Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trip Report from Brad: Sahale Glacier Camp Rescue

The Sahale Glacier Camp is located in the North Cascades in the middle of the park.  I found the camp in an issue of Backpacker magazine in a "Best Campsites in America" feature.  I have been wanting to do the hike for a while.  Finally finding a weekend to do it recently I asked my friend Tim if he wanted to go.  We found a weekend, and got ready to roll.  The hike gains over 4000 feet in elevation in just over 5 miles.  There is no camping permitted anywhere along the trail until you get to the glacier camp.

Tim and I left on a Friday around 5 and drove up to the park.  We got there just as the ranger station was closing...just in time to nab the last of the permits for the camp.  Only 6 are available every night, so we got a bit lucky.  We drove to the trail head, put up our tent, and ate the last couple McDonald's fries we had picked up before bedding down for the evening. 

The next morning we got up before the sun rose left the parking lot at 7 AM looking to make it to the Sahale Glacier camp that we had a permit for by 4:00 or so.  The beginning of the hike goes through some forested area that was really cool to walk through in the early morning.  After about an hour we came through the forest and hit the next "zone" of the hike -- which was more of a sub-alpine like area.  About 10 minutes after coming out of the forest area I saw what looked like two people farther up on the trail.  They looked to be sitting on the side of the trail.  
That odd thing about this was the fact that we were the first one to leave the parking lot.  With only 6 permits available it was easy to notice that when we left there were still 5 tents up in the campground at the trailhead and we were going to be the first ones on the trail that morning.  We walked the rest of the way up to the couple people and instantly noticed something was wrong.  I checked my altimeter and noticed were about 1,000 vertical feet up (around an hour and a half in to the hike).  We had run into
 a 16 year old girl who had broken her leg and her father who really needed help.  The girl's leg was in bad shape.  Her father had stopped the little bleeding there was, but besides that nothing was done.  Apparently the two had left late in the morning two days before and got up to the Sahale camp late in the day.  The next morning they left the camp late and were the last ones to leave the high camp.  Somewhere on the way down the girl (Tara was her name) had slipped and broken her leg on some of the larger boulders on the side of the trail.  Having no way to communicate with anyone they had spent the night out waiting for help the next morning (which turned out to be Tim and I).

Tim and I talked about it, but it wasn't even a decision. Tim and I both dropped our packs on the side of the trail and helped out. We splinted the girl's busted up leg with a trekking pole, and then put a sleeping pad around it.  Tim and I had nearly 5 liters of water between the two of us.  We gave all but one of those to the two of them, which they desperately needed.  To start we tried to have Tara help herself down by hobbling down the rest of the trail with a person on both sides of her (like you see football trainers doing to carry off an injured player).  However, that didn't really work.  Tara was exhausted (i'm guessing they didn't get much sleep) and she couldn't put any weight on her busted leg.  So we switched it up.   Since her dad was also exhausted Tim and I rotated between piggy-backing Tara down and carrying her Dad's pack.  After around an hour and a half of this we got Tara and her dad back to the parking lot, and then to the ranger station.  

After that we headed back up to get our packs. We ended up hiking to the top of Glacier pass (where this picture is taken from) and then decided we were just too tired to make it the additional 2000 vertical feet to the Glacier camp.  We grabbed some pictures, and then headed down.  My best one is below.

Hell of an experience for sure.  Tim and I returned to Seattle a day early, but completely exhausted.  I've done plenty of exhausting hikes and climbs, and I've never been as sore as I was waking up the next morning after we got back.  My quads and calfs were tight, but in the end it was all worth it.  Tim and I are already planning on going back to Sahale next summer to make the full trip all the way to the high camp.

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