I have done Mt. Baldy in the winter via the Cle Elum
Lake dam and Domerie Peak. I have done Thomas Mountain in the winter. I have
done both in the summer. I had not done the section from the ridge top between
Baldy and Thomas to the summit of Baldy on snow. Now I have. Suzanne, Bob,
Kolleen, Joe, and Joanna joined me for this spring dirt, snow, and ice hike.
We met at about 8:30 at the 2350' Silver Creek/Domerie Divide trailhead. By
8:45 we were on the trail. The Kachess dam road is snow free and the spur
to the trailhead is also snow free.
On our drive in we could see fresh snow down low. We crossed the creek and
climbed up to the logging road. There is one log down across the trail. The
branches make it a little tough to get by. Still no snow at the road. The
trail is getting much more obvious where it takes off again from the switchback.
There were a number more logs across the trail through here. There was also
a few icy snow patches. For the most part the ground was still bare. The ground
was about half snow covered by 3300'. At the 3530' ridge top trail intersection
the ground was mostly hard ice.
The trail sign was completely covered by snow. Bob scraped it off. We continued
along the fairly flat ridge top with some views out to Kachess Lake and Amabilis
Mountain. At the open viewpoint we stopped for food and water. just after
that the ridge turns steeply uphill. The freezing level was forecast to be
at 2500'. Conditions this time of year can be tough to gauge so we brought
snowshoes, crampons, and ice axes. The snow was so icy we soon stopped to
put on crampons. That helped a lot.
The summer trail was mostly under a few inches of snow. We headed straight
up and crossed it several times. The snow was really crappy. At times we were
on dirt then back on ice. Higher up at least it was more snow covered. Joe
was recovering from a cold and was a little slower. We had no problem with
route finding. Driving in it was clear to the east of Kachess Ridge. In fact
it was mostly clear to the west. The ridge itself was cloaked in clouds.
As we climbed higher we were getting into the clouds.
At one point on the ridge there is a clear view of Mt. Baldy. This day we
could not see it at all through the clouds. I waited for Joe and the others
headed on to the ridge top. Joe arrived a few minutes later and decided to
take a break while we headed on. Suzanne had to be back to Seattle before
5:00 pm so we were in a bit of a hurry to get to the top. Closer to the ridge
the snow was deeper and softer. Snowshoes would have been useful. I had step
left by the others and it was easy enough to keep climbing.
When I reached the ridge top the others were ready to take off. I have hiked
the ridge a number of times on dirt but it was much different on snow. Crampons
were useful in spots and a pain in others. I had some bare rock to cross but
for the most part it was all snow covered. The ridge is not flat. We had
a number of ups and downs. Our first views out were through the clouds. We
could just see Mt. Stuart and Cle Elum Lake. The summit of Baldy was still
in the clouds.
A little farther along the clouds began to part. We had some sun and suddenly
Mt. Stuart was completely in the open. The views were really pretty good.
The summer trail traverses across the west side of Baldy and a way trail goes
up the southwest side. With the snow I figured we could go right up the northwest
side. That is exactly what we did. The forest was thick but allowed us to
wind our way through.
We reached the summit at about 12:05. The wind was blowing and it was pretty
cold. We bundled up and had lunch. It was cloudy to the south and we could
even see a little rain. It was getting pretty sunny over us. We were back
on our way before 12:30. Bob and I took off our crampons. There were a few
icy spots but all in all I think it was easier. Part way back along the ridge
we met Joe.
From the trail intersection on the ridge it was all downhill. The snow was
now thin and soft. Slick as heck without crampons but too soft to keep from
getting full of snow and becoming useless. I slipped on my rear a few times
but made it down well enough. We made good time and were back to the flat
ridge top quick enough. In the forest it seemed much cooler than it was above.
Once back on dirt our pace picked up. We made it down by 2:30. At
just over 2:00 down we cut off over an hour compared to going up. This was
a fun trip. We started out on dirt then needed crampons for the ice. It seemed
like winter for a while. When the sun broke through it warmed up considerably
and we had some very good views. This trail has a steep middle section and
a nice ridge walk. The summit is "bald" with 360 degree views. It was a good
day in the mountains with good company.