Off we went to Golden Horn and Snowy Lakes in search of larches! Before hand two delays of my own doing caused some delay though. The plan was to meet at the 128th St park and ride in Everett. Little did we know that both Trailpair and myself knew of two park and rides on that street. So while I sat at the wrong one, sure they were late, they were just down the street thinking the same. Eventually we got it sorted out. On the road we mentioned missing the Hwy530 exit on previous trips - sure enough I sailed right past it and before we knew it we were in Burlington. After all the driving snafus we finally met Bad Dog at the Rainy Pass trailhead and were on our way - more than half an hour later than planned. That would come back on us.
We made good time along the well maintained PCT and hit Cutthroat Pass in just over two hours. After some photos and a break we continued onwards towards our destination. There were distant gray clouds but the skies were starting to clear up. Views were great to many other peaks in the area and down to Cutthroat Lake. We cruised along over Granite Pass and onwards, finding ourselves at the turnoff to Snowy Lakes. Up we went along the steep path and there were the lakes, shallow but pretty. Tower mountain towered overhead.
We pitched camp on the ridge above upper Snowy Lake, one of several groups in the area. It was later than we'd hoped so we debated whether to go up Golden Horn now or in the morning. Another hiker said it had taken him an hour and a half from camp to summit. We opted for to go for it and set out with daypacks up the ridge. Going up was a little slow, picking through the scattered rocks and avoiding the soft scree to conserve energy. About 45 minutes later we hit the ridge and found a nice pathway along the crest. Skirting the tops of some gullies, and scrambling around and over a large rocky outcrop, we had our first view of Golden Horn summit. We were going up that? From here it looked like a sheer tower!
We continued on the path and could see the route better now. We would have to ascend a gully to near the top. There were two possible routes, either to left or right. Summitpost mentions the left gully, I assume this is the one they talk about anyway. Bob and Yumi went left and encountered a large step they were able to work over. Kolleen and I stayed right up more solid and easier rock, but unsure if we could cross over higher up. We did find a way by scrambling up a little step and sliding down a small rock ramp to rejoin the others. Either route seemed feasible but staying right kept us on more solid rock.
We could see the final bit and that we'd have to leave it for the rock climbers. There were also a few patches of snow and ice on some foot holds, further removing it. I could see two slings at the summit, one green and another red, for rappelling. So after some photos we hurried down to beat sunset. Now I was regretting the driving error and wanting that half hour back!
We made it back to camp just as the sun went down. There was a nice glow off to the west, lighting up some peaks. Tower glowed very bright orange. After a little while the stars came out, bright and clear in the dark sky. We ate our dinners and before long turned in as frost began to form on the tents. Yumi and I stayed out a little longer taking star photos and watching shootings stars. We saw one particularly bright one, fairly slow moving, go across low in the sky. It was very cold that night but thankfully there was no wind.
I was the first one up hoping for a good sunrise but there weren't enough clouds. The ground had frozen overnight and ice crystals were growing everywhere. The shallow shores of the lakes also had a layer of ice. We ate a chilly breakfast, the sun finally reaching over Tower Mountain around 8:30. Before departing we had a visior - Loper and friends were camped just across from us. They'd scrambled Tower and even made the true summit of Golden Horn with a rope. We said hi and went on our way, playing leap frog with their group as we hiked out. Trailpair, Yumi, and myself were bound for the cars and home. The Bad Dogs weren't done with their adventure yet though and headed off to scramble Hardy Peak on their way out. Stay tuned to find out how their trip went.
A great trip! Very nice scramble, some beautiful scenery, and unseasonably summer-like September weather! The only complaint? The larch were only beginning to turn! The majority of them were a sort of neon green color. Looks like it's going to be a late color change this year.
Click here for all the trip photos.
Nice TR...great color in those photos, Opus! Thanks for posting!
-------------- "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
Opus - Thanks for saving the larch for another week! Glad I didn't miss them. When Trail Pair, Bad Dogs and I did that trail before (aka "noisy hikers") we didn't even make it to Snowy Lakes! Too much snow! Nice to see what it looks like - gorgeous pics. s.d.
Great pictures as usual! What a gorgeous area even if the larches are still green!
Was good to see you all up there!
On Golden Horn it looks like you went up the gully that we went down. We came up the other side of the summit block and threw a rope over the summit to belay one of our guys up and then rappelled off the side you came up. Without a rope I would not have attempted the final 20 feet.
As for Tower, I turned back at the second gully while my party continued on the (as E put it) 'Interesting" route up. Note, on Tower, the Becky description is the most accurate as far as we could tell. The Summit Routes picture I believe is incorrect.
What a great area! Thanks again for the pictures and tr!
Last year the larch were near their peak on this date! What happened??? Anyway, it was a nice trip with a fun scramble. Here are a few of our photos:
Note: in the Golden Horn summit photos, K is in the lower left, not lower right (for scale)
-------------- This thing called work is interfering with my play
There is one thing I forgot to mention in the report. We were planning to make a side trip to look for Snowdog's missing camera near Cutthroat pass but didn't have time. If anyone is going to be camped up there in the near future it would be a worthy side trip. She can fill in better details on where it may be, but in a nutshell it is somewhere on the scree slope near the top of the ridge to the NW, by a big black square rock outcrop on the ridge crest. Gray oval camera case.
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