Cold clear weather was the perfect time to get away
from Seattle and go for a day of great views. Suzanne, Bob, and Kolleen
joined me for a trip up to the area north of Mt. Baker. We were still undecided
between Welcome Pass or snowshoeing from Mt. Baker ski area. We met at the
Glacier Ranger Station at around 8:00 am and decided on Welcome Pass. We
went past the road/trail and turned around at the maintenance sheds on the
left. It's about 1/3 mile back to the road. There is a plowed turnout on the
south side of the road where we parked. We were ready to get started just
The actual trailhead is 8/10 mile up the road. There is a snow berm
blocking the road. Snow on the road was only a few inches deep and hard
so we kept our snowshoes on our packs. The winter start at the highway
begins at roughly 2000'. Welcome Pass is at 5200'. The first 8/10 mile
to the summer trailhead gains 450'. The next 2 1/4 miles to the pass gains
2750'. To state the obvious, it gets steep. There were deeply postholed
steps in the snow lower down. Eventually all footprints went away.
From the summer trailhead the route continued at a moderate grade. We
had a few last bare spots along the trail. It was in the mid 20s at the
cars but it warmed rapidly as we climbed above the valley floor. By the trailhead
it was already about 30 degrees. We were able to strip down for the rest
of the climb to the pass. The snow deepened and became crusty. At times it
would have been nice to have brought crampons. Still, with a little care we
In the crustiest places my concern was whether we could find our route
when descending. We were able to stay on the summer route most of the way
up though it was sketchy at times. Kolleen and Bob did a great job of route
finding. Rock hard stretches were sometimes followed by soft snow then back
to the ice again. I did not realize that forest continues all the way to
the pass. I kept waiting to come out of the forest and get a look up to
the pass. It never happened. We had one view across to Mt. Baker but otherwise
it was dark forest all the way up.
At our viewpoint we were not pleased to see high clouds drifting in.
The morning was crystal clear and I thought the whole day would be like
that. We would not have blue sky to offset all the snowy peaks but it didn't
turn out so bad after all. My altimeter read 5200' and still we had forest
above. Either the air pressure had changed or we were climbing above the
pass. We tried angling to the left in hope of finding the pass. Finally we
saw light above and a little more slogging in deeper snow brought us into
It turned out that we reached the ridge just to the right (east) of
the pass. Now we had jaw dropping views of the peaks near the pass and
to the north. Tomyhoi was not far away though it looked very different
from this vantage point. It was now around noon and time for lunch. The
three mile hike to the pass took us just over three hours. There are two
high points on either side of the pass. Our next decision was to go east
or west. Since we were already on the east side and above the pass, Point
5743 became our target.
The ridge crest was a little crusty with snowmobile tracks running along
it. The snow was deep enough for us to finally put on our snowshoes. Heck,
after carrying them up 3300' it was time to put them to use. The ridge
is much wider than I was expecting. In places it was at least 40' wide
and also very flat. We started with a steeper section that took us above
the trees and finally gave us views south. Mts. Baker and Shuksan were crystal
clear though backed by white clouds now. The wind was almost non existent
and it was still about 30 degrees.
After the short steep climb the ridge turned to the north at a gentle
grade. Now we could see northeast to Yellow Aster Butte, Mt. Larrabee, and
the top of American Border Peak. We also had a nice close look at
. It looked much different from the fall hike I did there a few years back.
We could see the east peak, the west peak, and the false summit where the
trail ends. Point 5743 is really just a bump on the long flattish ridge.
We continued to where the ridge drops off and had great 360 degree views.
From there we could also see down into the Fraser River Valley in Canada.
It was now about 1:00 and time to head back. I love long ridge walks
and this is one of the best winter ones I have done. I walked slow admiring
the views. I was in no hurry to get back into the forest. I tried glissading
the steep section but the few inches of soft snow under the crust would
allow me to slide. In a few months there will be plenty of glissade opportunities.
Back at our lunch spot we took off snowshoes and replaced one pole with
The top section was snowy and plunge stepping worked great. Soon we were
back into the icy crud and footing was a little more interesting. It did
seem to have softened up a bit and that helped. All in all, the descent
was not as bad as I feared. Nobody took a fall and where it was iciest and
our boots left precious little marks we were able to stay on route. We dropped
rapidly and were glad to be off the steep slope and back onto wide, albeit
icy, trail. There was one stream crossing that was no problem and only a
few downed trees which also presented no problems.
We finally popped out at the highway just before 3:30. We took a little
over 3 hours to reach the ridge and a little under 2 hours to come down.
While we did not get the bright blue skies forecast everything else was outstanding.
After a winter in the Snoqualmie Pass area the North Cascades were a real
treat. The ridge walk was among the best and the views from Pt. 5743 were
well worth the effort. Quite a lot of effort it was. It took us about 2
1/2 hours driving time from Seattle to the trailhead. Great views, a challenging
route with the ice, and great company made for a memorable day. I hope
I have another trip this good this winter.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
On The Ridge
Group On Ridge
Heading Up Ridge
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2006