Cutthroat Pass (Jul 31 - Aug 1st, 2016)

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cutthroat_pass_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Sunrise
Area: Sunrise, WA
Reference: Day Hiking Mount Rainier
Stats: 5.7mi, 1263' gain (round trip)

I was really looking forward to this trip. Not this trip to Cutthroat Pass... The original planned trip to White Pass (Glacier Peak Wilderness). The plan was to take three days, hike to White Pass and camp there two nights and hike out Monday. Well...that didn't happen. The trail from Mackinaw Shelter to the PCT was closed for blasting.
So now what to do??? Well we thought about it for a bit and then decided to head up to Cutthroat Pass as just an overnight trip. It turned out to be a wonderful trip.

Day 1: Hike to Camp (6.63mi, 2180' gain)
We got a late start hiking uphill but then...we only needed to make it to the pass so time really wasn't an issue. We made lots of stops on the drive north. It is fun seeing Steve discover new places... New places for him but places I've been familiar with for nearly 20 years. I think he was sold on the trip before we ever got out of the car...

We arrived at the Rainy Pass TH to find the lot pretty full. We did manage to get a parking spot near the TH though. We packed up the last few things and headed up the trail. It starts out in the forest. I'm used to doing this trail during larch season (early October) and this first stretch of the trail has always been cold. It was strange to be hiking it in shorts and a t-shirt.

Eventually the forest makes way for more open views. Lots of little cascading waterfalls along the lower stretches of the trail. I pointed out the pass a couple of times and Steve spend the day enjoying the views and taking photos. We reached the lower basin, hiked through it, and made our way up the easy switchbacks towards the pass. I had hoped to get that last spot in the trees before the pass but it was taken. There was one other group of campers spending the night. This turned out to be a blessing. We hiked further up the trail...all the way to the pass...then followed a boot patch that headed off left up the ridge and into a clump of trees. There was a really nice campsite here. We had the place to ourselves and wow...the sunset views were incredible.

Steve and I set up camp and then walked back down to a seep below the trail in the upper basin. We filtered some water and then headed back to camp to watch the sunset. I thought it would be nice to head over to the "bump' just south of the pass. We found a nice rock and watched as the sun set low in the sky.

We were back at camp before it was completely dark. Steve set his watch for 1am because he wanted to get up and see the stars free from the light pollution of the Puget Sound region. We didn't have to wait long. About 10pm he first twinkles came out. By about 10:30pm the sky was full of stars and we could see the Milky Way beginning to appear. The heck with the alarm...we got out of the tent and looked up to the sky. The colorful band of the Milky Way was stretched in an arch in the sky above. I stayed up about 30 minutes and then crawled back into the tent. The temps really fell once the sun went down. Overnight temps were in the low 40's. Steve pulled in Termarest and sleeping bag out of the tent and stayed outside for quite a while...

Day 2: Hike Out (6.08mi, 343' gain)
Morning came and Steve bolted out of the tent with his camera intent on wandering around to take photos. I wanted to sleep in :) I was up and sometime around 10am Steve wandered back into camp. We made a late breakfast and then decided to head north on the ridge, staying high above the trail (PCT) to a saddle west of Pt 7331. From here we could see Granite Pass and the PCT as it first switch backed down and then cut across the lower flanks for Tower Mountain as it headed over to Snowy Lakes.

Finally, about noon, we headed back to our camp to first have lunch and then pack up. By about 1:30pm we were packed and hiking out.

Twas a really wonderful weekend...just what we both needed...
 
Cutthroat Pass Slideshow

cutthroat_pass_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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