Thursday, July 21, 2016

Welcome Pass 2016

Mt. Shuksan and the valley below
Today fourteen Senior Trailblazers set out to tackle Welcome Pass in the Mt. Baker wilderness. We've done this hike several times before, but not last year, and I had forgotten (conveniently) how difficult it is. It starts out in a lovely forest for a gentle mile before it begins 67 switchbacks up the side of the mountain, covering almost 3,000 feet (900+ meters) in 1.5 miles, which comes out onto the High Divide.
The map at the trailhead
A few of us had thought we might put a car at two trailheads (Welcome and Excelsior) and make a loop. We've done it before, but it makes for a very long day, adding significant length, so we just went up the pass and off onto the High Divide to gain some spectacular views, such as Mt. Shuksan above.
Looking back at the pass
It was very sunny but while we climbed the switchbacks we were in the trees, so it wasn't unpleasant at all, just a lot of work, and when we reached the top, there was a cold breeze that felt great and helped to keep the bugs away.
Carol and Steve in front of Mt. Shuksan
Some stayed at the pass but the rest of us went up to see the great views and settled in for a nice lunch. The flowers weren't as abundant as we've seen on other trips, and we couldn't figure out if we are just a little early for them or if they have already come and gone. It's different every year.
Our lunch view
Once we got some lunch into our tired bodies, we all began to feel better after having expended so much energy. This part of the trip was easy, but we knew that we had plenty to challenge us still ahead: walking back down those steep switchbacks, which is hard on the knees and requires close attention to foot placement.
Mt Baker
We also had great views of the surrounding mountains, and this picture of Mt. Baker has a couple of Trailblazers enjoying their lunch in the foreground. We decided to stay awhile longer.
Mel, Bob, Peggy and me (taken by Cindy)
Cindy took this picture and just sent it to me in an email. Since I'm in it, I couldn't resist including it. You can see how happy we all were to be enjoying the day and the fabulous weather.
Returning to the forest and our cars
But it couldn't be put off any longer: we had to start our return trip, going back down the steep switchbacks until we reached the gentle first mile that took us past glorious ferns and trees, and finally to our cars. We all went down to Grahams for our well deserved ice cream before heading home.

And now as I sit in my favorite chair, with my laptop helping me to record the day's adventures, it sure was a wonderful day. In the years that I have climbed this pass, not one journey has been like another. Today was filled with lots of sunshine and had no snow to navigate, which was lovely. I'll sleep well tonight and hope I wake with minimal soreness. We'll see.


  1. 67 switchbacks? You are a trekking machine!!!
    And thank you for sharing the beauty.

  2. That trail must be something, 67 switchbacks, the elevation! I was never as fit as you are now.

    You are a role model for me! When I grow up...

  3. Fantastic scenery ... worth the trip!

  4. Wow! That's a lot of elevation gain! But I can see the rewards were well worth it. Yes, I'd say you deserved that ice cream.

  5. Beautiful! But wow, all those switchbacks!

  6. Beautiful! You sure do know how to enjoy yourself in the wilderness.

  7. Gorgeous day!! And ice cream, too--LOL!
    Yes, we find out the following day how our body really took the task. I hope you weren't too sore. :)

  8. ah. a breath of fresh air.
    wonderful pictures.

    when i was in nepal i was walking 5.7 miles each way to the school where i taught. it was mostly jungle passage, and not up the mountain, but i was ringed by many of the foothills of the himalayas....they were amazing.

  9. When I see the views you get to enjoy, it has to be so worth the effort.Think I would have sent for a helicopter for the return trip though:))

  10. That is an incredible number of switchbacks but what a view.

  11. That elevation gain and the switchbacks sound grueling but the views from the top and the happy faces made me smile. Wonder how your knee felt the next morning?

  12. wow, those beautiful bright views... amazing.

  13. What magnificent views, all the more worth that incredible climb !
    I am always in awe of your hikes DJan, you and your hiker friends have incredible stamina :)

  14. Another day of exercise , fun and great views.

  15. That was a rigorous climb! But, oh, the reward at the top!

  16. Such beautiful views! Hope your knee is okay today! :)


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