Cutthroat Peak West Ridge / 殺手峯西脊

The Cutthroat Peak summit block

See more trip photos here.

Now and then it’s a real treat to climb a peak like this where the entire route was visible. Without looking through my GPS tracks, this could very well have been the climb with the shortest approach.

Logistically, I would have liked to combine Cutthroat Peak with Corteo Peak over one weekend. Both peaks are within proximity of each other, and either one is doable as a day trip. But instead, the weather god had other plans for Sunday.

The Lowdown on Cutthroat Peak

Access: Highway 20 at.5 mile west of Blue Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: 3.6 miles
Elevation Range: 5000′-8050′
Gear: helmet, rope
GPS Track
: available

Approach to Cutthroat Peak

A handful of cars were at the highway pullout this morning. Since most parties tackle the classic route on the south buttress, I didn’t’ think I’d see anyone. The climbers’ trail first dropped down from the highway and crossed State Creek in the forest at 5000′. Then it gradually went up through the lush meadow.

Beyond the meadow, the trail climbed up steadily along the north of the drainage. Then it came eased up at 6200′. The vegetation gradually thinned out at 6500′, followed by talus and scree. At times, the sky looked to be clearing up with seeping sunlight.

A cloudy start in the meadow with the view of Cutthroat Peak
A cloudy start in the meadow with the view of Cutthroat Peak

See more trip photos here.

In Search of the First Gully

I continued traveling northwest toward the base of the west ridge. All the while, I was looking for the entrance to the first southwest gully. It’s supposedly the least technical climbing route according to Beckey’s Guide and other online sources.

With limited visibility, at 7400′ I entered the gully and began climbing steeply. Route finding became tricky in several places. It involved some low-5th moves over several cruxes. That’s when I started to suspect that I might be in the more technical second southwest gully.

In search of gully entrance on Cutthroat Peak
In search of gully entrance on Cutthroat Peak

See more trip photos here.

En Route to North Ridge

I eventually topped out on the west ridge at 7800′. Just then, more clouds moved in and obscured my view to the northwest ledge. The short and narrow ledge ended up being much more pleasant than anticipated. Then I went up toward the notch that gave access to the north ridge.

Northwest ledge on Cutthroat Peak
Northwest ledge on Cutthroat Peak

See more trip photos here.

Cutthroat Peak Summit

I had packed rock shoes in anticipation of the final scramble. But they stayed in the pack. Even with limited visibility, the cracks and solid holds through the boulders made the scramble enjoyable. I also spotted a couple of cairns through this section.

The clouds still socked in the peak. So I spent the next 90 minutes waiting out the mists so that I could get some views. But that never happened. Just as I was leaving the summit, I heard voices coming from the top of the south buttress. So at least one other party was on peak today. It began to drizzle right then.

No views on Cutthroat Peak summit
No views on Cutthroat Peak summit

See more trip photos here.

Outro

Eventually, the rain came after I scrambled back down to the top of the steep gully. Soon, the rocks became rather slippery, and so I rappelled instead of down climbing. My first time rappelling in the rain was nerve-racking. But with two 60-meter rappels, I safely got back down to barely a few feet below the first crux. It was such a relief!

After picking back up the climbers’ trail in the south basin, I quickly hiked back down to the highway. I was afraid that it might begin to pour. The voices I heard on the summit belonged to two climbers. They came back out half an hour later. One of them happened to be the climb leader of my Chair Peak ice climb from two years ago. Small world, indeed!

Back to the south basin
Back to the south basin

See more trip photos here.

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