Mt. Pilchuck

I joined Suzanne, Barry, David, and Lauren for an early winter assault on Mt. Pilchuck. Last fall I hiked up Pilchuck for the first time in half a dozen years. The mountain was a sheet of ice. I have been up to the lookout many times but never on snow. This would be my first snow trip. With the snow level around 3000' the past few days there was a little concern about reaching the parking lot. The road is in much better than usual shape and we hit snow several hunded feet below the 3150' lot. We pulled in to find a solid six inches of snow. With two all wheel drive vehicles we did fine. Barry and I had to push the next arrival into a space. There were five vehicles in all that arrived nearly at once. We were the first to hit the trail at about 9:00 am.

The first bit of old road was wet and slushy. Things improved when we started up the real trail. There was only about 4 inches of snow in the trees and we set a good pace. We were in the clouds and views out provided only different shades of gray. The trail is in fine shape with the exception of one large tree which has fallen across the route. We all managed to hoist ourselves over it. At the switchback in the talus field we were on snow with rocks still poking through. A minimal trench still existed from the day before but overnight snow filled it in mostly. Barry and Suzanne took off around here and we did not see them again until the top.

Another group with two guys and Jasper the dog caught up and stayed near us the rest of the way to the top. Some light snow fell but it was not bad and the wind remained light. We had none of the views one expects from this trail but the snow provided a white and gray beauty of its own. I could not see very far and it was hard to spot any landmarkds. The latest version of the trail remains pretty tame though we had to gain 2200' in just under 3 miles. Many switchbacks, some hard to see, took us higher on the mountain.

We finally crossed over the ridge and began to traverse to the south side of the peak. We saw a number of icicles and some were really spectacular. Even as we neared the lookout it was still not visible. We were very close before its frozen white shape was seen. Suzanne's dog Gusto was not going to be negotiating the frozen snow covered rocks and icy steps to the lookout this day. Barry had been up and they were just below when we arrived.

I went after one of the other party and David and Lauren followed me. The boulders were very slick and large voids were hidden by a light coating of snow. I slowly worked my way up the rocks and was very careful on the icy ladder. The south side of the walkway was very windy. We huddled on the east side and David reached up to upen the door. With the shutters locked down ove the windows there is a "doggy door" opening one can crawl through to get inside. It was much warmer in there. I did the climb to the lookout without gloves to keep them dry on the wet rocks and my hands were flash frozen. They warmed quickly in the lookout with gloves on.

Suzanne and Barry headed down as we broke out our lunches. Soon it was time to depart. There is a small whisk broom inside we used to brush out all the snow we tracked in. The railing and guy wires of the lookout were covered in rime ice. Visibility was about 75'. We slowly crawled down the ladder and the boulders and prepared for our descent. It took about 2:15 coming up. We expected the descent to be much faster. It was.

Coming down we met a number of hardy souls slogging through the snow. Many were woefully unprepared for a full on winter hike. Blue jeans are not a good idea and packs are. The benign days of summer and fall are over. Lower down the fluffy white snow we trod through earlier was brown slick slush. Slick but not bad enough to add any traction devices. We reached the parking lot in 1:30. It was still only 1:00 pm.

This was a fun trip. Enough snow to make an easy trail seem like a bit of an adventure but not so much as to require snowshoes. The avalanche danger was near zero and that won't be the case for Pilchuck much longer. Nor is the road likely to be open for long. All in all, we had a good time.

Old Road
Near Start Of Trail
Flocked Trees
Tree Across Trail
Boulder Field
Snow & Leaves
David & Lauren
Sky Meets Snow
Deeper Snow
What Visibility?
Group Below Lookout
Climbing To Lookout
David Arrives
Snow & Ice
Inside Lookout
More Views
Climbing Down
Lauren Below Lookout
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009