I take several deep breaths, feeling the all encompassing solitude, and know that as I have gotten myself into this position, I alone will have to get myself out. I delicately down climb on slick holds, my foot reaching blindly for the ledge below, until my toes finally touch down. I step across an exposed slab and end around back to the climbing route. I had hoped to gain the summit, but now I must find an alternate route… or retreat.
It’s mid-October and I am on one last backpacking venture into the Cascades. Unable to find anyone with the same days off, I go it alone to a zone I have never explored. The Chelan-Sawtooth Mountains rarely blip on backpackers’ radars. Overshadowed by the somewhat more dramatic and well known neighboring peaks of Washington Pass and the Enchantments, these trails are better known by hunters and dirt bikers. Having heard rumors of superlative backcountry skiing, and the fact that this was the only corner of the Cascades not forecasted to get absolutely poured on these few days, I decided to check it out.