Forum Index > Trip Reports > Welcome Pass & Keep Kool Butte (USGS Larrabee) 1/14/2018
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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PostWed Jan 31, 2018 1:20 am 
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Destination: Welcome Pass & "Keep Kool Butte" 5933 (USGS Larrabee)
Date: 1/14/2018
People: Matt, Dicey, GeoTom, Snowdog, BarbE, cartman, b00, Tristan, Steph Abegg, Ira Rushwald
Dogs:  Isabel

Above Welcome Pass is one of the most beautiful hiking ridges available in winter.  The Welcome Pass trail climbs through mature forest that keeps it generally safe from avalanche danger, and then you can run the ridge crest either east or west, with great views every step along the way.   We went east up to Point 5743 (aka Sadie's Point) and Point 5933 (aka Keep Kool Butte).

A couple notes on names:
* Point 5933 is generally called "Keep Kool Butte," because it stands above the old Keep Kool trail.
* Point 5743 is sometimes called "Sadie's Point," because its the location for the avatar photo of famous hiking dog Sadie.
* The ridge itself is variously called Skyline Divide or High Divide, both of which are rather generic names.  Personally I'd call it Welcome Ridge, in honor of how welcome the views are above Welcome Pass.

GPS Track
GPS Track
Me on the western end of Keep Kool Butte
Me on the western end of Keep Kool Butte
Nearing the summit of Keep Kool Butte
Nearing the summit of Keep Kool Butte
90-degree view northeast from Keep Kool Butte
90-degree view northeast from Keep Kool Butte

The short road to the Welcome Pass trailhead isn't plowed in winter, but there is a plowed parking area at the junction with Hwy 542, and it's only a 0.8 miles hike to the summer trailhead.  From there the trail was surprisingly snow free.  We didn't need snowshoes till 4500 feet, and so made fairly quick progress up to Welcome Pass at 5200 feet.

Only half of us got the memo that red Rav4's were required
Only half of us got the memo that red Rav4's were required
Snack break just above Welcome Pass
Snack break just above Welcome Pass

Most of the group had arrived before me, so I barely got a snack break before they were off again.  I spent most of the trip sprinting and pausing, so I could take photos of the string of people and tracks extending farther and farther up the ridge.

From the pass, the ridge forms a wide crest up to Sadie's Point at 5743 feet.

Hiking up from Welcome Pass
Hiking up from Welcome Pass
Skyline Divide curving upward toward beautiful peaks ahead
Skyline Divide curving upward toward beautiful peaks ahead
Hiking along the crest toward Sadie's Point
Hiking along the crest toward Sadie's Point

Beyond Sadie's Point, the ridge drops a couple hundred feet to a saddle, and then climbs to the multiple small sub-summits of Keep Kool Butte.

Can you spot all 10 snowshoers in this photo (including my shadow as one of them)?
Can you spot all 10 snowshoers in this photo (including my shadow as one of them)?
Isabel on west summit of Keep Kool Butte
Isabel on west summit of Keep Kool Butte

At the western sub-summit of Keep Kool Butte is the only steep spot on the route, where you have to briefly drop onto the south side to get around a small rock outcrop.  On this day, there was a thin layer of heat-softened new snow on top of very solid older snow.  We judged that the top few inches could slide off when we kicked into it, but that we had solid footing on the underlying snow.

Coming around the only steep point, at west end of Keep Kool Butte
Coming around the only steep point, at west end of Keep Kool Butte
Far side of the small steep step
Far side of the small steep step

Next is a very (literally) cool area where rocks on each side channel the wind to form a passage between frozen waves of snow.

Me at the wind channel below the summit
Me at the wind channel below the summit
Wind channel and final rise to summit of Keep Kool Butte
Wind channel and final rise to summit of Keep Kool Butte

The summit has great views out across Yellow Aster Lakes.  Larrabee forms a particularly striking white pyramid.

Taking photos on top
Taking photos on top
Shadow of Keep Kool Butte falling toward Yellow Aster Lakes
Shadow of Keep Kool Butte falling toward Yellow Aster Lakes
Tomyhoi
Tomyhoi
Canadian & American Border Peaks
Canadian & American Border Peaks
Yellow Aster Butte, Larrabee, & Pleiades
Yellow Aster Butte, Larrabee, & Pleiades
Winchester
Winchester
Goat & Sefrit (with some Pickets in the background)
Goat & Sefrit (with some Pickets in the background)

With short daylight, we headed back down the ridge far too soon.  Next time I think I'll bring my tent and stay overnight to watch the sunset and sunrise light up all the snowy peaks.

Coming back around the short steep part, the late sun was shining through the centers of the snow wheels that we had kicked off earlier.  I thought the holes made them look like snow doughnuts.  Steph thought their spiral shape made them look like snow snails.

Snow doughnuts or snow snails?
Snow doughnuts or snow snails?
Sun shining through the doughnut holes
Sun shining through the doughnut holes

Shadows lengthened as we hiked back down the beautiful crest.  We reunited for a last break above Welcome Pass, and returned to the cars in fading gray light.

Hiking back along the ridge
Hiking back along the ridge
Lengthening shadows
Lengthening shadows
All-star group taking a break just above Welcome Pass before dropping into the forest
All-star group taking a break just above Welcome Pass before dropping into the forest
A cup of tea to salute the route
A cup of tea to salute the route

Stats:  9.6 miles, 8 hours.  3200 gain to Welcome Pass. 1000 gain, 250 loss to Keep Kool Butte. 
4700 cumulative gain round trip.


Trailhead Info

Road 3060 is at approximately milepost 45.8 on the north side of Highway 542 (the mile markers are posted).  There is a plowed-out parking area on the opposite (south) side of the highway, with space for about six cars.  Drive time 2:30 hours from Lynnwood.

Avalanche Potential
The trail is in mature forest and safe from avalanche hazard almost all the way.
At 2850 feet, there is a brief crossing of a creek that can channel slides from high above, but it has a good view of the terrain high above and can be crossed quickly.
In the final 500 vertical feet, there are a few open glades that should be avoided if avalanche danger were high.
On the ridge itself, winds usually blow from the south, so the north edge of the ridge is usually corniced and can have heavy snow buildup.  The south edge of the crest usually is wind-scoured and safer.
Travel is on the ridge crest except for one point, at the east end of the western summit of Keep Kool Butte, where a rock outcrop requires a brief dogleg onto the south slope.  That slope merits a cautious evaluation of snow conditions.

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As beacons mountains burned at evening. J.R.R. Tolkien
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostWed Jan 31, 2018 12:55 pm 
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up.gif  Wow, that looks outstanding!  I've been up the YAB trail many times, been curious about wandering along that ridge.  I should probably start at the other end to see some new terrain.
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Jeff
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PostWed Jan 31, 2018 6:06 pm 
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That's a lot of red!

Any sheltered campsites up there?
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NorDub
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PostThu Feb 01, 2018 12:47 pm 
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Wow beautiful photos. Thank you for the detailed info on parking, mileposts, and avy danger evaluation. A+!!
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostThu Feb 01, 2018 3:23 pm 
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Jeff wrote:
Any sheltered campsites up there?

Running east from Welcome Pass toward Keep Kool Butte, there isn't much shelter.  However, the ridge is quite wide in places, and you could dig into the snow to make a sheltered spot.

Running west from Welcome Pass, toward Excelsior, there are some areas with more trees that might provide better shelter.

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As beacons mountains burned at evening. J.R.R. Tolkien
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uww
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PostThu Feb 01, 2018 10:33 pm 
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Nice one, thanks!
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Yana
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PostFri Feb 02, 2018 12:04 am 
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Love the donut/snail shots!

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostFri Feb 02, 2018 12:24 am 
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It provoked this pages-long discussion on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/washingtonhikersandclimbers/permalink/2264802110412790/

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As beacons mountains burned at evening. J.R.R. Tolkien
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Jeff
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Ramen Elitist
PostFri Feb 02, 2018 6:41 am 
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People take an avalanche course and all the sudden they just want to preach it to the world.
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Schroder
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PostFri Feb 02, 2018 9:14 am 
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Nice to see it not covered with snomobile tracks as it has been when I've been up there.
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Yana
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PostFri Feb 02, 2018 8:23 pm 
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Matt wrote:
It provoked this pages-long discussion on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/washingtonhikersandclimbers/permalink/2264802110412790/

Well, thanks, Matt - you've saved me the trouble of trying to decide whether or not to post to that group.

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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cartman
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PostMon Feb 05, 2018 9:17 pm 
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WHC is a good group, well moderated, and typically even less contentious than nwhikers (not a criticism of nwhikers, BTW).
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Jeff
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Ramen Elitist
PostTue Feb 06, 2018 10:56 am 
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While I am not a member, I do check in a few times a week for conditions. While they are prone to the herd mentality there are still 80k of them so they get out to most parts of the Cascades every week. Its a hell of a resource if you know where to look.
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BarbE
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PostTue Feb 06, 2018 4:54 pm 
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Hikers spread along the scenic ridge and sub-summits made for great photo opportunities.
A stellar day and fun company! up.gif

Reaching Welcome Pass
Reaching Welcome Pass
One more obstacle
One more obstacle
Snowshoe rock and heather scramble
Snowshoe rock and heather scramble
Ira and Steph
Ira and Steph
Matt & Tomyhoi
Matt & Tomyhoi
Above Welcome Pass-watercolor
Above Welcome Pass-watercolor
Ridgewalk back to Welcome Pass
Ridgewalk back to Welcome Pass
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Nancyann
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PostTue Feb 06, 2018 9:17 pm 
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Barb, did you do that watercolor? I love it! Thanks to both you and Matt for the beautiful photos, those blue skies are looking awfully good right now after a month of rain. up.gif
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Welcome Pass & Keep Kool Butte (USGS Larrabee) 1/14/2018
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