I had snowshoed into Commonwealth Basin only
two times before. With some avalanche danger present this seemed to be a
good choice. I was nervous because of the weather the last week. On Thursday
it reached 45 degrees at Snoqualmie Pass and dumped 3 inches of rain. It
cooled on Friday and 7 inches of snow fell. I expected half a foot of cascade
concrete over ice. I was to be pleasantly surprised. Suzanne, Rick, Bernadette,
and I met up at the ski area and walked under the freeway. We headed up and
shortly reached the summer PCT trailhead. The outhouse is nearly buried and
the sign has only a sliver of wood showing. We found that our 9:00 start
was not early enough to beat several other groups. The good news was that
we had the start of a nice trench to follow. Now, about the snow. Powder!
At Snoqualmie Pass! It was some of the driest snow I have seen up there.
It was a pleasure to snowshoe in that type of snow. Even breaking trail
was not too difficult with short MSR snowshoes. I do not expect to see any
more of that type of snow this year.
We had no preplanned agenda so we just kept following
the track into the basin. In due course the grade leveled off and we came
to the place where most people had crossed the creek. It was wide and not
very deep with a track cut down one side and up the other. Our group consensus
was to avoid wet feet so early in the trip so we stayed on the right side
of the creek. A smaller track continued this way and soon headed uphill.
The slope is too steep to stay by the creek but it was easy to climb up above
it. We soon could see open slopes above which I recognized at the talus field
where the PCT descends before intersecting the Commonwealth Creek Trail.
The track ended here and we were now on our own. It was soon possible to
drop back down to the creek.
We followed the creek a ways until finding a downed
log which made for a nice snow bridge. We crossed and soon picked up the
main snowshoe track again. The route was climbing along the left side of
the valley. Clouds hid Red Mountain and Kendall Peak but we had some views
of Guye Peak. Across the creek I could see the ridge which the summer trail
follows up to Red Pass. We passed one group and caught up with the trail
breakers. They were heading down to the creek below. We decided to follow
them down and across a nice snow bridge. They were heading straight up an
avalanche slope on the other side. The snow was good and we followed but
under different snow conditions it would not have been a good idea. After
gaining about 300' we turned right and traversed back into forest. Although
there were many small trees and tree wells we found a good route. The goal
was to keep at a steady elevation and intersect the ridge where the summer
trail is located. This plan worked perfectly and we were soon on the ridge
The summer trail makes many switchbacks just below
the ridge crest. With 8 feet of snow it was easy to stay right on the crest.
It was a blast to slog down the ridge in the soft unmarked snow. Once back
to the bottom we followed the creek again. In the summer there is one creek
and a few dry creek beds. It is a little different in winter. We soon had
a creek coming in from the left. We had to cross one creek or the other. It
was a good 8+ feet down to the creek with vertical walls on each side. It
would not be easy to climb back out if you fell in while crossing. We found
another snow bridge on the left and crossed that creek. A few minutes later
there was another creek. This one too required a bridge of snow over a log.
Yet another crossing and we were done with snow bridges. We climbed high
above the creek when the slope steepened and soon saw and heard the waterfall
that drops onto the summer PCT. We soon met up with tracks again. The route
out was just a nice walk in the snow. The conditions turned out to be among
the best I have ever had for a snowshoe trip. It was only about 6 miles but
a very good time was had by all.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Photo Page 2
Cascade Crest Trail
Sadie And Evie