Ascent of Illabot Peaks on 2019-07-13

Climber: Connor McEntee

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, July 13, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Illabot Peaks
    Elevation:5944 ft / 1811 m

Ascent Trip Report

What a great peak! It's hard to believe that I held off on doing this one for so long. The older stories of brushy roads, bushwhacking, and bad rock either don't apply or are wrong. The summit block is a fun scramble and it is located in a scenic portion of the North Cascades surrounded by dramatic mountains. I carried a 60m rope, which was entirely unnecessary. For anyone wanting a rope, 30m is plenty. But, if you're willing to poke around a little, there is a decent class 3 route all the way to the summit. The climb was a little like Big Gee, but better in every possible way. I don't think conditions for this peak are ever going to get better than they are now, so I'd encourage anyone who wants this one to get it.

A few years back I had spotted the trail to Tupso Lake on satellite photos and wondered if it was a better approach. Thanks to Ken Jones it was easy to confirm that it was. The route is actually in better condition that I would even have imagined based on his and Adam's trip reports. The drive of FSR 2642 (Grade Creek Road) is very easy. It was probably one of the best non arterial forest service roads I've been on in a while. I don't know if the Forest Service maintains it though, but a quick search online indicates the a community group based in Darrington periodically provides maintenance.

From the end of the road, a decently well maintained trail wanders through tarns and forest until Tupso Lake, which is where most traffic stops. I had erroneously assumed that there was no trail beyond Tupso Lake and started off cross country through wet brush. Fortunately, I quickly crossed a fainter use trail and decided to follow it when I decided it was too large to be a game trail. It goes all the way to the ridge above Lake Louise and spared me a bunch of tedious bushwhacking! From there I did a higher traverse than other parties using a game trail that cut across. It might actually be easier to just go up and over the bump on the ridge. Either way, the route ends at some tarns, and there is a sidehill traverse to get to the basin south of Illabot. Again I found a nice game trail replete with plenty of bear scat that went directly to the pass.

From the pass, it was a short descent to level terrain before the sustained climb up to the west ridge of Illabot. I was pretty happy with my route, and I actually went a little further east of the gulley that Adam used. With wet brush, their gulley was unappealing and the trees I climbed up through turned out to be really nice. The upper part of the gulley is covered in grass and brush and has a moderate angle. I slipped and fell several times here on the descent, but dry it would be trivial. On the upper reaches of the mountain, I also preferred my route to the tracks I had. I was tempted climb up closer to the ridge using one of several gullies interspersed among small cliffs. However, I found a faint game trail that mostly just traversed and decided to defer to the deer. Beyond the mildly cliffy sections and before the large south trending gulley there were open slopes that were much easier to ascend (I accidentally went through the cliffs on the descent).

Anyway, I finally hit the gulley and decided that I didn't want to descend into it unless I had to. It had trees, so it may not have been terrible to climb. But, it has also few route options inside of it. Instead, I paralleled it on climber's left up through some trees and gentle scrambling, before finding a cairn just below the class 4 slabs Adam climbed. It's maybe 20 feet, and the rock appeared solid albeit a bit exposed. However, I wanted to see what was around the corner on the arete above the gulley. Much better. Just one or two class 4 moves and otherwise great class 3 all the way to the summit. Honestly, I only say class 4, because if you were to deck getting around the corner, the ledge below isn't large and it would be possible to bounce into the gulley. Anyway, just a little more scrambling brought me to the summit, where I found the memorial and soaked register. I forgot Adam mentioned this. It would be really good if the next party brings a new register.

I debated pulling out my rope since I carried it, but decided against it knowing how much time I'd loose setting up a rappel. My descent turned out to be easy with just the wet vegetation being annoying.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2524 ft / 769 m
    Extra Gain:450 ft / 137 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:Tupso Lake Trail
    Trailhead:FS 2642  4320 ft / 1316 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3/4
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 1 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Connor McEntee
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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