Up The Hill & To The Hut: A Mid-Day Excursion To The Winchester Lookout

Main image: Lucas Thompson (left) and Timmy Taussig riding their way down from the Winchester Lookout. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon.

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“Just keep moving, one foot after the other, you’ve got this,” I told myself again and again. My legs were burning ferociously, each step a greater struggle than the last. The verts snowshoes strapped to my boots helped while the snow was still slushy, but as it hardened they became more of a nuisance than an aid. As I topped out over a blind rollover my two buddies came into view.

“It’s too steep here, Ben!” Timmy yelled. “It’s way too icy to climb here, dude. We’re going to have to traverse to a spot with less of an incline.” The sun was quickly setting and soon we would be climbing by moonlight. As I struggled to get the 50-pound bag off my back and my board on my feet, all while balancing on a two-foot-wide rock above a steep, icy face, I had to stop and ask myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”

The day had started off normal enough. I rose late Sunday afternoon still feeling the wrath of Saturday night’s drinks. I rolled around in bed sans ambition, content on the idea of lounging around lazily for the remainder of the day. A text from a friend, Lucas Thompson, would soon change that. He said he and another Bellingham resident, Timmy Taussig, were planning on hiking up to Twin Lakes for some post-season shred. I shook the grogginess and started packing my bag.

The plan was simple: leave Bellingham, drive to Twin Lakes and hike up Winchester Mountain to the lookout at its summit. We planned to spend the night there, giving us the entire next day to ride. But, like most half-thought-out adventures, the execution of said plan did not go as smoothly as predicted. First, we figured the road up to the lake would be clear, which it wasn’t. Before even exiting our vehicle we already had another mile and a half to hike, and an additional 1,000 vertical feet to gain. We left the truck on the side of the road and began walking, unaware of the true challenge that lay before us. If I had known, I would’ve stayed in the car.

In having to beat out the setting of the sun, our hike was more of a sprint than a jog. We pushed each other, and ourselves, up nearly 2,500 vertical feet within six hours, myself moaning and groaning more than the others. As a New York-native and rail rider by nature, my previous hiking experience revolved primarily around features in the terrain park. With a borrowed trekking pole in hand and appropriated snowshoes upon my boots, I felt like a new, scared snowboarder. I was no longer cruising comfortably in the confines of a resort boundary, but rather was at the mercy of the mountains and Mother Nature. Quick thinking coupled with patient-effectuation is a must in this environment. If one of us were to fall and get hurt here, it would be a long while before help arrives.

By 11 p.m. we had reached the Lookout, a humble hut built in the 1930’s and restored by the Mount Baker Club in the ‘80s to host its mountain-loving visitors. As we passed bowls of canned chili and took turns swigging sweet, well-deserved pulls from our $10 bottle of whiskey, we felt proud. Proud to have made it to the lookout safely and appreciative of those who laid the first trail to this backcountry abode. But most of all, we were stoked with the thought of bombing back down to the truck the following morning.

At the end of the trip, the author handed off the camera to do some riding of his own. Butter to switch backside 360.


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