Cutthroat Peak West Ridge by Whistler Mountain and Rainy Pass / 殺手峯

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Cutthroat Peak by Whistler Mountain stands between Rainy Pass and Washington Pass. The two peaks share a short, rugged ridgeline above North Cascades Highway. West ridge and the classic south buttress are two common climbing routes.

Cutthroat Peak's summit block
Cutthroat Peak’s summit block

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Cutthroat Peak at a Glance

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

The Preface

Now and then, it’s a real treat to climb something like Cutthroat Peak. I haven’t checked my GPS track. But it could have been my quickest approach to a solo climb. Seeing the route from the road was the best part.

Combining the climb with Corteo Peak over one weekend would’ve been ideal. Both of them are close to each other. And either one is doable in a day. But the weather god had a different plan for Sunday.

Cutthroat Peak above the meadow
Cutthroat Peak above the meadow

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Cutthroat Peak West Ridge

A few cars were at the highway pullout. Most groups climb the classic south buttress, so I didn’t think I’d have company today. From the highway, the climbers’ trail dropped to 5000′. Then it crossed State Creek in the forest and up through the meadow.

Just past the field, the trail went up steadily. Then it moved along the north of the drainage and later flattened at 6200′. As vegetation dwindled at 6500′, talus and scree soon replaced it. At times, the sun would seep through the heavy clouds.

Come out and play
Come out and play

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In Search of the First Gully

The goal was to reach the bottom of the west ridge. So I continued to move northwest on loose rocks. Meanwhile, I looked for the entrance to the first southwest gully. Cascade Alpine Guide and online resources say it’s the least technical.

Later at 7400′, I entered a gully and climbed up steeply in weak visibility. Route finding became tricky in some places. The crux required a few class 5 moves. So that was when I thought I might’ve been in the more challenging second southwest gully.

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

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Cutthroat Peak North Ridge

When I reached the west ridge at 7800′, more mists had rolled and weakened the view of the northwest ledge. But the narrow path tuned out more pleasant than I had expected. It soon took me up to the notch with access to the north ridge.

On a clear day, the views would have been excellent. Not sure what all I could see today. But it would be nice to check out many places I had climbed. Alas, today wasn’t my day to see the stunning landscape.

Cutthroat Peak Northwest ledge
Cutthroat Peak Northwest ledge

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Cutthroat Peak Summit

I had brought rock shoes for the final stretch but didn’t use them. Despite weak visibility, the decent holds throughout the rocks made the scramble enjoyable. I even saw a few cairns through here.

The clouds never left, but I spent an hour and a half waiting out the mists hoping for some views. Shortly, I heard voices from below the top of the south buttress. But I left the top soon as it drizzled.

No views on the summit
No views on the summit

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Outro

It rained when I reached the top of the steep gully. But it was more nerve-racking the first time rappelling in the rain. Then with two 60m rappels, I was able to drop far and ended up a few feet below the crux.

Later I found the trail in the south basin and quickly hiked back to the highway. The voices I heard on the summit belonged to two climbers. They reached their car half an hour later. It turned out that one of them was my leader on Chair Peak. Small world, indeed!

Back to the south basin
Back to the south basin

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