Welcome Pass + Keep Kool Butte + Welcome Butte + High Divide Trail / 迎接山道

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Welcome Pass sits between Keep Kool Butte and Welcome Butte high above Mount Baker Highway. The popular High Divide Trail passes through here, starting west from Excelsior Pass Trailhead and ending east by Nooksack River.

Kool Butte beyond Welcome Pass
Kool Butte beyond Welcome Pass

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Welcome Pass at a Glance

Access: Welcome Pass Trailhead (NF-3060)
Round Trip: 10.5 miles
Elevation Range: 2000′-5922′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

The weather forecast over Central Cascades has worsened overnight. It went from mainly sunny to mostly cloudy in a matter of hours. But after two weekends of minimal sun exposure, we could use some sunshine.

In the morning, we prepared to hike somewhere east of the crest. But it was still cloudy when we drove through Sultan. After checking the forecast, I turned the car around for better weather up by Welcome Pass!

Welcome
Welcome

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Welcome Pass Road

The 2.5-hour drive up to the service road put us at the starting point in the late morning. I parked by a small pullout before the deep rut and started walking. Soon, we saw another trench at 500′ ahead.

The second rut looked worse, but glad to have stopped when we did. Soon, a down tree showed up at mile .3; the forest service website had mentioned it. Then we continued to the trailhead in another mile.

Slate Mountain from the snow chute
Slate Mountain from the snow chute

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Welcome Pass South Route

The road-turned-trail lower down was a walk in the park until we entered the wilderness. Then it was a steady incline through the initial 1300′. We later saw snow at 4200′. Then I put on snowshoes another 500′ higher for the rest of the climb.

The pass had excellent views of Damfino Creek Valley. Damfino Peak and Welcome Butte sat on the west and the massive Tomyhoi Peak to the east. We couldn’t see Mount Baker or Mount Shuksan through the timbered south.

Welcome to Welcome Pass
Welcome to Welcome Pass

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Ridge Traverse Through Point 5745

Despite a late start and a warm morning, the snow stayed firm. Mountains in the south skyline showed up before Point 5745. Then we made a rising traverse and bypassed Point 5745 from the east amid the jaw-dropping views.

We climbed the steep southwest ridge to Keep Kool Butte’s false peak, where it was grassy and dry on the south slope. Then it was continuous snow on the summit. We stayed south of the crest to avoid the cornices.

En route to Keep Kool Butte
En route to Keep Kool Butte

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Keep Kool Butte Summit Views

We traversed mild terrain to the main summit with heavy cornices on the north. Many places here I had yet to explore are Tomyhoi Peak, American Border Peak, Mount Larabee, Yellow Aster Butte, plus others.

We were across the valley a year ago, but I needed to explore more. With the zoom lens, I spied the pincer-like McMillan Spire plus Mount Challenger in the Picket Range. I even saw Chilliwack, BC, pretty cool!

South panoramic view on Keep Kool Butte
South panoramic view on Keep Kool Butte

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Next Stop, Welcome Butte

Back at the pass, we continued west on High Divide to Welcome Butte. By now, the snow had softened, but making a path on mild terrain wasn’t too bad. Shortly, we were on the south saddle by the cliff bands.

With firm snow, we stayed on and east of the crest for the final 300′ painless walk-up. The elongated summit had a sheer drop-off on the east. On the other hand, the west slope was dry and grassy.

Next stop, Welcome Butte
Next stop, Welcome Butte

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Welcome Butte Summit Views Plus Outro

Views here were much like Keep Kool Butte. But being slightly shorter, I couldn’t look into Canada. But I saw Church Mountain‘s pointy tip poking out from behind other high points on the long ridgeline.

We retraced our steps back to Welcome Pass. Back in the trees, we moved quickly through the soft snow to the solid ground at 4200′. It didn’t take long to go through the switchbacks before we reached the road.

South panoramic view on Welcome Butte
South panoramic view on Welcome Butte

See more trip photos here.

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