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Good friend George and I are on 6,800-foot Cutthroat Pass in a snowstorm being buffeted by heavy gusts of cold wind and the windchill factor is hovering around freezing. Can it truly be mid-July?
It seems like yesterday to me, but it was nine years ago. This year I did the same hike in late July with much better results.
I was staying a few days in Twisp with friend George (one of the world’s best cooks and hosts). Taking off early, I drove to the 4,500-foot Cutthroat Pass Trailhead, located one mile north of the North Cascades Highway near Washington Pass.
The first couple of miles of the Trail were a delight, staying near Cutthroat Creek along the bottom of a glacier-scrubbed deep canyon. Snow-covered peaks loomed above, some rising to nearly 8,000 feet.
Soon Cutthroat Lake (a glacial cirque) was reached with crystal blue water. It sat at the bottom of a headwall (steep cliffs above a glacial cirque forming the upper end of a drainage valley).
After fording a couple of streams the work began. During the next four miles I continuously switchbacked up the northwest face of the headwall. Unlike my last trip, the weather was warm with lots of sunshine.
By the time 6,800-foot Cutthroat Pass was reached at the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail, the 360-degree vistas were amazing. Several folks hiking the PCT stopped and we swapped hiking stories while eating lunch.
What a beautiful corner of the world.