SOURDOUGH Mountain & STETATTLE Ridge Overnight
Route: Snow-covered trail (snowy spring conditions)

TR #: 139

Category: Washington (HWY 20)       Rock Type: Gneiss
Summit Elev: 6,140 ft (Sourdough); 6,495 ft (Stetattle Ridge)

Partners: Matt Burton, Carla Schauble, Mike Torok

Snow camping doesn't get much better than this.

In February 2012, I had snowshoed up to Sourdough Mountain with a couple of friends in a quest to find the Sourdough Mountain Lookout, which turned out to be completely buried under snow. The Sourdough-Stetattle area is a spectacular location, especially when encased in snow, and I noted I needed to return for an overnight trip someday. The opportunity to do this overnight adventure came just over a year later on a stellar early spring weekend in March 2013, with friends Matt Burton, Mike Torok, and Carla Schauble.

And what a great trip it was, full of spectacular snowy North Cascade views, warm spring sun, and fun partners. This page gives a bunch of photos from our overnight adventure. 


DAY 1 : MARCH 29 :
  • 6:48 AM : Sun rises
  • 9:30 AM : 900 FT : Sourdough Lookout Trailhead
  • 9:52 AM : 900 FT : Start hiking
  • 11:05 AM : 3,000 FT : Enough snow for snowshoes
  • 2:30 PM : 5,920 FT : Reach saddle between Stetattle Ridge and Sourdough Mountain; soak in the views, wander around and have great difficulty deciding where to camp (since every spot we consider seems spectacular); Steph snowshoes along the ridgetop to Sourdough Lookout to confirm it is indeed completely buried by snow
  • 4:40 PM : 6,140 FT : Establish camp on the summit of Sourdough Mountain 
  • 7:31 PM : Sun sets
Starting off at the Sourdough Lookout Trailhead in Diablo.
Carla on the approach to Sourdough Mountain. Pyramid and Pinnacle in the background.
I snowshoed all the way up to the Sourdough Lookout site, but the lookout was completely buried in snow. In this photo I am standing right above the lookout. Mountains on the skyline include Hozomeen and Jack, and that's Ross Lake about 4400 feet below.

Here is an aerial photo I took about two months earlier (on Feb 2, 2013) showing just the shape of the roof under the snow:

Looking back along Sourdough Ridge from the lookout location. 
We set up our camp near the summit of Sourdough Mountain. What a view!
In our "kitchen", with the Snowfield group behind.
It was Easter weekend, so we were joined by a flock of a dozen yellow Peeps.
Late afternoon clouds over Jack Mountain.
Late afternoon clouds over the Snowfield group (Colonial, Snowfield, Paul Bunyan's Stump, Pinnacle, Pyramid).
Sunset over the Pickets. Davis Peak on left.
The seventeen of us enjoyed a sunset show over the Pickets.

No night photos!? Well, I did take about 10 photos over the course of the night, but I was battling thermodynamics, i.e. the formation of a thin layer of frost on the inner glass surface of the lens (this can happen with SLRs, since the air compartment inside the camera is exposed every time you change a lens so under cooling temperatures the trapped air can reach frost or dew point; the resulting lens fogging issues can be difficult to stop once they start, especially if you are surrounded by moist air as we were). So, in the end, thermodynamics won the nighttime battle and none of my long exposures turned out very good.

DAY 2 : MARCH 30 :
  • 6:46 AM : Sun rises
  • 7:30 AM : 6,140 FT : Leave camp with plans to reach the summit of Sourpatch Mountain
  • 8:30 AM : 4,940 FT : Arrive at saddle above Sourdough Lake at base of Sourpatch Mountain. After a discussion about the warming temperatures and the slopes we had just descended (and will have to re-ascend later), Steph decides to head back up and towards Stetattle Ridge while Matt, Mike, and Carla head up Sourpatch
  • 10:22 AM : 6,495 FT : Steph reaches Stetattle Ridge "summit", continues on towards Elephant Butte and ever-nearer views of the Picket Range
  • 11:00 AM : 6,607 FT : Matt, Mike, and Carla reach Sourpatch summit (they report the views to be amazing); around the same time, Steph decides Elephant Butte is too far for today and heads back along Stetattle Ridge
  • 12:28 PM : 6,140 FT : Steph arrives back at camp; Matt, Mike, and Carla are in the process of successfully finding a safer (and cooler) route back up from the Sourdough Lake saddle than the one we had descended earlier that day
  • 1:30 PM6,140 FT : Matt, Mike, and Carla arrive back at camp; begin packing up
  • 2:23 PM6,140 FT : Leave camp
  • 5:23 PM : 900 FT : Arrive back at car
  • 7:33 PM : Sun sets
Matt and Carla waiting for the sunrise show to begin.
Sunrise over Jack Mountain.
The first rays of light on the Snowfield group.
The first rays of light on the Southern Pickets (Barrier, Degenhardt, Inspiration, McMillan Spires)
Lighting changes dramatically in the first few minutes of the day.
The first rays of morning sun on Little Devil Peak and Big Devil Peak.
Morning light on the huge Northeast Face of Davis Peak. This face is the only place in Washington State where the terrain drops more than a vertical mile in less than one horizontal mile. According to Wikipedia, this is one of the two largest vertical drops in one horizontal mile in the contiguous United States, the other being the North Face of Kinnerly Peak in Montana.
Finally, we put our cameras away and headed out of camp for our day's adventure. In the distance are Redoubt and the Moxes.
Light and shadow.
The destination for the morning was the 6,607-ft peak to the north of the Stetattle-Sourdough ridge. My friends called this peak "Sourpatch" which seemed apropo given its location between Sourdough and Pumpkin Mountains. Historically, the peak has been given the name "Nlaka-pamux Peak"; the story is as follows: the Mis-kai-whu (they have their name on the Mis-kai-whu Mountain at the end of Stetattle Ridge) were the Indians of the upper Skagit with a seasonal fishing camp where gorge powerhouse now sits. The Nlaka-pamux were BC indians that came down the Skagit and raided the Mis-kai-whu camp. The Mis-kai-whu stalked them back upstream where there was the “Battle of Stetattle,” after which the Nlaka-pamux's left the Mis-kai-whu's alone.)

This photo shows the snowy ramp leading from the Stetattle-Sourdough Ridge to the saddle above Sourdough Lake. This photo was taken at around 3pm the previous afternoon rather than the morning of the climb.
Mike descending the snowy ramp to the saddle above Sourdough Lake.
At 8am, the slopes were already quite soft in the unusually-warm spring sun.
Carla descending the deep soft snow.
Textures on Sourdough Lake.

When we arrived at the saddle above Sourdough Lake, we discussed our concerns about what a few more hours of sun would do to the already soft snow slopes we had just descended. Since I was just as eager to climb to the high point of Stetattle Ridge as I was to reach the summit of Sourpatch, I decided to head back up the slopes in question and romp down Stetattle Ridge, while Matt, Mike, and Carla (who had all already climbed Stetattle at some point) continued onward towards the summit of Sourpatch. On the way back to camp, they ended up finding a better route as shown in the map at the beginning of this trip report.

Matt posted his trip report here on, where there are several wonderful photos/description of Sourpatch as well as the rest of our adventure.
My destination for the next few hours: the spectacular Stetattle Ridge, a ramp to the Picket Range.

One of my reasons for wanting to snowshoe along Stetattle Ridge is that Stetattle Ridge is one of the only approaches to the Picket Range that I have not yet done, and I was curious to see what the terrain looked like as I got closer and closer to the Pickets.
One of the closest views of the Pickets you can get without actually being in the Picket Range. This photo shows The Barrier, Inspiration, and McMillan Spires, as well as the frozen Azure Lake below.
I romped a bit past the high point of Stetattle Ridge, found a nice spot for Billy's Easter Egg hunt, and then I headed back to meet up with Matt, Mike, and Carla, since we still needed to slog down to the car that afternoon.
Heading out, a vertical mile to go. It was difficult to leave on such a perfect spring day!
Back to one of the many dangers of the lowlands.

(Another danger of the lowlands was the sore quads I encountered after sitting in the car for a few hours. My GPS track indicated that we had accumulated about 9400 feet of elevation loss over just the course of Day 2, which explains the soreness!)