Amabilis Mountain

Gary and I headed up to Snoqualmie Pass for a day of cross country skiing. We were prepared for interesting conditions. Forecasts were for very strong winds on the west side and 14 mph winds at Amabilis. With the 13 to 30 degree expected temperatures (quite a spread of forecasts) it would be somewhere between cold and frigid. So often the high winds at Amabilis fail to occur and so we headed east anyway. We stopped at the Hyak sno-park to buy a day sno-park pass. Then on to Cabin Creek. There were only half a dozen cars in the lot at 8:15 am. Some looked like they were there overnight. The huge dump of snow the week before finally brought winter to the mountains. There was snow on the road across the overpass to the start of the groomed ski area. The wind was almost non existent. It was chilly in the mid 20s but not too cold.

The route up Amabilis had been groomed to the ridge top on both forks three days earlier. Just the day before it was groomed up to the junction. It was also in the high 30s to low 40s the day before. The freeze thaw cycle had made for a very firm snow/ice pack. Not the solid ice that is scary for me to come down. Just slick enough to be challenging. On the positive side it was snowing lightly and kept snowing all day. There was just a little fresh snow on the hard pack to help with traction going up and coming down. Though we were not expecting any views, the clouds were high enough for us to see much of the mountain from the bottom.

The wall of snow to the side of the grooming was knee high or more. It was also rock hard. As we climbed up the road we began to see signs of snow sloughing off the steep road bank and onto the edge of the road. I was very surprised to see this at lower elevations in the forest. They had fallen on the freshly groomed road so the sunny warm day before must have set them off. There were also some huge snowballs in the trees. Huge as in hundreds of pounds big. One of those falling on a person would likely kill them. five feet of snow in a week will do that. Traction proved to be okay and we made reasonably good time heading up.

We reached the junction in 1:06. Not too bad. I was nervous about an avalanche chute on the right hand road. Experience has proved that route has a very windy spot too. With the temperature now around 20 degrees, wind was the last think I wanted. After a short break we headed up the left hand road. The way was a bit icy. Some spots had wind blown snow on one side that was very nice to ski. Any ruts made by skiers the day before were rock hard now. For the most part the way up was fine.  On the now more open slopes we did not see additional signs of recent sloughing. Up we went.

At about 3800' we were in the wind. My thermometer read 15 degrees. The wind was not too strong but dropped the temperature considerably. The road was even harder here and I was not anxious to ski down it. We made the wise decision to turn around. We were only a few hundred feet below the ridge top but wind, frigid cold, icy snow, and no views were not good reasons to continue up. The ski down to the junction was interesting. I was able to check my speed for the most part. Patches of wind blown snow were fun and patches of ice were not. I was glad we only passed a few people who were coming up. I needed all the room I could get to avoid ice and stay upright. Gary had considerably less difficulty.

We had another short break at the junction then down we went. We passed quite a few people who were heading up. I even recognized Jonathan with his wife and youngster who was riding in an enclosed ski cart. I managed to stop without falling while saying hi. It was still early and half way from the junction to the bottom we stopped at a switchback for lunch. We skied off the road and took off our skis the hard pack did not stand up to my weight. I fell in knee deep. A very hard crust but soft snow beneath. In a switch I was getting cold before Gary. After a little lunch I started down first. I was glad we were among the first to ski down. Each snowplowing skier took off a little more of the thin fresh snow. There would be much more ice showing later. Much to my surprise I made it all the way down without a fall.

At the bottom we headed right on the main road. Easy groomed skiing out to the road to Lake Kachess. This added several miles round trip. It as fast and easy skiing with less of a crowd than I recall on most of my visits. By 12:20 we were back at the start. A little less than 4 hours to cover nearly 11 miles with 1500' of gain. Skiing can be a lot faster than hiking. It was back in the mid 20s at the parking lot. The strong winds never materialized.There was wind up high but most of the route was fine. Once again the forecast was a little too gloomy just east of the crest. After only one ski trip last year this was my second this year. Hopefully I'll get in a few more before the snow melts.


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Trips - 2014