Rattlesnake Mountain Traverse

The start of a new year with lots of snow in the mountains and the foothills. The avalanche danger was high and so we chose a close in hike. I've done the traverse of Rattlesnake Mountain in both directions and in all seasons. I had never done it with snow from one parking lot all the way to the other. We ended up with a good sized group, all the better if there may be some trail braking in deep snow. Included were Suzanne, here dog Gusto, Barry, David (Opus), Kolleen, Bob, David (Brewmaster), Nancy, Mark, and their dog Timber. We met at the west trailhead and drove cars to the east end. The drivers all came back in David's car. While waiting for the shuttle the rest of us headed up to the park at Snoqualmie Point. The gates to the lots were locked so we walked the few hundred yards to the viewpoint.

It was cloudy and cold but we did have a nice view of Mt. Si and the cascade front. We headed back to the gate and another group arrived and headed up the trail. They turned out to be another nwhikers group. I just didn't know it at the time. Our drivers finally arrived and we were on our way by about 9:15 am. While snow covered all the ground it was not deep. I was cold from the long car shuttle wait but after a fast start I began to warm up. We had a few stops for clothing breaks but kept up a steady pace. About 3 miles along Mark realized he had lost his snowshoes and turned around to go look for them. He did find them way back near the start so his hiking was unfortunately done for the day.

The group ahead of us had stomped down the snow well and we did not need snowshoes until popping out of the forest onto the old road about half a mile from Grand Prospect. We slogged along with a little bit of light snow falling at times. It was 11:45 by the time I reached Grand Prospect. Two and a half hours is a long time for the 4+ miles but the snow did slow us down. I was surprised we had not caught up with the other group since they were doing some trail breaking. We were still more than a mile short of the half way point but at least we had gained most of the elevation.

After lunch we headed on. The trees along the next section were snow plastered and had some interesting ice crystals built up on their limbs. We dropped a little as we came around West Rattlesnake Mountain and reached the intersection of the new trail section and the old road route. The trench was on the old road route so we left the trail and followed that. Now over 3000' and largely in the open the snow became deeper. With the pre set trench we were able to keep moving at a good pace. In the summer the route seems to have a gentle grade as it climbs towards the East Peak. In snow it seemed to be much more elevation gain.

There were a few logs to get over, under, or around and they were heavily laden with snow. At least it was below 32 degrees so the trees were not raining melting snow on us. Still I had lots of snow fall on me. At long, long last we came out of the forest at the East Peak. Here we reassembled the troops for the downhill part of the trip. The new trail section quickly leaved the road below the tower but the trench remained on the road. Once again it was easier to follow the track than to create a new trench along the real trail. The road used to be the route so I was happy to follow it. Where the new trail first crosses the road the track turned left on the trail. A little more forest walking and we crossed the road again.

I have only been on the newer section below here a couple of times and if the track went off route I wasn't sure I would know where it should be. In fact that's sort of what happened. We followed the trench until it suddenly left the vaguely obvious trail route and climbed sharply to the road. On my very first trip up the East Peak I blundered onto the road and followed it to the summit. I knew roughly where we were. I also knew the road soon goes into the Seattle Watershed and we could not follow it far. We soon left the road and blasted through the trees to an old spur I recognized and soon it felt like the trail again.

At the old logging landing I knew the old trail went straight down but we continued following what we thought was the new switchbacking trail. It was. Lower down we found the tracks of the earlier group where they found the trail. Now back in a trench the going was easier. We stopped at the upper ledge for a look out. Nice views of the lower ledge, a snowy lake bed of Rattlesnake Lake, the parking lot, Chester Morse Lake, and the peaks of the North Bend area. We could see one group arriving at the lower ledge. A few more minutes of hiking brought us to the lower ledge.

Here we took off our snowshoes and most of us put on Yak Traks or Microspikes for traction. The Ledge Trail gets a lot of use and it's well packed down. It was not as icy as I expected though. The last two miles went pretty quickly and we were soon down at Rattlesnake Lake. Mark had found his snowshoes then hiked on back to the west trailhead. He then drove over to the east trailhead so we did not need to detour back to pick up a car.

The snow did slow us down as it took us 5 1/2 hours to hike the 11 miles of the trail. We finished with about an hour and a half of daylight left. It turned out to be a very nice day for a snow hike. The weather was much better than forecast as is usual these days. It was cold but not brutally so. The company was good and thanks to the earlier group we had a packed trench to follow most of the way. Not a bad way to start another year of hiking.


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Trips - 2009