Cutthroat Pass (Oct 3, 2015)

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cutthroat_pass_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Washington Pass
Area: Rainy Pass
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 13.24mi, 2240' gain (round trip)

Wow...what an incredible day! I haven't been out for an overnight trip this year and I just wasn't going to be able to put together an overnight larch trip. But...I did want to get in a larch hike. I put the word out and Dani was interested...especially since I mentioned Cutthroat Pass. She'd never hiked this section of trail and was excited to visit.

We met early and were on the road headed north just after 6am. I knew it would be about a three hour drive to the Rainy Pass trailhead. Sure enough, about 9am, we rolled into the parking lot (elev 4893'). There were already quite a few cars parked there but we found a spot, settled the last minute gear, and then headed up the PCT. I like hiking to Cutthroat Pass much better from this side (the other way is from the Cutthroat Lk trailhead). It is PCT grade and while both side are scenic...I think this side is more so. It started out kind of nippy, right around 39F. But with the hiking we warmed up nicely. The first two mile of trail is all in forest. That's OK...I knew we'd pop out eventually into some pretty incredible terrain.

The Porcupine Basin stays in the shade for early morning. I like this because as the sun starts to hit the larch trees on the hike up to the pass...they light up as if they are solar powered. Sure enough, right on schedule the sun popped out, the larches started to glow, and Dani was happy. I really do enjoy it when I am able to show someone one of my favorite seasonal hikes. I don't think Dani was disappointed.

We took our time hiking up, we were both snapping lots of photos. I haven't taken this many photos on a day hike in a long time.

We reached the pass (5.35mi, 6839') right before noon so it was about a 3 hour hike up at a very easy pace and no joke...Dani let out a very audible "WOW" as the sights down the other side of the pass came into view. She kept saying "this is ridiculous" so I knew...she was a happy hiker. I think we were both beaming because we had near perfect conditions. Larches were near peak, no wind, good temps (not too chilly...we never put jackets on the entire day), and stunning color.

We didn't stay too long at the pass. Dani wanted to see some reds so off towards Granite Pass we headed. The PCT is super easy grade and we made quick time on our hike over towards the pass. Sure enough, the hillsides on the trail over to Granite Pass were lit up with patches of red huckleberry leaves. We decided not to hike down to Granite Pass and instead decided to head up to Pt6990 above the pass (6.76mi from the TH). We'd had pretty spectacular views for a lunch perch. We could see not only the trail we hiked in on but even more of the PCT north and the awesome views over to Hardy, Golden Horn, and Tower. We got to Pt6990 at about 12:50pm and stayed for about 45 minutes. Then, we decided to head down and take our time enjoying the sights and color.

We got back to Cutthroat Pass about 2:30pm and took a slight detour up the little bump (Pt6910) to the south of the pass. About 3pm we figured it was about time to head down. The late afternoon light in the basin warmed up the larches to a deep golden yellow. We were back to the car by about 4:30pm.
 
Cutthroat Pass Slideshow

cutthroat_pass_map

(click on map to view a larger version)

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