Forum Index > Trip Reports > Peak Fall Colors on Cascade Pass & Sahale Arm
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 7:09 am 
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The forecast in North Cascades National Park on October 4th called for sunny skies followed by increasing cloudiness. These are optimal conditions for landscape photography because you can capture a location through changing conditions. I also knew that much of the snow from the previous week had melted and, most importantly, fall colors had arrived on the tundra of the high peaks.

To take advantage, I chose a region known for fields of vibrant fall foliage, the Sahale Arm of Cascade Pass. It was only my first time doing this hike and I was excited to add it to the portfolio of images I have made of the Cascades the past two years. Check it out if youíre curious! https://www.lucascometto.com/northwest-mountains-gallery.

My plan was to hike starting around 12:00pm and stay on the Arm until sunset, after which, I would hike down with a headlamp. Arriving in the early afternoon is my new strategy with these popular Cascade hikes. I used to try to arrive at a hike by 7:00am or 6:00am to beat the rush like everyone else but later slowly realized that if you arrive much later, the backpackers from the night before (and even day hikers from that day) are usually leaving and parking spots open up by the time you arrive.

El Dorado Peak
El Dorado Peak

The views from the parking lot for the trails is, by itself, worth the drive. The massive north face of Johannesburg Peak is striking and becomes more visible and dramatic as you climb higher. Initially, the trail traverses through the forest through approximately 30 switchbacks before arriving on a ridge with fewer trees. This ridge provides an awesome view of El Dorado Peak to the west and the tundra colors of autumn begin to appear. Cascade Pass is just stunning with views to the east and west and is a great day hike. However, the true beauty of this hike requires a bit more effort and hiking.

Forbidden Peak
Forbidden Peak
Sahale Arm
Sahale Arm

After a few more switchbacks, the classic view of Doubtful Lake and Sahale Mountain come into view. This section, between the Pass and the Lake, had some of the most vibrant color found on the hike. The lake is set in a steep bowl and has an island on one of its sides. I noticed that quite a few people turned around at this point, likely tired from the hike. But the best views lay further on still, on Sahale Arm.

If you search pictures of Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm online, many of them will be from the section of the trail between Doubtful Lake and Sahale Glacier Camp. And indeed, most of the pictures in this trip report are from this wonderful area. The fall colors on that early October afternoon were just incredible. Vibrant oranges, reds, yellows, and greens carpeted the landscape and provided fantastic foreground for pictures from every angle. At this altitude many of the peaks surrounding Sahale Arm come into view: Johannesburg Peak, Magic Mountain, Forbidden Peak, Pelton Peak, and Sahale Mountain. Itís mountain paradise in every direction.

Sahale Arm
Sahale Arm

By the time that I reached the Arm, the clouds began to thicken and consolidate. This was welcome news because the variation created more interesting skies and the clouds softened the harsh light of the sun, bringing out the vibrant colors above the tree line. I parked myself near the top of the Sahale Arm and watched the clouds move. I saw lots of marmots and three bears from there while I waited! Eventually, the North Fork Cascade River Valley began to fill with fog and began moving between the peaks. Sunset lit up these clouds in a variety of color.

Doubtful Lake & Cascade Pass
Doubtful Lake & Cascade Pass
North Fork Cascade River Valley
North Fork Cascade River Valley

As it got darker, more of the fog began to reach the higher elevations and I began to lose the colorful clouds high above. That was my cue to move. Plus, it gets quite cold on Sahale Arm when youíre simply standing there, exposed to the winds. The blue hour provided enough light to hike down the Arm, through Cascade Pass, and into the switchbacks but the forest portion of the trail was in the dark. There was so much fog that by the time I reached the car, my hair was completely wet. It was a fun experience, nonetheless and I think that everyone should list this hike on their autumn season bucket list.

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Portfolio: www.lucascometto.com
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Felpudo
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 10:44 am 
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Nice pictures!
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 2:12 pm 
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Thank you, Felpudo! Beauty is everywhere on Sahale Arm but I did find it a bit hard to capture because the vistas are so grand.

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zimmertr
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 3:45 pm 
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I was there yesterday, conditions were quite a bit more... moody.

Cascade Pass
Cascade Pass

We broke trail in about 18" of snow across this talus field before calling it quits.

Breaking Trail
Breaking Trail

I tried to record another timelapse where I turned around but I have no idea what I'm doing lol.

First Snow
First Snow

You can see flurries in the second half of that clip after the wind knocked my phone back.
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lcometto
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 6:26 pm 
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TJ - what a difference a week or so makes, huh? Awesome footage of those clouds. I love it. I'd take moody obscured mountains over sunny skies any day.

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Matt Lemke
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 7:17 pm 
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The mountain porn... cool.gif It's beautiful

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timberghost
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PostWed Oct 14, 2020 6:33 am 
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very nice write up
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lcometto
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PostWed Oct 14, 2020 2:53 pm 
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Thanks guys! This trail reminded me of the view from the top of Hannegan Peak where you have a 365 degree view of mountain wilderness. That's what sets North Cascades National Park apart in my opinion.

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Portfolio: www.lucascometto.com
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