Max slope angle
45+ Degrees
Primary aspect
South facing
Vertical descent
4,800.00 ft (1,463.04 m)
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

While the Ingalls Lake area is extremely popular in the summer and fall, it gets far fewer visitors in the winter and spring, even though it features great backcountry skiing opportunities with huge views of Mount Stuart and the surrounding peaks. While there’s a lot of terrain to explore in Ingalls and Headlight Basins, South Ingalls Peak and Fortune Peak both offer great descents off the summit!

If you’re breaking into more adventurous tours, or if you just want to get some turns in a spectacular zone, this trip is worth a visit. Just make sure the road isn’t too snowy (more on this later)!


The Basics

  • The Road: This is the key to this route. While the road isn’t formally closed in the winter, it's buried deep in snow. As a result, if you don’t have a sled (and don’t fancy miles of road touring), you’ll want to wait until the road melts out, generally in late May or early June depending on the winter’s snowpack.
  • Seasonality/Snow: This zone is generally skiable from November until June, though the snow-covered road makes it difficult to access in mid-winter, and as a result, it’s generally skied in the spring and early summer.
  • Snow Stability: This tour travels through avalanche terrain so be sure to check the Northwest Avalanche Center  (our local avalanche center) before heading out. In addition, take the time to assess stability along your route - does your assessment line up with the forecast?


The Equipment

Depending on when you’re going and what the snow is like, you’ll need some equipment to keep having fun. There are the obvious ones, including your backcountry ski/splitboarding setup, personal safety gear (helmets, goggles, medkit, etc.), and appropriate layers to keep yourself warm and dry. And there’s the additional gear:

  • Avalanche safety gear: beacon, shovel, probe, and the know-how to use it!
  • Traction: Depending on how cold it is (and whether you get a full refreeze), you’ll probably want ski crampons, and if you’re going for some of the steeper options you may want crampons and a Whippet/axe.
  • You’ll probably want approach shoes (depending on snowpack/timing).
  • Radios: Radios are becoming more and more common in the backcountry skiing world, as they dramatically improve communication and safety.
  • GPS/Navigation: Having a GPS loaded with your route is always a good idea, especially for the complex descent from Fortune Peak down to the trailhead.


A disclaimer on this description and included GPX track - this line was skied on a single day with certain snow and avalanche conditions. The track described is a reasonable way to move through this terrain, and the description below mentions some of the hazards found during the trip. However, conditions may be significantly different when you visit this area. The advice in this trip report is not meant to be followed perfectly - you will need to adapt the route for the conditions you find and for your party’s abilities.


The Trip

The Approach

You’ll begin at the Esmeralda Trailhead. Depending on snowpack and timing, you may be on snow starting at the trailhead, or you may be booting for a bit. Either way, head north along the summer trail. Within a quarter mile, you’ll reach an avalanche runout. As of Spring 2022, this avalanche had recently blown out the trail, so until the trail crews clean this zone up, it’ll be a bit of a mess.

If it’s dry, stay on the summer trail for 1.5 miles. If it’s snowy, you should generally follow the summer trail, though you can cut switchbacks and make things a bit more efficient.

At 5,400’, you’ve got a choice. If you’re trying to efficiently get to the Ingalls zone, follow the Ingalls trail north to Ingalls Pass. If you’re trying to maximize adventure/views, head up toward Longs Pass, which has incredible views straight toward the classic ski lines on Mount Stuart – the Cascadian Couloir (on the right), and Ulrich’s Couloir, which winds straight down through steep terrain from the summit. If you choose to head to Longs Pass, enjoy the views before following the ridgeline north to Not-Hinkhouse Peak, which you can summit if you like! Otherwise, head to Ingalls Pass and continue northwest into Headlight Basin.


The Skiing

From Headlight Basin, you’ve got a ton of options, limited only by your imagination.

You can continue skinning around the eastern flank of South Ingalls Peak to Ingalls Lake if you want to keep things scenic.

You can ascend (probably booting) and then ski South Ingalls Peak, either by the steeper south face or via a slightly lower angle route west of Ingalls Peak (wrapping up toward the South Ingalls Peak summit from the saddle between North and South Ingalls).

You can enjoy east-facing lower angle turns between South Ingalls Peak and Fortune Peak, which you can extend down toward Ingalls Creek earlier season.

You can also ski lines off lower-angle Fortune Peak, including a great run down a broad gully southeast of the peak. This route serves as a great exit back to your car, though if you want to keep things conservative you can also head back to Ingalls Pass and descend alongside the summer trail.


The Exit

Assuming you’re exiting via Fortune Peak, descend southeast from the summit to a basin at around 5,800’, where you’ll begin entering treeline. Contour skiers left to reduce how much booting out you’ll need to do! There are several creeks in this area, so depending on snowpack you will want to pick a gentle ridgeline and descend through increasingly dense forest down to the trail up to Fortune Creek Pass. At some point, you’ll probably run out of snow. Get your approach shoes, find the trail, and slog down it back to the trailhead!


Participate in your backcountry ski community!

Please consider submitting an observation to the Northwest Avalanche Center after your trip, describing the travel conditions and snow stability you found. Submitting NWAC observations and writing trip reports on forums are great ways to contribute to the community and improve avalanche forecasts. It's also incredibly valuable to read the NWAC observations and trip reports written by others, as they'll help keep you updated on conditions, snow stability and what the mountains are doing on a day-to-day basis. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)


Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Open Year-round



Huge views of Mount Stuart.


Timing snow cover/stability vs road access can be tricky.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

4,200.00 ft (1,280.16 m)

Highest point

7,640.00 ft (2,328.67 m)

Total elevation gain

4,800.00 ft (1,463.04 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas



Typically multi-day


Shuttle required


Terrain type


Snowmobiles allowed



Nearby Adventures

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington


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