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 south of the border across Canadian Border Peak. It is also the highest point in the Border Ranges with immense views. The proximity to Twin Lakes makes the peak doable in one long 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 terrible weather conditions had me postpone the trip. For this outing, I found two reports plus the detailed write-up on Summit Post.org.

The only real issue I had during the trip was the frequent bathroom breaks as I recovered from the stomach flu. TMI? The terrain wasn’t suitable for the dog. So he stayed behind after going up Wildcat Mountain and Big Kangaroo last week.

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Road 3065

In the past, I’d driven on many deteriorated roads to a climb. But this road deserved to be on the “Washington’s Worst Service Roads” list. It was surprising to see since it’s a popular area.

The four miles from Mount Baker Highway turnoff to Yellow Aster Butte Trailhead was bumpy. But the conditions quickly worsened past that point. So the last two miles to the lakes had me on edge in a compact car.

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Twin Lakes Trailhead

It didn’t help either that I drove up to the lakes late at night. So I took extra caution to go through many places with ruts. The worst dip was right before the last road bend on a steeper incline.

Soon, the terrain flattened past the worst part, and it went back to being bumpy. Perhaps in broad daylight, it’d be a more “pleasant” drive. The mountain views would’ve certainly helped to calm the nerves!

Dawning of Aquarius
Dawning of Aquarius

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Twin Lakes to Low Pass

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

After going through the Winchester Mountain trail fork, I had my early dose of Mount Larrabee. What an impressive massif it was, wow! Skagit Range’s high points to the east looked just as stunning.

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From Low Pass to High Pass

I finally saw Tomyhoi Peak from Low Pass. A trail there went down the west of the saddle, which some people 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. Then 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 the snow below the summit. But of course, I didn’t pack enough!

I left the trail there and slowly went down to the 5400′ shoulder. It was hard not to keep from sliding on the wet vegetation. But in hindsight, I should’ve dropped 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, the 6300′ notch, came into view. Then I saw the tip of American Border Peak and Canadian Border Peak. How exciting!

Tomyhoi Lake down on the west rested peacefully below Tomyhoi Peak. Peaks were closer than they appeared. But the steep and rugged terrain had 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’ve packed for this trip was microspikes. They would’ve worked out great on the slick vegetation as I moved sideways. Soon, 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 scree area 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 were stable to walk through but 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 going up in the forest.

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

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The Grunt Work on American Border Peak

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

From the pass, I saw Mount Larrabee‘s stunning north face and the north basin. I was also now gazing at the heart of American Border Peak draped in red rocks. 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 to the rock nose at 7300′. Climbers also refer to the feature as “de Gaulle’s Nose.”.

The crumbly-looking terrain had me pay very close attention. So en route, I tested all seemingly solid ledges. Many visibly unstable rocks could quickly send one down the east face with lousy footing.

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

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Rock Nose to the Snow Gully

Soon, I went up a narrow gully from the left of the rock nose. It’s mostly class 3 with only one class 4 step. The webbing by the feature suggested the option of going over it. Above the class 4 step was sandy, but with good holds. From the shoulder, it was clear to see my next move.

I dropped a few feet on the other side and walked up a dirt ramp while hugging the wall. Farther up the path were snow patches, which I bypassed by dropping farther on the scree slopes. The trickle from the snowmelt gave me my first water since the mine!

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

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The 5.4 Chimney Crux

I stemmed up the shoulder-width gap left of the snow, which would be broader in the late season. Crampons could help with this part, but I didn’t use them. The rocks on the left had solid footholds with enough friction. At last, from the top of the gully, I saw the crux chimney.

Going from the top of the snow to the chimney was sketchy. Klenke had mentioned belaying using a rope. After moving past this part, I knew why that would be helpful. I stayed on a sandy path a few yards past the chimney. Then the class 4 route behind the dent in the wall let me 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. Beforehand, I saw the anchor with pieces of ragged webbing above me. The second stone was harder to move past as I needed to position my body awkwardly. Then with stemming and friction, I went above the rock without a hitch.

The third and the final chockstone was right above the keyhole. So I pushed my pack up through the hole and off to the side, then squeezed through to exit. Not sure how someone claustrophobic would feel about the tight space! Soon, a bit of scree and wet slabs took 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 to house an army of tents! Someone even built a fort here. I took a few seconds to enjoy the south view then continued on the ridge. Below the summit tower, I bypassed a few pinnacles from the west and was on the summit block shortly.

Reaching the top required a couple of mantle moves through the elevated exposure. I saw the steep drop-off out of the corner of my right eye but focused on my movement instead. Holy cow, this climb was physically draining. Or it could be 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 were as impressive as anywhere in the North Cascades. But it was even more special to see into Canada by the border. Meanwhile, the south view of North Cascades very much reminded me of that on Hozomeen Mountain.

The shorter Canadian Border Peak was right on the other side of the boundary. The only places I knew around here were Barometer Mountain and Keep Kool Butte. But I’d like to tackle Ruth Mountain and Icy Peak at some point. The list just kept growing.

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

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Outro

On the return, I retraced my steps down to a tee. Because of the terrain type and generally poor rock conditions, shortcuts weren’t much of an option. From the top of the keyhole, I rappelled twice to reach the bottom.

I had initially planned on an overnight trip. But the lack of water made me change my mind at the last minute. Plus, the arid climate was more suitable for a long day’s outing. Yet 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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