After 11 miles
snowshoeing the day before I wasn't sure I was up for a ski trip. Gary
was free and I agreed to head up to Windy Pass. It's not very steep and
the downhill is groomed which is good for tired legs. With high winds
and snow forecast for sometime later in the afternoon we chose to get
an early start. We pulled into the Sno-Park at Hyak at 8:20. I have
been there earlier but I don't ever recall being the first vehicle in
the lot. This time we were. The permit seller told us he arrives at
8:00 am. By 8:30 we were on our way. It was 19 degrees according to the
highway thermometer. It was cold but it did not feel that cold.
The groomer had just come through and the track was in perfect
condition. At the open spot near the summer boat launch there were no
trees to block the wind and it was very cold. With up to 36 mph winds
forecast for the mountains we hoped Windy Pass would not live up to
it's name. About a mile along we reached the bridge over Mill Creek and
there was a ski track on the connector trail. There is also the first
of a series of blue diamonds leading you up to the ski area's Cold
Creek/Mt. Catherine Trail. This trail is open at no charge to skiers
who are using the trail to access the Nordic Pass Trail and other
backcountry areas. The Common Corridor ends at Windy Pass. You must
have a trail pass to go father on the groomed track.
The connector trail is short and a few minutes later we were on the
Cold Creek Trail. That was groomed but not since the day before. We
skied up the road at a steady pace. That was all I was up for. This was
my sixth trip in nine days and I was just plain worn out. I had a great
finish to 2008 and now a good start to the new year. When we reached
the site of the yurt it was plowed but there was no yurt. I'm surprised
it hasn't been put in place yet.
From the summer trailhead for Twin Lakes it's all up hill to the pass.
It had been sunny on the west side of the crest but cloudy on the east.
There was one big cloud at the end of the valley. I hoped it would
remain clear on the west side so I could get some clear shots of the
peaks around Granite Mountain from Windy Pass. A little after the
second and last switchback Gary took off. I suggested earlier that he
could go ahead and ski up to Nordic Pass while I slowly worked my way
up to Windy Pass. Pretty soon he was out of sight. We had seen a couple
of folks skiing down early on but that was all.
When I reached the pass I saw Gary's lone track heading off into the
deep snow. I went a little farther to get a few photos then dropped
back to the Nordic Pass junction. I reached there at 10:25 so it took
me a little under two hours to ski up the five miles and 1400' of gain.
While Gary was gone one skate skier came up then turned around and went
down. I can't ever remember getting up to the pass on a Sunday morning
and only seeing three people. Gary went fast considering the deep soft
snow but it seemed a long time as he came back down just before 11:00
am. It was not very windy when I arrived at the pass but it picked up.
I had on four layers trying to stay warm.
I recommended we drop down to the yurt site before lunch. Gary agreed
and we started down. From Hidden Valley up the track had been groomed
that morning. Only the one skater's track marred the smooth snow. It
was hard packed but much more snow than ice. I haven't done much skiing
the past few years and with tired legs I was glad to have the smooth
track. We zipped on down and began to see the morning crowds. Still, it
was not as crowded as usual.
We saw almost as many snowshoers as skiers. I love to snowshoe but I
can't figure out the appeal of walking a groomed road with skiers
whizzing by and skaters having to ask you to move to the edge. There is
no room outside of the groomed tracks in many places. You can go to
Gold Creek, Nordic Pass, Kendall Lakes, Keechelus Ridge, Lost Lake,
Cabin Creek, Lake Easton, Olallie Lake, and Granite Lakes on snowshoes
and have a much better time than on a groomed ski track. We even saw
one guy walking up the track in boots only.
The down hill went fast and we had a leisurely lunch at the yurt site.
From there it was easy skiing back to the end of the Common Corridor
(The free access to the backcountry) and the connector trail. I managed
to ski down the trail without falling though it was not pretty. Back on
the Iron Horse Trail we found the crowds. It was a zoo but we only had
a mile to go. By 12:35 we were back at the car. It only took about 1
1/2 hours coming down including a long lunch. Getting out early allowed
for a surprising amount of solitude at one of the busiest areas for
winter recreation. All in all, I'm glad I made the effort to get out
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Only Car In The Lot
Almost To Pass
Nordic Pass Route
Clouds West Of Crest
Towards Silver Peak
Gary Coming Down
Cold Creek Trail
Back On Iron Horse
Trips - 2009