Winchester Mountain

July 30, 2018


Twin Lakes / Mt. Baker Highway, WA

Winchester Mountain might not be a “big peak” by any measure, but is awesome in any other aspect. This little summit offers some of the highest view-to-effort ratio in all of North Cascades and the ascent is nothing fancier than a “trailed hike”. The only hassle comes from the access road. To drive the final 2.5 miles on Twin Lakes Road one absolutely needs a HC 4×4 vehicle but to me that’s not a problem. I trust my Tacoma on missions like this. I had been wanting to save Winchester Mtn. for introducing someone new to the Cascades scenery and this past Monday seemed like the right time when Wendy M. asked if I was available for something. I was tired from my Bryce Center trip and didn’t want to push for anything outrageous. I just wanted a relaxed and enjoyable trip.

I debated about whether or not we should went for a sunrise hike but opted for not. The extreme heat along with smoke meant we still had to get up early no matter what so the decision was starting the drive from White Rock at 4 am. This worked out pretty well and got us onto the Twin Lakes Road just after the sun’s already up. The road was as bad as expected with a lot of steeps, narrows, ditches and pot-holes. The only good aspect was the road surface. At least we weren’t crawling on rocks nor “bushwhacking”.. The final series of switchbacks were no joke.

The standard route of Winchester Mountain. GPX DL

There aren’t a lot worth noting about the hike. The trail was well signed and we just had to follow the instructions. There’s one confusing spot that the traditional trail does a long switchback. It seemed like the recent parties went for a short-cut and it turned out that this short-cut avoids a steep patch of snow. Beyond that we reached a point that the trail traverses a long ways due west and the end of this switchback involves a bit of loose footings on rubble.

Starting the hike.

This is an upwards view towards our objective

Wendy taking in the scenery from a viewpoint

Wendy hiking on the trail.

We took a short-cut trail that’s loose on the surface

Ahead is that short scrambling section

Wendy on the trail.

Gaining the shoulder on a bit of loose ground

Me at the shoulder. Photo by Wendy M.

Me exploring a bump nearby. Photo by Wendy M.

The rest of the hike to the summit of Winchester Mountain was without event and then we spent at least an hour on the summit soaking in the views. The lookout structure had undergone some maintenance and we played around inside and outside to get some photos. It’s a cool place. To me this summit reminds me there’s some unfinished businesses immediately to the north of it… I have done one of them but need the rest..

Looking down at Twin Lakes from high up on the slope

Mt. Shuksan rises behind the dual summits of Goat Mountain

Wendy with the North Cascades mountains behind

The Pleiades

Mt. Larabee

The Border Peaks

We explored the lookout

The register book. Photo by Wendy M.

Wendy writes her name in the entry.

Relaxing in the cabin.

And then we went out to explore the summit

We found a neat spot for photos.

Wendy sitting on the edge with the North Cascades behind

Can’t miss the “summit jump”, Larabee and Pleiades behind

Me exploring the summit with Slesse Mtn. behind in the smoke

Me on the summit of Winchester Mountain

This is again, me on the summit but having lunch…

After a while we descended. We had brought crampons and ice axes up so I strapped them on for Wendy and let her to explore a patch of snowfield on the summit ridge. Lower down at the junction with that short-cut trail we also opted to explore the snow option and it turned out to be quite sketchy actually. The lakes are refreshing once getting back down to the parking lot. The heat’s already taken its toll on us so time to cool down.

This was Wendy’s first time wearing crampons and holding an axe.

The Border Peaks, Mt. Larabee and The Pleiades

Hiking down on snow

She felt this was quite cool actually..

A zoomed-in view of American Border Peak

Onto the dry trail now

Just another photo of the hiking down.

Back to that loose part. It’s easy, no problem.

We played with the camera here and got some neat photos

Twin Lakes with flowers on the slopes

Me searching for a line

Crossing that patch of snow

There are a few dead-falls on the trail

Having lots of fun.

Almost back to the parking lot. The lake’s getting bigger now

Twin Lakes in their glory

Driving down Twin Lakes FSR was sketchy but not too bad. We had unfortunately encountered a truck on its way up but the downhill traffic has the right of it. The trucker had to back down and let us pass. Later in the day we went to Bellingham for a meal of Chipotle before driving back home.