was coming in. A crust was on top of a few feet of recent snow. Gary
and I chose to stay closer to home. We had not done Mt. Washington in
the winter. The avalanche danger was not high at lower elevations
making this a good bet. We met at Eastgate at 7:45 and were through
North Bend, off at Exit 38 and into the lot by 8:15. The road up to the
lot was plowed with snow on both sides. A turn around was plowed at the
end. We were the first to arrive and parked along the side of the turn
around. The lot is smaller with all the snow but has room for about 8
or 9 cars. Another vehicle came in and it sat behind us with the motor
running while we got ready. This was strange and Gary finally went over
to it. Turns out it was a Search and Rescue member involved
in a practice exercise. By 8:25 we were on our way.
The short trail up to the road was very icy. The road to the railroad
grade was plowed. Why? At the grade the plowing continued to the west
while the grade east was under snow. We walked the gravel to the start
of the Mt. Washington Trail. Once again there was no sign marking the
start. We went only a short way and decided it was already time for Yak
Trax. The snow was thin and packed down by snowshoes. There were clouds
but also some sun shining through. This did not last long. The snow
slowed us down but the fact it was packed down helped.
We took a break to remove clothing as it seemed unusually warm. Gary's
thermometer read 41 degrees. That was about 5 degrees warmer than the
expected high for the day. We slogged on and took another break at the
Owl Spot. An earlier view out showed us the peaks across the valley.
Now clouds had come in and the tops were hidden. It was also noticeably
cooler. A few minutes later we reached the junction with the old trail.
No visible prints went that way. At the creek crossing there was
several feet of snow. We had to climb down and then back up again.
Our road walking continued. Forest gave way to an open snowy hillside.
There were no signs of sliding or sloughing. Gary glided along but I
began to posthole. The snow had a hard crust on it but when I broke
though I sank a long way. After a fall through to my crotch it was time
to break out the snowshoes. A little wind picked up and I was no longer
overheated after the break. In fact light snow began and I put on a
The earlier group put on snowshoes about where we did. All postholes
ended. The trench became deeper. Without the trench we would have made
much slower progress. We recognized the pond though it looked more like
a snowy meadow. The route went left from there then back to the right
and went much farther fairly flat than I recalled. The trail then
split. A gentle uphill looked like where the new trail leaves the old
road. Another route headed straight up an opening in the forest. We
chose to take the lower route. In short order it ended. Not wanting to
break trail we headed back and took the other route.
Within a few minutes we intersected the trail once again. A little more
traversing to the left and we were at the bottom of a big open slope.
The track went steeply up though not straight up. With any signs of
avalanche we would not have gone up. The steps were hard and made for
easy climbing though with a few larger steps. At the top of the slope
we were back on the summer trail. We began a gentle traverse to the
right that took us all the way to the north ridge. By now it was
snowing a bit harder. There would be great views here on a clear day
but we could not see much of anything. The trees here were also much
more heavily flocked.
The trail does not stay on the ridge. It traverses across the slope on
the east side. I was concerned that the track would be angled making
for a tough traverse. Instead, a nice flat track crossed the slope. In
a few minutes we reached the road below the summit. We could walk the
road left to the summit ridge and walk easily up. We chose to follow
the track straight up the slope. It did not follow the summer trail but
headed straight up to the summit. Steep but with reasonably good snow
we went straight up. We topped out on the 4400' summit in the hardest
snow of the day. The summit rocks were completely buried. The bottom of
the weather station tower was buried. Visibility out was nil.
We climbed into the trees. Branches were cut to create an open space
with a good wind block. The thermometer now read 30 degrees, quite a
drop from a few hours earlier. We arrived at 11:42 making for a not so
fast 3:17 time up. With most of our clothing now on we were able to
spend over half an hour on top enjoying lunch. Finally the cold drove
us down. Our arriving footprints were already snow covered. Not buried
but with about an inch of new snow.
We chose not to down climb the steep first part and instead walked down
the ridge and took the road back to our tracks. Coming down was much
faster. Back at the pond we found a number of other tracks.
It looked like an army headed past the pond on an old road. None took
our route. It looked like just a couple snowshoe tracks headed back
down. That group really packed down the trench and made descending even
easier. We zipped along to the Owl Hike Spot where we met the first two
people of the day. They went past the pond and on to the north ridge.
Poor flotation led them to turn around. They met a group of four that
continued on that route.
We kept snowshoes on all the way down to the railroad grade. The snow
was softer and thinner than in the morning but there was enough to keep
them on. We met only one more couple in the first half mile of the
trail. Back at the trailhead there were now 8 or 9 cars. Some must have
been heading along the grade or down to Twin Falls as we saw only four
people all day. This was a fun trip. The tracks ahead made for easy
navigation and no trail breaking. The falling snow, flocked trees, and
minimal view made this seem much more alpine than a 4400' bump just a
few miles from downtown North Bend. I would not have followed our route
with anything but low avalanche danger but with the right conditions it
was a blast. A fun winter day in early spring in the mountains.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Clouds Roll In
Gary On Open Slope
Back To Forest
Gary On Summit
Road Below Summit
Tracks Near Pond
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2009