American Border Peak by Mount Larrabee via Twin Lakes / 美國邊界峯

  • Reading time:9 mins read

American Border Peak by Mount Larabee rests just south of the border across from Canadian Border Peak. It is also the highest point in the Border Ranges. The proximity to Twin Lakes makes the peak doable in a day.

American Border Peak the real patriot
American Border Peak the real patriot

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American Border Peak at a Glance

Access: Twin Lakes Trailhead
Round Trip: 11 miles
Elevation Range: 5200′-7994′
Gear: helmet, rock & rope
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

The Preface

American Border Peak was one of my climbing goals last fall. But the weather was terrible then, and so I postponed the trip. For the outing, I used two reports plus the detailed write-up on SummitPost.

The only real issue I had was the frequent bathroom breaks while recovering from the stomach flu. TMI? The pup took a break after going up Wildcat Mountain and Big Kangaroo with me last week.

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Road 3065

In the past, I’d driven on many deteriorated roads to a climb. But this road indeed ranked high on the “Washington’s Worst Service Roads” list.

The four miles from Mount Baker Highway turnoff to Yellow Aster Butte Trailhead was typically bumpy. But the final two miles up to the lakes had me on edge in a compact car.

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Twin Lakes Trailhead

It also didn’t help that I drove up to the lakes late at night. So I took extra caution to go through many rutted areas. The worst trench was right before the last road bend.

Soon, the terrain flattened past the worst part, and it went back to just bumpy. Perhaps in broad daylight, the mountain views would make the drive less nerve-racking.

Dawning of Aquarius
Dawning of Aquarius

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Twin Lakes to Low Pass

I knew Twin Lakes was a popular area. Though, I had mentally prepared myself for the flocks of lakeshore campers. But I started early. So only a few people were outside their tents.

Just past the Winchester Mountain trail fork, I got my first dose of Mount Larrabee. What an impressive massif it was! Skagit Range’s high points to the east looked just as stunning.

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Low Pass to High Pass

I finally saw Tomyhoi Peak from Low Pass. There, a trail went down the west of the saddle, which some climbers had mistakenly followed. But the actual path to High Pass continued north along the ridgeline.

The view of Mount Baker slowly surfaced higher on the ridge. I took a break before going down west of High Pass at 5960′. There I heard the distant murmur of two campers from somewhere above me.

High Pass with Mount Larrabee and The Pleiades
High Pass with Mount Larrabee and The Pleiades

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Gargett Mine to 5400′ Shoulder

After dropping 300′ through a few switchbacks, I crossed the creek by the old Gargett Mine. It was also my last water source until below the summit. But I didn’t pack enough!

From there, I left the trail and sidestepped down to the 5400′ shoulder. It was hard not to keep from sliding on the wet vegetation. But in hindsight, I should’ve dropped down to 5400′ before traversing.

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En Route to 6300′ Notch

Through the forest, I rounded the crest and then broke out into the clearing. Soon, my next goal–6300′ notch–came into view. From there, I saw the tip of American Border Peak and Canadian Border Peak as well.

Plus, Tomyhoi Lake nestled itself beautifully below Tomyhoi Peak. Peaks were closer than they appeared. Though, the steep and rugged terrain made everything feel much farther.

The tip of American Border Peak
The tip of American Border Peak

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The 6300′ Notch and Red Basin

One thing I should have packed for this trip was microspikes. They would’ve worked out great on the slick vegetation. Later I made a rising traverse through lots of blueberry bushes.

It was more pleasant to go uphill first before finishing the rest of the traverse. So I did just that. In turn, I only dealt with a small area of scree below the notch. From there, American Border Peak was looking majestic!

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Through the Red Basin

A steep ramp on the other side gave access to the basin of beautiful red talus. I hugged the wall on the way down to avoid sliding. The big rocks below were stable to walk through. But they were wobbly on the way up for some reason.

The only other likely water source was the snow patch below the talus. Soon, I reached the north end of the field and climbed above the tree line. One report advised avoiding the slabs by moving up in the forest.

Red basin with the snow water source
Red basin with the snow water source

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The Real Work on American Border Peak

Later I went through a few heather slopes and rock gullies. Then I climbed up toward the 6850′ saddle. Moving through mostly slabs plus scree, I eventually reached the starting of the actual work.

From there, I saw the impressive north face and the north basin of Mount Larrabee. I was also now gazing at the heart of American Border Peak. So let the real climbing begin!

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De Gaulle’s Nose of American Border Peak

I compared photos with the route before moving again. Gravel sprinkled over the red slopes. So I carefully made a rising traverse toward the rock nose at 7300′. Climbers also refer to this feature as “de Gaulle’s Nose.”.

Along the way, I tested all seemingly solid steps. There were lots of visibly unstable rocks here. So with lousy footing, one could quickly go down the east face.

The real climbing on American Border Peak
The real climbing on American Border Peak

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Rock Nose to the Snow Gully

From the left of the rock nose, I went up a narrow gully. It’s mostly class 3 with one class 4 step. From the visible webbing by the feature, another option would be to climb over it. Above the class 4 step was sandy, but with good holds. Once on the shoulder, it was clear to see my next move.

I first dropped a few feet on the other side. Then I walked up a dirt ramp and stayed close to the wall. Farther up the path were snow patches. So I bypassed them by going farther down on the scree slopes. The trickle from the snowmelt allowed me to fill my water bottle. Again, I’ve had no water since I left the stream by the old mine.

Shoulder-width bypass on the left
Shoulder-width bypass on the left

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The 5.4 Chimney Crux

I stemmed my way through the shoulder-width gap on the left. The passage would be much broader later in the season. Crampons could help to go through this part, but I didn’t use them. The rocks on the left had solid footholds with plenty of friction. From the top of the gully, I finally got my first look at the chimney.

Going from the top of the snow to the bottom of the chimney sketchy. Klenke’s report mentioned belaying using a rope. So after going past this part, I could see it would be helpful. At the base, I stayed on a sandy path a few yards past the chimney. There I found the class 4 route behind the dent in the wall to bypass the 5.4 section.

Chimney crux in the center
Chimney crux in the center

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The Chimney on American Border Peak

Right away, I worked my way up the vertical gap above the first chockstone. Before I began, I saw the belay anchor with pieces of ragged webbing above my head. The second chockstone was harder to go past. I positioned my body awkwardly at first. Then with some stemming and friction climb, I went above the rock without a hitch.

The third and the final chockstone was the one above the keyhole. I first pushed my pack up through the hole and off to the side. Then I squeezed through and climbed out. Not sure how someone with claustrophobia would feel about the tight space. Later a short section of scree and wet slabs got me up on the south saddle.

The keyhole above the chimney
The keyhole above the chimney

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The Final Stretch on American Border Peak

The saddle was broad enough to house an army of tents! Someone had even built a fort here. I took a few seconds to enjoy the southern view. Then I continued on the ridge toward the top. Just before the summit tower, I bypassed a few pinnacles from the west. Soon, I was on the summit block.

Getting to the top required a couple of mantle moves through high exposure. Out of the corner of my right eye, I could see the steep face. But I tried focusing on my movement instead. Holy cow. This peak was physically draining, to say the least. Or perhaps it was my stomach problem that added to the fatigue.

American Border Peak summit tower
American Border Peak summit tower

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American Border Peak Summit Views

The views here were as amazing as anywhere in the North Cascades. But, of course, it was even more special to see into Canada from the border. At the same time, I saw the North Cascades from the north, which reminded me of the views from Hozomeen Mountain.

Oh, the Canadian Border Peak was right on the side of the border. The only places that I knew around here were Barometer Mountain and Keep Kool Butte. At some point, I’d like to tackle Ruth Mountain and Icy Peak. But the list keeps growing.

East-to-west panoramic view
East-to-west panoramic view

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Outro

On the return, I retraced my route down to a tee. Because of the terrain type and generally poor rock conditions, shortcuts weren’t really an option. Back at the keyhole, I rappelled twice to the bottom.

I had initially planned on spending the night here. But without a water source, it made me change my mind at the last minute. Though, the arid conditions turned out more suitable for a long day’s outing.

It was another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest!

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jefferson

    Looks like another sweet trip. That scramble looks fun!

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