Mt. Catherine

After three years it was time for a return visit to Mt.Catherine. The route has very low avalanche danger to Nordic Pass. It also has few folks most days. The summit probably has pretty good views but it's not a trip we do  on a clear winter day. It's close in and best for those days that a more ambitious trip won't work. This day was no different. Low avalanche danger but overcast with a chance of rain or snow. Just one week earlier I made a first visit to Radio Mountain on the opposite side of Nordic Pass. That trip was via Windy Pass and mostly on skis. This one was all boots and snowshoes. I have an earlier report with more specific directions for the trip.

Our group of 7 people and 3 dogs were on the way by about 9:00 am. We walked the road to the leftward switchback and found a six foot tall snowbank. Easy enough to kick steps up. There is a pretty thick snow bridge over the creek. One of the easiest crossings ever. I expected a trench as there has been little snow the past week. Nope. Barry took the lead as we kept our snowshoes on our backs and followed the blue diamonds. Great snow conditions and even a little blue sky. It had rained part way to Snoqualmie Pass.

We lost the trail at one point but just headed uphill and soon reached the meadow before Hyak Lake. The lake is well snow covered as expected. We were still on course at the power line swath. After crossing the groomed ski trail we found the big tree in the meadow with the blue diamond. Here we put on snowshoes for the rest of the day. light snow blew on and off but never hard. Our route rounded Frog Lake and made the gentle climb to Nordic Pass. We picked up some snowshoe and ski tracks along the way.

We took a short break at Nordic Pass. There was an old track leading up Catherine that made route finding a snap. The climb onto the ridge and first part of the ridge are about the steepest parts of the whole trip. Great traction this day made the climbing easy. It took us just under two hours to reach Nordic Pass. The last mile to the summit gains 1000'. For the most part it stays on or just right of the ridge top. The summit block is always interesting. On our first visit Suzanne and I were stopped by deep unconsolidated snow just below the top. On my second visit we contoured below the summit on the left side to the far ridge then walked up. The next two times we scrambled up a steep gully just left of the ridge before the summit. It seems to vary a lot each time.

This time we continued following the snowshoe track as it contoured around the left side. A couple switchbacks below the summit brought us up to the top. Very good snow conditions made for the easiest summit climb so far. Visibility was minimal just like every other time I have been on top. On the positive side, the wind was very light. We arrived on top just before 12:00 pm. Something like 4 1/2 to 5 miles one way. Other than a few skiers on the crossover routes we saw very few folks.

Dropping down to Nordic Pass was much faster. Near the pass we met some skiers and snowshoers. The snowshoe folks had gone to Twin Lakes then up and over the ridge of Catherine. They were glad to hear that there was an easy way back down. The rest of the descent was just a slog. Down at the meadow near Hyak Lake a group was having a picnic. The track was much more defined down low. Folks were enjoying the lower part of the route. We took three hours to summit and cut off a half hour on the descent. We were back at the car just before 3:00 pm. More rain on the west side of the pass driving home.

We had really good weather all things considered. A little snowfall but no rain and very little wind. The snow conditions were excellent. Really easy walking with just a little soft snow and great traction. Great company added to the fun. Catherine was become a winter staple trip. I'm sure I'll be back in a year or two.

Here is Suzanne's NWHikers trip report:  Mt. Catherine Report & Photos

Old RR Grade
Gus On Trail
Bare Ground
Meadow Before Lake
Crossing Hyak Lake
Mt. Catherine Ahead
Back In Forest
Tom & Jasper At NP
Break On Ridge
Filtered Blue Sky
Forested Ridge
Nearing The Top
Summit Is Above
North End Of Summit
Group On Summit
Usual Summit Non Views
Descending From Summit
Descending Ridge
Lower On Ridge
Recrossing Hyak Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012