Tiger 3-2 New Year's Eve

A year end hike on Tiger Mountain is my oldest tradition. Starting in 1983 I headed to Tiger for a final hike. In the early years I stopped hiking in early winter. Later on, I was hiking all year round.This would be my 38th time in 39 years. We had a big snowstorm on Monday. The temperature did not reach 32 degrees for the week thereafter. The snow was not deep but still covered most non major streets. We had more snow on Thursday morning. Gary and John joined me for the trip. It was only 27 degrees when I headed out at 8:45 am. We met at the Sunset Way trailhead at 9:20 am. We were all 10 minutes early.  It was 27 degrees at the start. There were other cars in the lot but it was far from full. The lot was entirely snow covered. We packed up quickly and were on our way at 9:30 am. Gaiters, high top boots, and microspikes from the start. John noticed that one of my spikes was not sitting right. I checked and found that the rubber that holds the spikes to my boots was cut about 80% of the way across. It was too weak to use. It would break very quickly. I put it away and went with one microspike. Not ideal, but I should have been okay.

We chose the lowest trailhead which left us with 300' to gain just to get up to the Tradition Plateau where the main High Point Trailhead is located. The forecast was for mostly cloudy with some afternoon sun breaks. We had clear sky overhead almost all day long. It was cold at first but the uphill hiking warmed us up. We climbed up to the plateau then took the Adventure Trail over to the High School Trail. That brought us to the Section Line Trail. It starts out mellow on an old road then later turns straight up the fall line. It is one of the steepest trails on Tiger. If the trail was packed down and slick microspikes might be necessary. Two microspikes. I hoped for good conditions. I received them. Since the last snow, folks had hiked up the trail. Enough to put in steps in the snow but not to leave a smooth packed track. I did okay with one microspike.

There is one more part of that story. Heading up the Section Line I looked down and saw no microspike. Oh crap! I really needed one for the steep part just above. I reluctantly headed back down looking for my spike. Within a couple minutes I found it. It is possible to walk out of a microspike though it had only happened once or twice over the years. I inspected it and found that the rubber was cut about half way through. With no other option, I put it on and hoped for the best. I was fortunate as the trail down was packed and slick and I needed that one spike. It did not break over the last 7 miles of our hike. Hiking on snow is slower and hiking on a very steep trail is slow. We were slow. We also stopped a lot. The heavy recent snow had completely flocked everything. The trees, the brush, and the ground were plastered width fresh snow. It was as beautiful hike as I have had on Tiger Mountain. Later, when out of the forest, the blue sky made it even better.

We took a break at the old railroad grade. The last part gaining 500' seemed to take a long time in the snow. On most all parts of this trip below tree line we had logs to stop  over or duck under. None were all that difficult but they added extra work. John brought a small folding saw and removed some branches making it a bit easier to get by. On the lower part of the Section Line we heard a loud "crack" and saw a big branch fall to the ground. Thankfully, that was the only one. The snow weight caused many trees and branches to fall. It is a danger on days after heavy snow. We finally reached the top of Tiger 3 at 11:57 am after a short conversation with a couple who asked about the Section Line Trail before heading down it. 2:27 was a surprisingly slow time even with all the photo stops.

The summit had blue sky overhead and clouds all around us. I could not see Seattle and a view of The Brothers in the Olympics was very short lived. It was like being in an airplane with banks of clouds at our elevation and areas of blue sky too. There was no wind on top. Gary's thermometer showed it was in the low 20s but with no wind and sunshine it felt much warmer. We had a short break and took more photos. The recent clearcut logging was a bit brutal but the views are pretty amazing for the first time this century. We could see over to Tiger 2 and see footprints all the way over. One group was heading our way and another group was heading towards Tiger 2. The summit was empty when we arrived but it filled up quickly.  We soon packed up and headed towards Tiger 2. The boot path was pretty good but it as not as will packed as the route up Tiger 3. Outside the track was soft snow deep enough to be a pain to move through. We stayed in the track. On the way over to T2 the clouds were moving. At one point we had a view through trees to downtown Seattle. The snow had blown through sideways with strong winds. Anything left after logging had inches of rime ice on the side opposite the wind. This provided some neat photos.

Looking up to the top of Tiger 2 we could see that the tower was completely caked in bright white rime ice. With a deep blue sky behind it the contrast was fantastic. Many more photos were taken. We reached the top of T2 at 12:42 pm. We had 3:45 until sunset. Days are very short this time of year. The chain link fence around the tower was almost completely filled in with rime ice creating a white wall. Every bush or tree left was completely covered in rime ice. It was a spectacular sight. We sat down for lunch and admired the views. One minute all of Tiger 1 was in the clear and a few minutes later it was lost in the clouds. A few times the sun went behind the clouds and we felt just how cold it was. At one time or another we had views out in most directions. Any thought of heading over to Tiger 1 for likely clouds views dissipated quickly. We had a longer but less steep route planned for our return.

We packed up and started back at 1:28 pm. Views had improved looking towards Tiger 3, Bellevue, Seattle, Lake Sammamish, and the Olympic Mountains. I took quite a few photos before we actually headed down the boot path. More groups had come by heading to and form Tiger 1 leaving the trench much better packed down than on our trip over. We dropped down and then climbed back up to the top of Tiger 3. Now we were on the very well packed down Tiger 3 Trail down to the High Point Trailhead.  We passed a number of folks heading up and a few fast hikers zoomed by us going down. I had a bit of a disadvantage with only one microspike but it was much better than none. For th most part it was decent traction but some spots were slick.

We descended down to the Talus Rocks junction and Gary turned left on that trail. This meant another several hundred feet of elevation gain. Along here we saw a lone deer below the trail. John managed to get a photo but when I reached the spot it had moved. The big waterfall was running but not with much water. There were some icicles at the talus rocks. We then headed down the nook trail. This deposited us on the Bus Trail. A left turn brought us to the gas line and powerlines. We went by Round Lake which was frozen over. The Wetlands Trail completed our loop where we went off on the Adventure Trail in the morning. The last part dropping off the plateau was the hardest for me. It was steep in places and very smoothly packed. One boot gripped and the spikeless one slid. I managed to get down without falling. We reached the parking lot at Sunset Way at 4:32 pm. It was 5 minutes after sunset. Sunset Way at sunset.

This was a much better trip than I was expecting. The snowy drive out of my neighborhood was fine. The weather was much better than expected. All the rime ice up high with the blue sky was magical. Our route up avoided much of the crowd. We had nearly an hour atop Tiger 2 with nobody else and little wind. Lots of fresh snow but it was well enough packed down. We started out at 27 degrees. It was colder up high. It was 29 degrees at the end. Cold but not frigid with almost no wind and sunshine. This was one of the best Tiger Mountain New Year's Eve hikes I had done.

John & Snowy Arbor
Gary On Bridge
Big Fallen Tree
Section Line Trail
Getting Steeper
Railroad Grade
Tiger 3 Summit
Tiger 2 Is Next
Looking Back At Tiger 3
Seattle In Gap
Shot Into The Sun
Hikers In Profile
Frozen Arches
Heading Higher
Tiger 2 Is Above
Looking At Tiger 1
Rime Icy Tower
Looking Back To T3
Almost At Summit
Ice Covered Fence
Gary Atop Tiger 2
T2 Summit Sign
John & Gary At Work
Heading Back
Bright Rime Ice
More Rime Ice
Waiting For Me
Downtown Seattle
Nearing Tiger 3
John Cuts Branches
Beautiful Day
Tall Trees
Cascading Falls
More Icicles
John Clearing Trail
Round Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2021