I just returned from five lovely days in Boston Basin, where I taught a Mixed Mountaineering course for Pro Guiding Service. My alpine career started in this much-loved corner of North Cascades National Park, and I always love going back.
My companions were Tom, Michael and Nate. Mike and Nate are 16 years old, but they are not your average teenagers. They brought a ukelele and played it--a lot. We were not short on entertainment.
We enjoyed a pretty packed schedule. Day 1 had us hiking in to a drizzly camp, but soon it cleared and we got out for some rope handling work near camp. Day 2 we traveled toward Forbidden and climbed the Aiguille de l'M, a good introductory alpine rock climb. We also used nearby slabs for anchor building and rappelling. Day 3 we rose early and climbed Sahale, gaining one of the best views in all the North Cascades. The day rounded out well with some ice climbing on the glacier.
Day 4 saw us rising in the dark once more, this time to get ahead of a number of other crews on their way to Sharkfin tower. This magnificent turret of Skagit Gneiss is always a joy to climb, and everyone did splendidly. Day 5 we slept in...til 5h30AM. We rolled up the hill one last time to practice crevasse rescue before packing up camp and heading down the hill.
Some of you may be aware that the Park is buckling down its bear management plan, and that next year bear canisters will be required in Boston Basin. Considering that a confirmed grizzly sighting was made in the Cascade River drainage (the neighborhood of Boston Basin), it doesn't seem overly cautious. We discovered these claw and teeth marks on a hemlock beside the approach trail. David Moskowitz informs me that this is a bear feeding on the cambium or inner bark layer of the tree. So the lesson is obvious: store your cambium (and other snacks) in a bear-proof canister, which are available on loan from the Park.