American Border Peak via Twin Lakes / 經雙子湖上美國邊界峯

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

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American Border Peak was on my list of destinations to climb last fall. But the weather wouldn’t cooperate. This weekend, the gorgeous weather forecast brought me out to the North Cascades tackle the peak. The pup had to stay behind due to the technicality of the climb. He also could use a break after climbing Wildcat Mountain and Big Kangaroo last weekend.

Klenke on SummitPost had an excellent, detailed description of this infrequently climbed high point. Together with a couple of other reports, there was sufficient beta to climb the peak without significant issues. The only real problem was the frequent bathroom breaks since I was recovering from the stomach flu. TMI, yeah?

The Lowdown on American Border Peak

Access: Twin Lakes Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 5200′-7994′
Gear: helmet, rope, rock
GPS Track: available

Road to Twin Lakes Trailhead

In the past, I’d driven on many deteriorated service roads to a climb. But this road indeed ranked high on the “Worst Roads of Washington” list. The four miles from Highway 542 turnoff to the Yellow Aster Butte Trailhead was typically bumpy. But the last two miles to the lakes was what had me on edge in a lower-clarence vehicle.

It certainly didn’t help that I drove up to the lakes late at night. So I took extra caution in getting through many rutted areas. The worst rut took place just before the last road bend. Then the terrain flattened past that point and went back to being bumpy. Perhaps in broad daylight, the views around me would’ve made the drive less nerve-racking.

Dawning of Aquarius
Dawning of Aquarius

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En Route to High Pass

Knowing the area was popular, I had mentally prepared myself for the flocks of lakeshore campers. But since I started hiking early the next morning, only a few people were outside their tents. Just past the Winchester Mountain trail junction, I got my first dose of Mount Larrabee. What an impressive massif! The Skagit Range high points to the east looked just as imposing.

From Low Pass, I got my first look at Tomyhoi Peak. There, a trail went down the west of the saddle, which some climbers had mistakenly followed. But the real path to High Pass continued north along the ridgeline. The view of Mount Baker began to surface higher up on the ridge. I took a break before dropping down west of High Pass at 5960′. There I heard the distant murmur of two campers from above the pass.

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

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En Route to the 5400′ Shoulder

After descending 300′ through a few switchbacks, I was at the creek crossing by the old Gargett Mine. The stream was my last water source until the snow finger below the summit. From there, I then left the trail, sidestepped and made a gradual descent to the 5400′ shoulder. It was hard not to keep from sliding on the wet vegetation. In hindsight, I should have dropped down to 5400′ before making the traverse over to the ridgeline.

Through the forested terrain, I rounded the corner and slowly broke out into the clearing. Soon, my next objective–the 6300′ notch–came into view. From there, I also got my first look at the tip of American Border Peak and Canadian Border Peak. Plus the beautiful Tomyhoi Lake nestled below Tomyhoi Peak. Peaks were closer than they appeared. But the steep and rugged terrain made everything feel much farther.

Tip of the iceberg awaits
Tip of the iceberg awaits

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6300′ Notch Through Red Basin

One thing I should have packed for this trip was microspikes. They would’ve worked out great on the slick vegetation. So I first made a rising traverse through lots of blueberry bushes. But then it felt more pleasant to go uphill first before finishing the rest of the traverse. So I did just that. Then I only had to deal with a small section of scree before getting up on the notch. From there, American Border Peak was looking majestic!

A steep ramp on the other side of the notch provided access into the basin of beautiful red talus. I stuck close to the wall on the way down to avoid sliding. The big rocks down below were stable to step through, but not so much help on the way up. The only other possible water source I saw was the snow patch at the bottom of the talus. Soon, I reached the north end of the field and climbed up to the top of the tree line. One report advised avoiding the slabby rocks by staying in the trees.

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

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So Much Redness on American Border Peak

After getting through a couple of heather slopes and rock gullies, I began to climb up toward the 6850′ saddle. Traversing mostly slabs plus some scree, I eventually got up to the starting of the real work. There I saw the impressive north face and the north basin of Mount Larrabee. I was also now staring at the meat of the American Border Peak. Let the real climbing begin!

I took out some photos and quickly checked out the route before moving. Through the red slopes covered in gravel, I carefully made a rising traverse toward the rock nose at 7300′. Climbers also referred to this feature as “de Gaulle’s Nose.”. I tested out most seemingly solid steps to be safe. There were also lots of visibly unstable rocks. So with lousy footing, they could easily send me down the east face.

The real climbing starts now
The real climbing starts now

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From 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 a class 4 step. Another possible route would be climbing via the nose and getting above it. I noticed pieces of webbing up there, and so I knew it was doable. Above the class 4 step was sandy with lots of good footholds if carefully stepping. Once I got up to the shoulder, it was clear to see where I needed to go next.

First, I dropped down a few feet on the other side. Then I walked up a dirt ramp while staying close to the wall. But farther up the path, there were some snow patches. So I bypassed them by getting farther down on the scree slopes. My water was running low at this point. But, thank god for the trickle from the snowmelt, I was able to fill up my water bottle. Again, there was zero 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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Snow Gully to the 5.4 Chimney Crux

Through the left of the snow finger, I was able to stem up through the shoulder-width gap. Presumably, this passage would become much broader later in the season. Crampons would probably help to get through this section, but they weren’t necessary. The rocks on the left had solid footholds and enough friction to help with the stemming. From the top of the gully, I finally got my first look at the next section: the chimney.

Getting from the top of the snow gully to the base of the chimney was the sketchiest. Klenke’s report mentioned belaying using a rope. After getting through this part, I could see why a belay would be helpful. Once I reached the bottom, I continued on a sandy path a few yards past the chimney. There I found the class 4 route behind the dent in the wall. Then I was able to bypass the 5.4 section easily.

Chimney crux in the center
Chimney crux in the center

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Climbing Through the Chimney to the South Saddle

I immediately worked my way up the vertical gap once I was above the first chockstone. Before I began, I noticed the belay station with pieces of ragged webbing above my head. Higher up in the chimney was the second chockstone that was harder to get past. I had to position my body awkwardly at first. But with a little stemming and friction climb, I got above the rock without a hitch.

The top and the final chockstone was the one with the keyhole. Glad I was able to fit through it okay. I first pushed my pack through the hole and off to the side. Then I squeezed through to finally get out of the system. Not sure how someone with claustrophobia would feel about getting up the tight space. After passing a short section of scree and wet slabs, I finally got up to the south saddle.

The keyhole above the chimney
The keyhole above the chimney

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Final Scramble to American Border Peak Summit

The saddle was wide enough to house an army of tents! Someone had even built out a fort to keep out the wind. I took a few seconds to enjoy the southern view. Then I continued north on the ridge toward the summit. Just before getting to the summit tower, I first had to get around a few summit pinnacles. But I easily bypassed them from the gentler terrain on the west. I made it to the summit block.

The summit rock required a couple of mantle moves through high exposure. Out of the corner of my right eye, I could see the steep east face. But I tried focusing on my movement so that I would ignore the vertical drop. Holy cow. This peak took so much energy out of me, and so now I felt drained. But it was my stomach problem that added to the fatigue.

Final scramble to the summit tower
Final scramble to the summit tower

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American Border Peak Summit

The views up here were as amazing as any other high points in the North Cascades. The fact that the peak was right by the border, it was even more special. Not only was I looking directly into Canada, but I also saw the North Cascades from the north. It reminded me of the views from the top of Hozomeen Mountain. Oh, and the Canadian Border Peak was just on the side of the border.

Since I haven’t been up in this area much, I didn’t know too many peaks by name. The only places that I knew and were visible were Barometer Mountain and Keep Kool Butte. But at some point, I’d like to get up to Ruth Mountain and Icy Peak. The list keeps growing.

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

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Outro

On the return, I followed my route down to a tee. Because of the terrain type and generally poor rock conditions, taking shortcuts wasn’t much of an option. Back at the keyhole, I did two rappels down to the bottom of the chimney. I had planned on spending the night on the mountain. But the lack of water sources made me change my plan at the last minute. The arid environment turned out to be more suitable for a long day outing.

Another beautiful day out in the Pacific Northwest!

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Looks like another sweet trip. That scramble looks fun!

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