Mount Larrabee Descents

January 25-27, 2011

PHOTOS AND STORY by Jason Hummel

The more I get around the Cascades as the years progress, the more I repeat climbs of peaks I've already done. To a certain degree that bothers me, but overall I like the familiarity nearly as much as exploring less familiar corners of the range. I find that between changing conditions, people and simply forgetting and/or being reminded of journeys past is enough to keep me entertained. This was the case for last weeks adventure on Mount Larrabee, a conical shaped peak near the Canadian border, clearly visible from Mt. Baker Ski Area.

I was initially joined by Tom Murphy and Adam Roberts, but others would decide to meet up with us as the week progressed.

On Tuesday morning, Adam or "The mayor," as we came to call him made a last second call to a friend to ask if he'd snowmobile us up Twin Lakes Road. I couldn't believe it when Adam hung up with a smile. "Yeah he'll do it!" Our ride was a go. This was a boon. We packed extra food, 90 percent of which we never used and headed up hwy 542 out of Bellingham to Twin Lakes Road. I recommend parking up the road if you can, or a quarter mile down the highway at Hannigan Pass Road. The DOT will tow you if they find any cars in their lot.

The snowmobile ride made the otherwise boring skin exciting. Holding onto a rope, we raced to within a mile or two of Twin Lakes. From there, we climbed to the end of the road and then up to Winchester Lookout. A sunset and spectacular alpenglow met us as we arrived.

It was a great night. Lots of laughs.

Day 2 - West Face of Larrabee

Looking outside the lookout Wednesday morning, clear skies dominated, although clouds appeared to be making inroads from the west.

That day our plan was simple. We wanted to ski Larrabee. This started with a ski down the north side of Winchester to a high traverse below cliffs at which point we scooted over to a ridge that snakes up to the base of the mountain. From there, we traversed across a basin beneath the south face of Mount Larrabee onto its west face. It was an easy boot to the top from there on slopes that maxed out at 40 degrees.

We arrived at the summit to a cool breeze, hazy skies and awesome views.

The descent began with about 6 inches of powder, slightly crusted over. Patches of ice were mixed in as well. We took our time down the gentle slope and enjoyed the mountain air while I snapped photos. We were in no hurry. The final descent beneath the South Face of Larrabee was on terrible snow. No joke - it was bad. On top was an inch of crust to maneuver through, but no matter, it was smiles and trials. Good times.

Back on the ridge we met up with Eduardo Blanchard, a University of Washington Grad Student of Atmospheric Sciences. He had skied in from the road that day, but decided against trying for the summit since he had come from the highway. We had so much fun that we promised to do it again with him the following day. Until then, plenty of antics led us to the final climb back to the hut where we were surprised to find that 4 others had skied in from the road!!!

That night we enjoyed shooting the breeze far too much. I took a few night shots while the others closed the window shudders. It was a hell of a view from up there.

Day 3 - South Face of Larrabee

Morning arrived along with indecision. The weather looked to be thinking - because I swear it thinks - about raining. We stood around and thought about climbing. That was until two of the guys left. "Let's go" cried Adam, so we went. It was a good thing we did. We'd have missed out!

Views of the Picket Range were out of this world.

Our track from the day before provided a super highway up the mountain.

We retraced our route from the day before.

A few short hours later on the summit we met up with Allen and Sam. They were itching to ski the center-most route down the south face. I didn't have interest in that, but for the left-most route. In the end, we all skied it, all eight of us.

From the upper face you drop into a steep choke. From there a nice couloir finishes off the route. The choke provided some excitement for Adam with his dull edges and super fat skis. The couloir offered up a mix of everything, but overall it was soft enough to allow us to open it up.

At the bottom, gazing up at the route, we took a few moments to reflect.

Back to the lookout, some sunny rays led us to the final uphill back to the summit of Winchester. At that point we saw the remaining two people in our party drop the south face of Larrabee as well. It was cool to stand by and view them carefully making their way down the mountain. Right on guys!

Back in the lookout, we cleaned and then closed it up after packing our gear. By then it was near sunset and the snow had iced up considerably. Our turns from there were less than graceful, which was fine. I like getting my butt kicked...which I most certainly did.

The road ski was fast, which is just the way I like it. By dark we were at the car - done. Even though I'd skied Larrabee before, this trip was totally different. I got to ski a route I hadn't done before, as well as meet a bunch of new people. Thanks everyone for joining up with me. Hopefully we can do this again real soon.~

Another Perspective: Loving Life on Larrabee


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Jason Hummel