An awesome mix of winter experiences this weekend.
Saturday, Patrik and I planned to head up to Snoqualmie Pass and get some more use out of our snowshoes. The path of choice was Keechelus Ridge as it sounded feasible for the morning and would leave us with enough time for me to get back to run the Fanny Pack Party (i.e. Ski patrol graduation party) that evening. I was so focused on checking the Avy forecast and snow conditions that I failed to look at one crucial bit of data: road condtitons. Patrik texted me the evening before with the news…
Before we could pull out our respective snowshoe books, I threw Mailbox out as an alternative. I’ve been meaning to go back for Old Trail, I need to condition for the Mountaineers scrambles, and it sounded like a good plan. Always game for an adventure, Patrik agreed. Rendezvous in North Bend at 8am, see you there!
Old Trail up Mailbox has a reputation as an ass kicking uphill where many hikers have gotten into trouble. The path is marked by white diamonds on tree trunks and easy to lose and the 5.2 mile RT trail (so 2.6 one way) gains 4,000 feet in elevation by going as straight up the mountainside as it can. But it needed to be done, so we decided to go do it.
The nice thing about Old Trail in winter is that the path is easy to follow. The boot path probably fades away up the hillside in summer, but this time of year the snow left visible tracks as the hikers before us laid out the path along rapid switchbacks as they ricocheted between tree trunks. Although we were both quickly winded, we kept a good pace, pausing for water and to give our legs quick breaks and then to slip on our microspikes as the snow and ice became thick on the trail. Eventually we hit legitimate snow, but the woods up were gorgeous with the frosty dusting that managed to find its way down between the trees.
Being a Saturday, there were quite a few people out with us, and the crowd became noticeable as we cleared the trees and faced the two steep pushes for the top. Patrik befriended a woman who works for an outdoor adventure company with a gorgeous young dog named Siff, and I spoke with a man who shared his journey from Mt. Adams to Rainier to Everest Basecamp and now is hoping for Kilimanjaro. Even though it was a bit thicker with people on the summit than I usually prefer, it was neat to talk to the different folks and enjoy the nonexistent views as the clouds were thick and low. All told, we made the summit in 2:51 (according to Patrik’s tracker) and that included me stopping for several minutes to dig out my gloves as we proceeded up the snowy scramble to the top. Not bad at all!
We made it down in time to grab a late lunch at North Bend Bar and Grill then I raced up to the ski area to throw together the candidates’ party and Patrik headed off to pursue more great finds at Half Price Books before heading home to catch up on “real life” chores and such that always seem to get put off when there are mountains to climb.
Sunday morning was Emily’s birthday, and to celebrate we planned a ski day at White Pass. Em and her boyfriend, Wesley, drove up on their own and I chauffeured Brigitte and Mike in my car. We rendezvoused at the area just in time for the half day tickets and we proceeded up to the Coulior Chair where we spent the next 3.5 hours dancing through delicious powder along the numerous blue glade runs at the top of the area. The amazing snow came at the cost of low visibility and hardly any views to the surrounding mountains, but I think it was absolutely worth it! Emily seemed to be enjoying herself, it was a treat for me to get to ski with my parents for the day, and we all had delicious pizza and birthday cake in the lodge afterwards. Em and Wes were gifted with a night in the White Pass Inn while the rest of us made the long drive back to Vashon. A very full and exhausting weekend, but one of those where I just can’t stop smiling from the sheer amount of awesome that it contained.
To follow our trail…