Winchester Lookout – PNW Trip Report

Post by blogger | December 7, 2011      

Skyler and I headed up to Winchester fire lookout last weekend. The snow conditions were abysmal, but the views were spectacular, and it’s always cool to sleep on top of Winchester Mountain.

Into the valley of the shadow of snow; Skyler skinning below Goat Peak.

Into the valley of the shadow of snow; Skyler skinning below Goat Peak.

We drove up Saturday morning from Bellingham. I threw chains on the Jeep at the highway and was able to drive a few miles up the road. Snow driving is something I miss about Colorado, and it was fun to rev and bash our way up the snow-covered road. We dropped our overnight gear after skinning up the road for a few miles, and headed up to Goat Peak. The views on the summit were sublime, and the ice on the descent was survived. The sun set as we headed up to the old fire lookout, and I enjoyed skinning in the moonlight.

The next day dawned cold and windy, we decided to be cautious of any windslabs formed overnight. We skinned toward Tomyhoi Peak. It was fun exploring some new terrain, and proved to be an enjoyable tour. We headed back to our overnight gear, and skied out to the road in the sunset. We made it to the car at dark and quickly proceeded to drop one tire off the edge of the road. A few hours later, with the help of a come-along and some creative rigging, we were on our way.

La Nina looks worn out from a hectic November, and the little girl seems to be sleeping in through the start of December. The massive high pressure has made for some beautiful weather in the high country, but I sure hopes it snows soon. Here are more pictures from the trip.

The good old Jeep Cherokee. It recently turned 250,000, but is still going strong.

Skyler skiing of the summit of Goat Peak. We skied a different route than we climbed, and we quickly found out it held bountiful bulletproof ice.

Skyler skiing off the summit of Goat Peak. We skied a different route than we climbed, and quickly found out it held bountiful bulletproof ice.

I played around with some long exposures in the moonlight on our way up to the fire lookout. Here's Goat Peak. We skied the right summit earlier in the day.

As we moved higher, low level clouds followed. Soon a beautiful sea of clouds was illuminated by the moonlight.

Skiing out from the lookout, we tried a new route. The last few hundred vert proved to be avalanche debris. A good workout in the failing light.

I've carried a cheap come-along in my car for years. It finally proved its worth. Without it we would have been skiing a long slog out to the highway.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


14 Responses to “Winchester Lookout – PNW Trip Report”

  1. kirk turner December 7th, 2011 11:10 am


  2. Lisa December 7th, 2011 5:57 pm

    Looks like fun. Be careful on that ice!

  3. Mark W December 7th, 2011 7:27 pm

    Great report, Louie. Glad you got your Jeep back on the road.

  4. Lou December 7th, 2011 8:05 pm

    Little does Louie know, but that comalong has a history. It was first used many years ago to lift the masonary slipform on a mansion in Aspen, then moved to Carbondale where it pulled in the bowed wall of our house during renovation, to finally reside in Louie’s amazing Cherokee only to be broken out for a vehicular recovery. Who knows what’s next for that guy!?

  5. Lou December 7th, 2011 8:10 pm

    That one moonlight shot, with the faint stars and the distant peak (Jefferson? Adams?), really sublime. Good job.

  6. Andy December 7th, 2011 8:24 pm

    That’s Baker. It’s a pretty spot, for sure.

  7. Lisa December 8th, 2011 9:40 am

    Quite a few folks have told me that they are impressed with your writing. I agree. Your posts are among my favorites. Thanks for taking the time to share your jaunts.
    Xoxo, Mom

  8. Jim December 8th, 2011 12:05 pm

    +1 with his Mom on Louie’s excellent backcountry adventures and his nice writing style. I’d say his stories are among my favorites with info and beta on the PNW which has very little info online otherwise.

  9. SnoPresence December 8th, 2011 12:25 pm

    That looks like an amazing adventure! Although the Avy debris at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have been a fan of. Great outlook though. Really enjoyed this article and amazing shots! Looks like you are off to a great start for the winter!

  10. Don The NorthCascades Wanderer December 10th, 2011 7:37 am

    Oh you are playing with fire on the drive in. I have had friends do the same approach to save some skinning, They park a couple miles up the road, do a great overnight trip, unexpected overnight Cascade dumping even though the forecast said otherwise, come out late the next day, vehicle snowed in for the winter.
    Be cautious on the drive in,


  11. Larry G December 11th, 2011 10:51 am

    +2 on mom Lisa’s observations. Could a WildSnow, PNW Edition be in the future?

  12. Sam Wellman December 12th, 2011 8:38 am

    That sounds really fun! I hope that I can eventually go on a ski trip as incredible as this. Hopefully I’ll get to it someday and to some real backcountry

  13. Drew Tabke December 14th, 2011 2:24 pm

    Its nuts to have written a book about classic descents in the northwest but not know where Mt. Baker is. You gotta ski up here a little more, Lou!

    Cool stuff, Louie. I skied some refrozen ice boulders this weekend myself.

  14. Lou December 14th, 2011 3:41 pm

    I’m just, nuts. Or, aren’t we supposed to be keeping those spots secret?

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