Cutthroat Pass via Cutthroat Lake (Oct 6, 2012)

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cutthroat_pass_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Washington Pass
Area: Rainy Pass/Washington Pass
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 12.2mi, 2444' gain (round trip)

My first trip to the lake and pass. I wanted (OK needed) to see some larches. I only had a day available. Wanting to make good use of time and light, I car camped at the Cutthroat Lk TH because I wanted and early start. I had the TH parking lot to myself...nice. The quiet was relaxing. No longer having the Roadrunner (Subie) I wanted to test out my new car camp setup for Dirty Gertie (Jetta Sportwagen) and this seemed a good try. The twin foam mattress almost fit in the back (it's a bit long) and it sure made for comfy sleeping. The pano sunroof was awesome...gazing up at the bright stars on a clear and crisp night was priceless.

Morning came soon enough. I could tell it was cold. Frost all over the car. I waited at least until the sun was up not wanting to freeze my fingers off. I fired up the Reactor stove and heated some water for morning coffee and grits. Yum. Soon enough it was time to head up.

It's about 1.7mi (430' gain) to the turnoff to Cutthroat Lk. I figured why not visit it in the morning instead of having to share it with the crowds later in the day. I figured with it being larch season and options limited due to fires and smoke...the NC would be especially crowded. So down to the lakes I went. Early enough to have it to myself. Fun and bittersweet to see the fall colors fading and ice on the edges of the lake. Winter will be here soon enough. The short side trip to the lake is just that...short (.55mi and ~ 70' gain round trip).

After getting back to the main pass trail the trail begins a series of easily graded swtichbacks up to the pass. Down low it's forest filled with green firs. Up higher the trees thin, the beautiful rocks of the area (you know the ones...they beautiful shade of light yellow) and the golden larches appear. The larches were just beyond prime and a few had begun to shed their needles. For possibly another week there might be some color so if you are planning a trip to the area...don't wait. It's another 4mi and 1900' gain to the pass from the trail junction to the lake.

I arrived at the pass to find Mike (MtnMike) and his friend Lori also there. Nice to see a friend on such a nice day. Mike pointed out a new fire just below Black Pk. Turns out the fire is in the trees near Lewis Lk. I can't help but think that due to the proximity to the lake and the lack of lightning lately, this first is most likely started because a campfire near the lake wasn't extinguished. After getting home I read that the trail from Heather Pass to Wing Lk is now closed.

I found a nice rock to perch myself on for lunch all the while soaking in the blue skies and the larches. Then was time to head down. I hadn't realized the one way trip from Rainy to Cutthroat Lk was such a popular mountain bike trail. I can see why now. Most were pretty darned nice...would be nice if they could give a loud holler as they quickly approach hikers. By the time I heard one it was just a few yards behind me. I arrived back at the TH to find the parking area nearly full. The early start paid off.
Cutthroat Pass Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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