Black Peak

October 2022

At almost 9,000 ft in height, Black Peak is one of the loftier peaks in the North Cascades. A relatively moderate route to the summit and stellar views make it one of the most popular alpine scrambles in Washington State.

The exposed movement on the upper reaches of the mountain provides some excitement, and the crystal clear waters of Wing Lake provide the perfect spot to set up base camp and enjoy the scenery.

The route up to Wing Lake crosses a huge boulder field after veering off the main hiking trail at Heather Pass.

The boulder field leads you down the valley to Lewis Lake – a beautiful setting with some great camping options. The autumn foliage against the teal waters looked lovely in the afternoon sun.

The trail then winds through dense glades of larches as it works its way up to Wing Lake.

Wing Lake is one of the most stunning settings to camp in the North Cascades, with an epic view of Black Peak towering over the valley.

The lake is surrounded by larches, making autumn an especially magical time to do this climb.

We got to camp by 2 pm, and with so much daylight left, we went wandering around the lake and ran into a friend from Bellingham! Such a nice surprise for some extra company for dinner.

It was really clear that night, and although I hadn’t brought my camera with me on this trip, the iPhone 14’s night mode was very impressive – it was even able to capture the Milky Way, handheld!

I was planning on doing the scramble up to Black Peak by myself, and started off from camp at 6 am. The previous night, I was chatting with another climber and he was going solo as well. We both left camp at the same time, so we decided to link up and climb together.

It was good to have company – the scramble up to the saddle was especially treacherous in the dark with lots of loose scree.

Once you get to the saddle, there is an obvious trail that meanders up a gully on the northwest aspect of the peak, up to the false summit.

The route then traverses across to the right, and this is where it starts getting more scramble-y and exposed. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but there was plenty of light to see the cairns that mark the route.

It’s always a special feeling when you’re moments away from the summit – giddy with excitement and anticipation, and a bit high on adrenaline. But we were in for an bonus treat this time.

Just as we got on to the summit block, the first rays of light hit the peak, flooding our eyes and making everything glow in a golden-orange blaze. It was really quite a special moment.

Looking down towards Wing Lake, and our campsites far below. The rising sun lit up the larches surrounding the lake, and a little haze in the air created some dramatic shadows of the mountains in the distance.

We shared some high-fives, had a snack, enjoyed some 360-degree views, and headed back down to the saddle.

Views to the south from the saddle are expansive, with Mt. Goode dominating the skyline. Glacier Peak is in the distance to the left.

Once back at camp, we hung out and had breakfast with friends, new and old.

After packing up camp, we lingered some more, soaked up the sunshine and the alpine vibes, and got in another swim in the ice-cold water.

This larch right next to our campsite caught my fancy with its brilliant yellow hues contrasting with the cool blue water.