camped at Pelton Basin. The trail junction for Sahale Arm is near Cascade Pass, so we headed back towards to the pass from camp. As we hiked up, the fog and low clouds cleared, allowing for fantastic views in all directions.

It was cold with high wind gusts, and I didn’t go all the way to the base of glacier. Instead, I stopped on the ridge and enjoyed the panoramic scenery while part of our group continued higher up the ridge.

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

heading back to Cascade Pass

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

foggy conditions in Pelton Basin

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

subalpine scenery

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

heading up

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

marmot!

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

Sahale Peak and Doubtful Lake

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

hiking with views all around

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

the views from Sahale Arm are amazing!

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

looking back at the hike up

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

glaciers!

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

heading back to camp

Day 3

moving camp to Basin Creek: 3.2 miles with 1,700 ft. loss

On the third day, we moved camp to Basin Creek, going down, down, down 1,700 ft. into the valley below.

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

one of 12 switchbacks on the descent

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

the camp area is in the trees at the bottom of the basin

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

waterfall on the trail

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

one of several talus slopes to cross

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

super tight quarters at Basin Creek camp

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

the camp kitchen at Basin Creek

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

creek next to our camp

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

Stehekin River

North Cascades - Cascade Pass backpacking trip

I love the North Cascades!

 Day 4

7.4 miles with 2,300 ft. gain and 1,700 ft. loss

I woke up not feeling well, which turned out to be a case of hyponatremia – which is low sodium due to excessive sweating without replacing electrolytes. Lesson learned for sure! We had a long hike out on the last day, getting back up to Cascade Pass, then back down the 37 switchbacks to the trailhead. It wasn’t easy, but I made it thanks to the help of my friends. Regardless, I loved everything about this trip and hope to come back again to explore the area more.

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