The previous day I went up the Nordic Pass Trail with
Suzanne, her daughter Katie, and Katie's friend Mike. We broke trail as
far as Frog Lake. No one had been up since the recent storms and there was
no track. The snow depth was only about 50 inches at Snoqualmie Pass but
it was enough to cover all the brush and logs. The blue diamonds were well
above our heads but visible enough to keep us on track. Between the upper
groomed tracks and Frog Lake we were a little off track but found the route
at Frog Lake. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to cover the 3 miles to that
point. It took only 1 1/4 hours to descend.
I had planned another trip for Sunday with Kolleen, Bob, and Carol.
As usual we were still hashing out ideas Saturday night. Early this year
Suzanne and I had gone to Nordic Pass and then on to within about 50 vertical
feet of the summit of Mt. Catherine. Now that the trench was in place
we settled on an attempt at Catherine. It was Carol's first time on snowshoes.
She borrowed my MSR's and I took my big Atlas 30s.
The previous day it was 23 degrees when we got started at 9:30. This
day it was 16 degrees at the summit at 8:40. By 8:52 we were on our way.
The route is described here:
Nordic Pass Trail
. Our previous try at Mt. Catherine is described here:
Mt. Catherine Snowshoe
. The road approach is just inside the Summit East ski area entrance.
We walked up the road to the sharp left turn. There is no snow wall to
climb at this time. I had cut a trail across the creek on Saturday. We
had no problem getting across. With the trench in place we cruised on up.
Saturday was all blue sky and Sunday was forecast to be mostly cloudy. Instead
it was mostly clear all day.
We crossed a groomed track then the larger track and powerlines named
Intermountian 90. It took some scouting the day before to find the continuation
of the route on the other side. It is off to the right. This crossover trail
has not yet been groomed. Next we reached the meadow and Hyak Lake shortly
after that. Saturday we saw two skiers on the groomed track and nobody else.
This day we saw nobody on the way up and three backcountry skiers and two
groomed track skiers on the way down. Seven people in two days at Snoqualmie
Pass is not too bad.
Beyond the lake we came to the upper powerline and groomed skiing tracks.
The diamonds were much harder to find here. We were off route Saturday
going up but found most of the route coming down. It was easier Sunday
to follow the tracks and stay on course. We were a little left from there
to Frog Lake but at the lake we were able to get back to the diamonds. It
took us only 1:20 to ascend with the nice trench in place.
From here to Nordic Pass we had to do our own route finding. It was
slower but we managed to stay on course the whole way. There was one set
of ski tracks going up and down and we were near them most of the way. The
snow bridge over Dicks Creek was thin but it held. We reached Nordic Pass
and stopped for a food and water break. Our water had ice cubes in it.
On the previous attempt of Mt. Catherine we had a trench almost up
to the summit. The snow had a hard crust. On some steep slopes it was icy.
This day was just the opposite. The snow was honest to goodness powder. It
has been so cold in the mountains that it was very unlike the usual Cascade
Concrete. We dropped down a little then headed over to the ridge. Kolleen
immediately found the easy access point where the slope is moderate. Part
way up we intersected a lone skier's track. We followed it all the way up.
Once on the ridge we had a nice view over to Silver Peak and down to
near Windy Pass. The ridge was just as I remembered it. Long with steep
climbs followed by gentle flats then up once again. I found the 30 inch
snowshoes a lot less maneuverable than my 22 inch MSRs. Still, they worked
just fine. This was Carol's first time on snowshoes and even on the steeper
sections she did great. I was really beat after breaking trail Saturday
and was not going all that fast. At a couple places we had views out from
the heavily forested ridge. We could see Granite Mountain, Bandera, and
McClellan Butte among others.
On my previous trip we ended up just below the summit and tried to
cut around the right side of the ridge. The snow would hold then break
and I would fall through to my waist. It was very steep and exposed. We
chose not to push our luck. This time as we neared the top the ski tracks
went to the left side of the summit. It was steep and a bit exposed but the
snow was so good we cut a nice secure track across the bad spot. Once beyond
the summit we climbed to the ridge and had an easy ascent to the top. The
top was narrow and wind blasted. We went up a few at a time. It was the first
time since the parking lot that we were out in the wind. It was very cold.
Views from the top were outstanding. There was no haze and only a few
high clouds. Mt. Rainier was clear as was Mt. Stuart. All the peaks near
I-90 were in the clear and cloaked in a fresh coating of white. It is a very
nice viewpoint considering that it is at an elevation of only 5052'. We
had more food just below the summit and began the descent. Coming down was
much faster. Part way down the ridge we met the three skiers. We dropped
1000' back to Nordic Pass in about 30 minutes.
The rest of the way out was a long snow slog. Although the temperature
never climbed about the mid 20s we were plenty warm due to our exertion.
We saw only the two groomed track skiers coming out. It was nice to finally
reach the summit. The summer trail is so short I have never bothered and
the conditions were not safe on my other winter attempt. The weather was
great all weekend and the snow conditions were excellent. All in all,
it was a very nice day in the mountains.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Start Of The Route
In The Track
Hyak Lake Ahead
Out Of The Forest
Kolleen & Carol
Near Nordic Pass
Good Early Snow
On The Ridge
Kaleetan & Chair
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2006