Welcome Pass and Two Buttes / 迎接山道加兩座孤峯

Can't seem to keep his kool
Can’t seem to keep his kool

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Overnight the Central Cascades weather forecast went from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy. And after two consecutive weekends of minimal sun exposure, I needed more sunshine. So shortly after driving through Sultan, I turned the car around and headed toward I-5. It was off to plan B!

The Lowdown on Keep Kool Butte and Welcome Butte

Access: NF-3060
Round Trip: 10.5 miles
Elevation Range: 2000′-5922′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available

Long Drive to Welcome Pass Road

The 2.5-hour drive to the service road put us at the starting point in the late morning. I parked by a small pullout before the first rut, and then we started walking. There was another rut 500′ ahead that looked much worse for low-clearance vehicles. Glad I didn’t try to drive up here.

Soon past that point at mile 0.3, we came upon the big down tree noted on the forest service website. We continued hiking to the trailhead at mile 1.5.

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South Ridge Approach to Welcome Pass

The road-turned-trail was a walk in the park in the lower elevation. That was until we entered the wilderness boundary. After 1300′ of steady climbing on the south ridge, we finally hit the first snow patch at 4200′. Then I put on snowshoes in another 500′ and kept them on for the rest of the climb.

The view from the pass down to Damfino Creek Basin was excellent. Damfino Peak and Welcome Butte on the left; the massive Tomyhoi Peak to the right. Since the forest behind us obstructed the views, there were still no signs of Mount Baker or Mount Shuksan. We took a short break and then headed east on the High Divide.

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Ridge Traverse Through Point 5745

Despite our late morning start and the warm temperatures, the snow stayed firm. Views of mountains in the southern skyline slowly poured in just below the south ridge of Point 5745. Next, we made a rising traverse and bypassed Point 5745 from the east down to the saddle. All the while, the jaw-dropping views ahead continued to wow me.

From the saddle, we ascended the steep southwest ridge onto Keep Kool Butte’s false summit. There was the melting snow on the north side and grassy slopes to the south. Then it was back to full snow coverage on the false summit. We stayed south of the ridge crest to avoid the cornices draping the north edge.

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Views Abound on Keep Kool Butte

The final traverse up to the summit was moderate, accompanied by abounding views. So far, Keep Kool Butte was the closest I’d been to many places I want to climb east of here. Tomyhoi Peak, American Border Peak, Mount Larabee, Yellow Aster Butte, to name a few. Heavy cornice on the north side.

We were in the area less than a year ago. But I need an overnight trip so I can come back and enjoy more views like these. With my zoom lens, I noticed the pincer-like McMillan Spire together with Mount Challenger off in the distant Picket Range. I even got a look into Chilliwack, BC, pretty awesome!

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Back to Welcome Pass and onto Welcome Butte

After reversing our route back to the pass, we continued west on the High Divide toward Welcome Butte. By now the snow had softened, but breaking trail didn’t feel as physically taxing on moderate terrain. We got up to the south saddle through a group of trees by the semi-exposed cliff band.

The snow quality was better on the south ridge. We stayed on or east of the crest in firmer snow for the final traverse. The last 300′ to the top was an easy hike up. The elongated summit had a vertical drop-off to the east into the northeast basin. West slopes were bare and covered in heather.

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More Views Plus a Quick Descent

Views on this summit were mostly the same as Keep Kool Butte. Being slightly shorter, we missed out on views into Canada. The pointy tip of Church Mountain poked out from behind other high points on the High Divide. But Excelsior Peak was no longer visible from this vantage point.

We quickly got back to Welcome Pass by following our tracks. Down in the forest, the semi-soft snow made the descent go by quicker. And before long, the solid ground awaited us at 4200′. It took a short time to get through the countless, steep switchbacks. Then we briefly walked on the road back to the car.

Thanks for another fantastic day
Thanks for another fantastic day

See more trip photos here.

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