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SW Face of Mount Larrabee via Winchester, exit via Gold Run Pass

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by galenweld on 5/16/24 7:01am

(More pictures with captions on my website)

Last week I embarked on a quick and lovely solo trip up Larrabee to ski the Southwest Face. It was a great trip, including a lovely night on top of Winchester, and I was able to make a loop by exiting via Gold Run Pass. It was awfully fun to see the Border Peaks up close, and Larrabee was a great ski, although it’s melting out fast!

I was able to drive the Chain Lakes Road until about half a mile past the Keep Kool trail. I left the car just before 17:30 and started hiking up the mostly snow-free road, which by now is probably drivable to the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead and beyond. At around 4,000 feet, the snow seemed continuous enough for me to started skiing, although going was slightly slower than expected, skinning through unconsolidated mushy glop. I reached the lakes around 19:15, an hour and a quarter before sunset.

I continued along the road to the land bridge between the two lakes, then mostly followed the approximate route of the summer trail up moderately steep slopes through the woods before traversing left (SW) at around 5800 feet before skiing up the very steep gully/drainage which comes down between the main summit and the subsummit (Pt. 6200+). The very top part of this was close to 50 degrees and I booted it before topping out to absolutely stunning views just past 20:00. I made my way leisurely through easier terrain onto the northwest-facing slopes below the summit and climbed up to the top at 20:15, snapping pictures as I went.

The view from the summit is really quite stunning, and I had a lovely evening relaxing while melting snow and enjoying the views.

I got up in the wee hours of the morning (while it was still dark) to photograph the Milky Way over Shuksan, and again for a stunning cloudless sunrise at 5:30. After breakfast I skied skied north from the summit at 8:15. The route down to Low Pass was not as straightforward as the guidebook suggested, with some steep fuckery needed to get down to the pass - staying on the very ridge crest does not seem to go. I left my overnight gear on a tree stump just below the pass, and a little after 8:30 started skinning towards High Pass. Half an hour of slow traversing on steep and already mushy east slopes brought me to High Pass at 9:00. From there, it was easy skiing along the west side of the ridge into the basin below the south face of Larrabee, which I skinned up until reaching steeper slopes. I booted the last 200 vertical feet of these slopes (40 degrees) to reach an obvious spot to cross the South Ridge just below 6,900 ft and traversed onto the SW face (still booting). I made a rising traverse for 200 vertical feet to cross below a large rocky outcropping, then busted straight up 40 degree gullies to the summit, properly wallowing as I postholed through crusty chunder in the sun. The SW face is melting out fast and will only be in for a few more days.

I hit the summit at 10:45 and enjoyed awesome views and lunch. I dropped in at 11:15. The descent to High Pass was pleasant, quick, and straightforward, retracing my ascent route. The snow was very soft and the skiing was easy, although steep, sustained, and constricted enough to keep things interesting - it was also nice to be on the ski blades! From High Pass I put skins on for a short climb over the bump between me and Low Pass, rather than traversing the east facing slopes which were getting pretty sun-blasted. From the top of the bump, I ripped skins and skied down to Low Pass to retrieve my overnight gear and head down into the drainage to the west. I made a descending traverse, staying fairly hard left, to avoid having to push much through the flat basin at 5,300 feet.

I had thought about descending further towards Tomyhoi Lake and going around the north side of YAB to connect up with the Keep Kool trail, but things were already getting unpleasantly hot and mushy, so at 5,000 ft I put skins on and started making a rising traverse towards Gold Run Pass. I was able to skin all the way to the pass without too much trouble by making a number of short kick turns up the gully directly below it. I reached the pass just before 12:45, and ripped skins to drop down towards the trail. I skied down the drainage that is just east of the trail from 48 to 4400 ft, very pleasant. At 4,400 ft I caught the YAB trail at a switchback, and followed it a very short distance further before running out of snow. I changed into my hiking boots, strapped to my skis to my pack, and started hiking down the trail just before 13:15. I hit the road a little before 13:30 and cruised back to the car just before 14:00.


Tomyhoi Peak (and Lake), the Border Peaks, Larrabee, and the Pleiades from just below the summit of Winchester.


The Milky Way and stars over Shuksan and Baker.


Winchester Lookout, Goat Mountain, Shuksan, and Baker. Note Ruth, Icy, and Sefrit to the left of Goat.


The soon-to-be-melted constriction in the SW Face of Larrabee.


Shuksan, Mount Sefrit, and Goat Mountain from Larrabee. Note the lookout on Winchester visible very faintly in the bottom right, and Glacier Peak in the distance at left.

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2024-05-16 14:01:53