When we arrived at Mazama at 9am on New Year’s Day 2016 it was about -10 degrees… so cold I had that memorable experience of my nose hairs freezing solid as I breathed. We planned to skin the famous Rendezvous XC Ski Trail system with 2 camps. The trails are known for their hut system, but we like suffering too much to stay in huts. We went to Goat’s Beard to pick up some long underwear for Damien….the cold temps suddenly sparked a desire to perhaps not just wear thin soft shell pants and to pick up our Methow Valley ski passes. While talking to the store owners about our plans they suggested that for a more fun and rugged wilderness experience we might consider a different trip. There was a 32 mile loop groomed for snow mobiles around Goat Peak. XC skiers seldom went there and sled traffic wasn’t heavy. Plus we wouldn’t have to pay for $60pp to ski. A more wilderness experience at the cost of just our sno-park pass which we already had sounded awesome we we changed our plans and headed for the Goat Creek Sno-Park.

The parking had lots of folks getting their sled ready… it was kind of humors showing up in a tiny car with little skis in this parking lot of trailers and snowmobile. The trail was well signed at junctions on the ascent. Basically we followed all the signs that said “Goat Peak LO” which were all turns to the right. The day heated up as we ascended partly because of the sunshine and partly because of the inversion. But it was never exactly warm… just less cold. Views of the North Cascades opened up as we steadily climbed the pleasurable even grade up the slope. We could recognize the Wine Spires and Silver Star among the many peaks. Snowmobiles did pass us, but it certainly wasn’t constant and we heard them with plenty of time to move to the side to let them pass.

We arrive at the famous viewpoint pullout at about 3:15pm as the day began to dim. Some snowmobilers told us that this was the best view of the loop. Damien wanted to camp here and enjoy the sunset even though we had daylight left. So we dug out a platform hidden from the road on the overlook with sprawling views of the Methow Valley and peaks of the North Cascades. The air temperature plummets immediately after the sun dipped below the mountains we were were very happy to be covered to big puffy down from head to toe. As hues of pick and orange painted the ski we boiled water in our stove which we hung from a tripod of ski poles. We’d be having trouble with fuel efficient even with the MSR Reactor stove in the cold, so Damien attempted to keep the canister warm with his mitten. It worked!

We slept with the tent door mostly open, but when we woke in the morning the inside walls were still adorned with thick crystals from the lack of wind. We finally emerged from our sleeping bags at about 7:30 and began the process of breaking down camp in single digit temps. But when the sun finally hit it suddenly felt very warm and we stripped off our down hastily! We continued on. From here the track descended for 4400ft for about a mile loosing maybe 600-800ft of elevation. Then the trail began to once again climb up to the Goat Peak Lookout Trailhead/saddle. It was pretty steep here. Not enough to Herringbone, but enough so that every now and them we slide back and had to weight the skis well some the fish-scales would catch.

We arrived at the Trailhead which had a bathroom and wide area for parking in the summer. The route to the Goat Peak is too steep for xc skis, but to the left was a snowmobile off trail route along the connecting ridge. We turned off the main track to explore the ridge a bit. We had to herringbone up the entire way but it did afford us with some nice views. We opted to walk down though as our attempts to ski down the 200 descent was resulted in constant falling.

Behidn the bathroom in the parking lot is the “beaver Slide” which is groomed only in the winter to connect the upper road to the lower road 600 ft below. This is extremely steep and definitely not meant for xc skiiers. We walked down this slope too. It’s not very long a walk though and we were back on the lower road gliding along in about 15 or so minutes. For about and hour we headed away from Goat Peak following a drainage. This was the hardest part of the trail mentally as the going is pretty flat and seemingly endless. However, once on the other side the ski was once again enjoyable. We did some up and down to two large overlook areas. We decided to ski on even though it was 3:30pm and a enjoy and evening ski. Mileage was fast since it was downhill from here and somewhat steep in some parts. We stopped at 4:30pm about .25 miles from the next junction and camped behind a fallen tree for protection from snowmobilers.

It was bitter cold as we set up camp that night. Before going to bed i read the air temperature as 5 degrees and declining. Our toes froze that night even with all our down puffiness and I’m sure it dipped into the negatives. But we do like suffering!

In the morning it took some real willpower to crawl out of the sleeping bag. Damien made some extra water for the descent when i unfroze my ski boots… somehow they still froze inside the sleeping bag! We left camp at about 9:00 with more clothes on than usually. The sun was not shinning and clouds hung low in the sky. It looked like it was snowing in the North Cascades. My toes took about and hour to finally get warm! The final 7.25 miles went very quick since it was mostly downhill and we reached the trailhead at 11:10am. Fast!

Let the adventures of 2016 begin!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *