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Corteo Peak Circumnav via Black Peak, Last Chance Pass, Rainy Lake

WA Cascades East Slopes North
Posted by galenweld on 5/14/23 8:36am

Matt and I had a great trip up at Rainy Pass last Thursday to celebrate the opening of the highway for the season. It seemed fun to shoot for a longish loop that would get us further away from the highway. We opted for the Black Peak/Last Chance Pass loop as described in Martin Volken's guidebook, but with a modified exit to go out via Rainy Lake rather than Maple Pass and Lake Ann. Rainy Lake is already quite melted out, however, and so I probably wouldn't recommend going that way, especially after this weekend's hot weather.


After too-little sleep in the East Creek trailhead, we left Rainy Pass just before 6:30. Currently, there's about three or four feet and snow on the ground at the pass, and it had refrozen nicely overnight. We made efficient time up to Heather Pass at 7:45 with lovely views. There's a pretty impressive very large avalanche still visible on the north-facing slopes above Lake Ann which deposited a huge debris pile in the middle of the lake.


We ripped skins for the quick traversing descent to Wing Lake, then skinned up to the saddle south of Black Peak, booting the last 10 feet. The slopes on the south side of the saddle are melting out quickly, and we continued walking up the exposed summer climbers' trail and booting up firm snow to just below the summit. We used ice axes but did not need boot crampons. Dropped our skis below the summit and scrambled the last ~200 feet to the true summit, arriving a few mins before 11. Gorgeous views. 


Back to skis and dropped in at 11:30. We had delightful skiing on great corn down through a one of the south face gullies and then on open fast slopes that became a bit gloppy lower down. Once lower down in the valley, we traversed a little skiers' left to Woody Creek at 58,00 ft and headed up towards Last Chance Pass following the route we had scoped from above - one steeper section of traversing above a small cliff band that was not so bad with the easy travel conditions we had. Once on the saddle at 6,900 ft dividing Woody and Falls creeks, it was easy traversing without descending to Last Chance Pass just before 13:00.


The guidebook-forewarned cornice at Last Chance Pass was a non-issue, and we enjoyed slightly heavier and slightly less interesting skiing down the drainage from the pass. At about 5,800 feet we cut out skiers' left and traversed through mostly open slopes down to Maple Creek at 5,150 feet. After fishing some water out of Maple Creek via a treewell, we continued towards Frisco. Followed the creek up to about 5,600 ft, then cut right and picked our way up a steep bench and onto mellower terrain. We followed a small ridge up easily to the saddle just north of Frisco at 15:10. The saddle had melted out so we had to walk the last five feet.


We dropped in towards Rainy Lake and enjoyed beautiful but gloppy skiing to the 5,800ft flats. We carefully picked our way down the steep forest before traversing back south below the big waterfall, as Rainy Lake had melted out enough that we didn't want to ski across it. We traversed as far as we could down to the lakeshore before throwing skins on and traversing around the south side of the lake - the north shore was more melted out and looked unpleasant. A quick skin through the woods and then along the highway back to the car at 16:45 - amazed we didn't see anyone all day! 


Large avalanche debris in Lake Ann


Matt next to some cornice failure debris above Wing Lake


Matt on the summit of Black


Descending the upper part of Black's South Face


Great skiing on Black's South Face, with awesome views of Goode and more


Matt approaching the steepest part of the climb up to Last Chance Pass


Skiing into the Maple Creek drainage below Last Chance Pass


Matt demonstrating water-fishing technique

25.5 km, 10:27:45

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2023-05-14 15:36:35