Cutthroat Peak West Ridge / 殺手峯西脊

Now and then, it’s a real treat to climb something like Cutthroat Peak. The entire route was virtually visible from the road. So, without looking at my GPS tracks, it could have been the shortest approach on a technical climb.

The Cutthroat Peak summit block
The Cutthroat Peak summit block

See more trip photos here.

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. I slept in the car on Friday night.

Cutthroat Peak at a Glance

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

Getting to Cutthroat Peak

There were a handful of cars at the highway pullout. But most groups climb the classic route on the south buttress. So I didn’t think I would see anyone. From the highway, the climbers’ trail initially dropped down to 5000′. Then the path crossed State Creek in the forest. Later, it slowly made its way up through the lush meadow.

Just past the meadow, the trail climbed up steadily. At that point, it went along the north side of the drainage. Then it eased up at 6200′ finally. Once the vegetation slowly thinned out at 6500′, the talus and scree soon followed. At times, the sky looked to be clearing up with sunlight seeping through the clouds.

Cutthroat Peak above the meadow
Cutthroat Peak above the meadow

See more trip photos here.

In Search of the First Gully

The goal was to get up to the base of the west ridge. So I continued to travel northwest on loose rocks. Meanwhile, I was looking for the entrance into the first southwest gully. According to Beckey’s Guide, it was the least technical climbing route. Most other online sources mentioned the same thing.

Then at 7400′, I entered a gully and began climbing up steeply in weak visibility. Route finding became tricky in several places. The cruxes ended up involving low-5th moves. So that was when I knew I might have been in the more technical second southwest gully.

In search of the first gully
In search of the first gully

See more trip photos here.

Cutthroat Peak North Ridge

Eventually, I went onto the west ridge at 7800′. Right then, more clouds had moved into the area. They, in turn, obscured my view to the northwest ledge. But the narrow ledge ended up being much more pleasant than I had anticipated. Then at the top of the ramp, I climbed onto the notch that gave access to the north ridge.

On a clear day, the views would have been excellent. Not sure what all I could have seen. But I knew I would have seen many places I had even on before. Unfortunately, today wasn’t my day to enjoy the breathtaking landscape.

Cutthroat Peak Northwest ledge
Cutthroat Peak Northwest ledge

See more trip photos here.

Cutthroat Peak Summit

I had packed rock shoes for the trip. In case I needed them for the final stretch of the climb. But I never used them. Even with weak visibility, the cracks in the boulders and solid holds made the scramble enjoyable. I spotted a couple of cairns through this section.

The clouds stuck around the peak. So then I spent the next 90 minutes waiting out the most. Although I wanted to get some views, that never happened. But 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 this peak today. Then it began to drizzle.

No views on the summit
No views on the summit

See more trip photos here.

Outro

The rain came right after I downclimbed back to the top of the steep gully. Soon, the rocks became slippery. So the safest way to exit was to rappel instead. My first time rappelling in the rain was nerve-racking. But with two 60-meter rope rappels, I was able to get down as far as possible. So I ended up being just a few feet below the first crux. What a relief!

Soon, I located the climbers’ trail in the south basin. Then I quickly hiked back down to the highway. I was afraid that the rain might turn into a downpour. The voices I heard earlier on the summit belonged to two climbers. They came back up to the highway half an hour later. One of them happened to be the climb leader of my Chair Peak ice climb. Small world, indeed!

Back to the south basin
Back to the south basin

See more trip photos here.

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