Diamond Head

Gary was free but the weather looked awful. Steady rain on the west side of the mountains and very high winds on the east side. We came up with two options. A loop on Mt. Si including one new trail neither of us had hiked or Diamond Head near Blewett Pass. The wind there was expected to have 34 mph gusts. Wind like that blowing across snow is brutal. The chance of falling trees is another concern. Saturday morning the wind forecast was down to gusts in the mid 20s. We chose the long drive east. If the wind was too strong we might have to abort. A hike on the west side meant warm and very wet. Back in 2011 Janet and I snowshoed up Diamond Head from Blewett Pass. A fun trip on a clear day with great views. That was a low snow year and the off road/trail section was pretty easy. With the strong winds Gary suggested starting lower at the Pipe Creek sno-park.

We met at Eastgate at 7:30 am. A little later for a long drive in early February. Days are still very short. The drive was mostly in rain until over Snoqualmie Pass and down to Easton. In the distance we could see a little clearing. Some strong winds out to Cle Elum where we headed north on Highways 970 and 97. A few miles before Blewett Pass we turned into the Pipe Creek parking lot. The lot was a skating rink. Smooth solid ice from one end to the other. There were two other cars in the lot. We were packed up and on our way at 9:08 am. It had been over 32 degrees the past few days and it was 41 degrees when we started. I expected to see packed snow be very icy. It was not. Gary and I had only skied here and to our surprise it was marginally skiable this day. We made it .64 miles when we began to sink in and stopped to put on snowshoes. We met a couple snowshoeing back after a night out camping. We passed another group heading out. That accounted for both cars.

The road/trail heads for Swauk Meadow. Before the meadow we turned off on another road. We followed it half a mile to a bridge over a creek. Here we left the road. The snow was soft enough for us to sink in a bit. Not hard but much more work than consolidated snow. Neither of us had been on this leg of the route. It grew steeper higher up but went just fine. After slow slogging we made it up to the main road out of Blewett Pass. This road is groomed for snowmobiles and very busy on weekends. Pipe Creek sno-park is non motorized. Only up on the main road did we see snowmobiles. We only saw a few here. We headed up the road a short .30 miles to a road on the left side. As we climbed up to the main road we came into sunshine. Very warm sunshine. With a temperature in the 40s and sunshine it felt like spring snowshoeing not winter. We heard some wind but it was not a problem so far. A short way up this road we stopped in the sunshine for a food break. It was already 11:00 am. It took us 1:52 to cover 2.5 miles. snowshoeing in soft snow is slow.

At 11:18 we were back on our way. I had a GPS track from the 2011 trip it helped us find the best spot to leave this spur road and head straight up to the upper road near Diamond Head. One could walk the main road all the way up but this off track climb in forest is quite a bit shorter. It might not have been faster under these conditions but it is shorter. Another spur road on the map does not appear to exist any longer. We had to reconsider where to leave the road. We found a good spot right after a left turn in the road where we entered the forest. We stopped a number of times to check our route and we were consistently right on the old GPS track. The first part was at a very gentle grade then it began to steepen. At no time was it overly steep. The snow was deeper here than on our earlier off road section and we sank much farther. The trail breaker sank almost knee deep with most steps. It was frustratingly slow. A larger party to switch the lead would have been helpful. We just slogged our way uphill. We were happy to reach the upper road.

The section from where we left the spur road up to the upper road was .60 mile gaining 710'. It took us 51 minutes to climb. That is mighty slow. It was also some great snowshoeing. No road or trail, no tracks, and no signs of anyone else. Now on the upper road we could hear the wind. It was getting very loud. We still did not feel it much. There is a break in the trees along the road and we now had great views west to the Teanaway Peaks and the Stuart Range. Resplendent with a fresh coat of white snow. The road continued to climb but was much faster. We reached a signed junction. Only 27 miles to Ellensburg. Not this day. We followed a snowmobile track left as it headed towards the top of Diamond Head. We were now only about 300' below the top.

We left the track and made our own. The wind was very loud to our left so we stayed in trees and well right of the ridge top to minimize it. It worked very well. At the end of the trees is an open slope leading to the long summit ridge. We stopped to put on jackets and tighten the hoods against the wind. On the open slope there were no trees to fall. It was perfectly safe. The ridge of Diamond Head runs north - south. The wind was out of the west south west. Once up the slope we entered forest and were almost entirely out of the wind once again. The top is pretty flat. We went to where the map showed the high point. Maybe it is 5' higher. In 2011 we continued farther north to a viewpoint. Gary and I did the same. The ridge drops a little to a point out of the trees. Here we saw a skier. We never crossed his tracks so he had to have come up the north side. Now it was time to finish our lunches. It was also 1:32 pm. It took us 4:24 to snowshoe 4.6 miles gaining just under 2400'. Our lunch break lasted 20 minutes.

We packed up at 1:52 and headed back. We had abut 3:25 before sunset. Clearly we needed to pick up our pace. Back up to the summit, along the ridge and down. I saw a good viewpoint to the west and we left our track. Two snowmobiles arrived just as we did. We could now see clouds starting to come in to the west. Overhead it was still blue sky. The views were great. The wind was pretty strong too. Not hard enough to knock us over but it made steady photos almost impossible as gusts moved my arms back and forth. Before long we were heading down again. The drop to the road went fast. The road walk went fast. Slogging down from the upper road went a lot faster than the ascent. In just 1:19 we were back at the lower main road. We did see some snowmobiles on our short .30 walk. We also basked in bright warm sunshine. A complete opposite of the conditions on Mt. Si this day. We left the road and did not see anyone else the rest of the way back.

The last few miles on road were a slow slog. Once on the road from Swauk Meadow I was thinking about the time we had skied down this last section. Snowshoeing takes about five times longer than skiing it. We finally reached the parking lot at 4:14 pm , a full hour before sunset. We took 4:24 to go up and 2:22 to come down. That is a considerable difference. All in all, it was a great trip. It would have been faster and easier if John had been able to come along. Gary and I worked hard breaking trail but it was good to be off of any route. The weather conditions turned out better than our most optimistic hopes. Mostly sunny turned out to be almost completely sunny and the wind, though present, did not impact our route much at all. We saw two snowshoe groups, one skier, and several groups of snowmobiles though on only a small part of our route. A great time was had by both of us.

Icy Parking Lot
Booting It
Road Walking
Cross Country Ascent
Break Time
Compacted Spur Road
Gary Breaks Trail
Gary Sinks In
Teanaway Peaks
Stuart Range
Onto Upper Road
Sun, Snow, & Burn
Windy Open Slope
Gary At Lunch
View To The North
Diamond Head Summit
View West
Three Brothers
Wider View
Navaho Peak
Back On Road
Look Back To Summit
Steeper Descent
Break Time
Sunny Middle Road
Last Summit View
Off Road Again
Last Road Section

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Trips - 2018