Windy Pass

Gary suggested a cross country ski trip. The current inversion had Seattle under a low gray lid. It was clear up above. We drove east to find it was now clear beyond Issaquah. As we approached the Cascade Crest we could see clouds hanging over the crest. That did not bode will for the east slope where we would be starting. Yep, it was very overcast with low gray clouds. We started out at about 8:40 am. There is very little snow on the Iron Horse railroad grade. Compacted down to well under a foot. It was very icy too. The crossover trail up to the Cold Creek Road was icy snow and some dirt. More like late April than mid January.

The road began very icy. Very very icy. I could not imagine 10 miles and 1400' of gain on this stuff. Shortly we reached the bridge over Mill Creek and the ice changed to hard packed snow. Freshly groomed hard packed snow. Not so bad at all. We felt much better and our speed picked up considerably. Where the yurt used to sit there were many small alder trees poking through the thin snow cover. We rounded the first switchback and began to climb towards Windy Pass. The cloud layer was not far above us here. The snow improved a bit more as we ascended.

Trees near the pass were covered in a coat of rime ice. We were near the top of the cloud layer and the wispy clouds and bright white trees were very pretty. It was about 10:25 when we reached Windy Pass. Our original goal was to go cross country on the blue diamond marked route up to Nordic Pass. The snow cover on the steep hillside leading to the pass was very thin. We chose to change our plans. The grooming ended near the Pacific Crest Trail crossing with a snow berm. Nice views of Granite Mountain and mostly blue sky. We went off the road and skied across the meadow. There was a hard crust but we did not sink in far as it broke. There is just not a lot of snow to sink into. The wind was blowing cold and steady. We found a small area where we could get out of it.

Below us was a cloud layer sitting just west of Snoqualmie Pass and well to the east.  We had driven through it a few hours earlier. Above the low clouds it was mostly all blue sky. We had nice views north to Granite, Snoqualmie Mountain, Guye Peak, and Red Mountain. Just enough now snow to make for a wintery look. It was only about 32 degrees where we were just below 4000'. The 6:00 am telemetry at nearby Alpental showed 42 degrees at 5470' but only 23 degrees at 3100'. The Inversion was intense and we were not high enough to get into the warm weather. Still, without the wind it would have been quite warm for mid January.

We sat down to eat lunch and a few minutes later a lone backcountry skier came right on by. We sit down behind a snow wall in a meadow and see the first person in quite a while. We chose to loop back to Windy Pass rather than retrace our tracks. On a very icy spot while side stepping I fell right on my rear. Amazingly, that was my only fall of the day. We followed an old road that was partly over grown with small trees. Not nearly enough snow to bury any of them. Back at Windy Pass we saw many folks. I was surprised since the day before and at 6:00 am that morning the Summit website said that all the Nordic Center trails would be closed. They changed their mind. With the lack of snow it was not nearly as crowded as a normal mid January Saturday but there were a number of folks on the route while we were heading down.

I was not very steady on the hard packed snow on my second cross country trip in three years and getting down without falling was an accomplishment. We left the road at the end of the common corridor and hiked back through the woods to the Iron Horse grade. There were quite a few folks out on the very thin icy track. It was mostly arm propulsion as I had very little grip on the ice. This was a successful ski trip considering the lack of snow. The really bad ice over dirt gave way to some decent skiing up higher. The views were outstanding. Most of my visits to Windy Pass are in a sea of gray clouds. The weekend was a great success as I skied on Saturday and sat home on Sunday watching the Seahawks win the NFC Championship.

Sunrise On The Drive
Not Much Snow
Nordic Center
Groomed Track
Climbing Into Clouds
Waterfall & Icicles
Icicles Close Up
Gray All Around
Into The Sunshine
Rime Ice Trees
Near Windy Pass
Bright Blue Sky
Granite Mountain
Towards Nordic Pass
Low Clouds
Snoqualmie Mountain
Gary Enjoys View
Granite & West Granite
Peaks To The North
Ski Bushwhacking
Iron Horse Grade
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014