The start of a
new year with lots of snow in the mountains and the foothills. The
avalanche danger was high and so we chose a close in hike. I've done
the traverse of Rattlesnake Mountain in both directions and in all
seasons. I had never done it with snow from one parking lot all the way
to the other. We ended up with a good sized group, all the better if
there may be some trail braking in deep snow. Included were Suzanne,
here dog Gusto, Barry, David (Opus), Kolleen, Bob, David (Brewmaster),
Nancy, Mark, and their dog Timber. We met at the west trailhead and
drove cars to the east end. The drivers all came back in David's car.
While waiting for the shuttle the rest of us headed up to the park at
Snoqualmie Point. The gates to the lots were locked so we walked the
few hundred yards to the viewpoint.
It was cloudy and cold but we did have a nice view of Mt. Si and the
cascade front. We headed back to the gate and another group arrived and
headed up the trail. They turned out to be another nwhikers group. I
just didn't know it at the time. Our drivers finally arrived and we
were on our way by about 9:15 am. While snow covered all the ground it
was not deep. I was cold from the long car shuttle wait but after a
fast start I began to warm up. We had a few stops for clothing breaks
but kept up a steady pace. About 3 miles along Mark realized he had
lost his snowshoes and turned around to go look for them. He did find
them way back near the start so his hiking was unfortunately done for
The group ahead of us had stomped down the snow well and we did not
need snowshoes until popping out of the forest onto the old road about
half a mile from Grand Prospect. We slogged along with a little bit of
light snow falling at times. It was 11:45 by the time I reached Grand
Prospect. Two and a half hours is a long time for the 4+ miles but the
snow did slow us down. I was surprised we had not caught up with the
other group since they were doing some trail breaking. We were still
more than a mile short of the half way point but at least we had gained
most of the elevation.
After lunch we headed on. The trees along the next section were snow
plastered and had some interesting ice crystals built up on their
limbs. We dropped a little as we came around West Rattlesnake Mountain
and reached the intersection of the new trail section and the old road
route. The trench was on the old road route so we left the trail and
followed that. Now over 3000' and largely in the open the snow became
deeper. With the pre set trench we were able to keep moving at a good
pace. In the summer the route seems to have a gentle grade as it climbs
towards the East Peak. In snow it seemed to be much more elevation gain.
There were a few logs to get over, under, or around and they were
heavily laden with snow. At least it was below 32 degrees so the trees
were not raining melting snow on us. Still I had lots of snow fall on
me. At long, long last we came out of the forest at the East Peak. Here
we reassembled the troops for the downhill part of the trip. The new
trail section quickly leaved the road below the tower but the trench
remained on the road. Once again it was easier to follow the track than
to create a new trench along the real trail. The road used to be the
route so I was happy to follow it. Where the new trail first crosses
the road the track turned left on the trail. A little more forest
walking and we crossed the road again.
I have only been on the newer section below here a couple of times and
if the track went off route I wasn't sure I would know where it should
be. In fact that's sort of what happened. We followed the trench until
it suddenly left the vaguely obvious trail route and climbed sharply to
the road. On my very first trip up the East Peak I blundered onto the
road and followed it to the summit. I knew roughly where we were. I
also knew the road soon goes into the Seattle Watershed and we could
not follow it far. We soon left the road and blasted through the trees
to an old spur I recognized and soon it felt like the trail again.
At the old logging landing I knew the old trail went straight down but
we continued following what we thought was the new switchbacking trail.
It was. Lower down we found the tracks of the earlier group where they
found the trail. Now back in a trench the going was easier. We stopped
at the upper ledge for a look out. Nice views of the lower ledge, a
snowy lake bed of Rattlesnake Lake, the parking lot, Chester Morse
Lake, and the peaks of the North Bend area. We could see one group
arriving at the lower ledge. A few more minutes of hiking brought us to
the lower ledge.
Here we took off our snowshoes and most of us put on Yak Traks or
Microspikes for traction. The Ledge Trail gets a lot of use and it's
well packed down. It was not as icy as I expected though. The last two
miles went pretty quickly and we were soon down at Rattlesnake Lake.
Mark had found his snowshoes then hiked on back to the west trailhead.
He then drove over to the east trailhead so we did not need to detour
back to pick up a car.
The snow did slow us down as it took us 5 1/2 hours to hike the 11
miles of the trail. We finished with about an hour and a half of
daylight left. It turned out to be a very nice day for a snow hike. The
weather was much better than forecast as is usual these days. It was
cold but not brutally so. The company was good and thanks to the
earlier group we had a packed trench to follow most of the way. Not a
bad way to start another year of hiking.