Damien and I have been looking for the opportunity to try our our new Katabatic Expedition Tent. Lots of new snow had fallen over the week when the freezing level dropped to 2500 feet and we figured that made this weekend the perfect time to do so. Our destination was a far as we could get on the Plateau near Slippery Slab.

We began at the Surprise lake TH. There was about an inch or two of snow right from the start and it slowly increased as we gained elevation. There was a boot track in for about two miles. It was pretty easy to break trail though as the snow was no more than 5 inches up to the junction with the Trapp Pass Trail. However, as we began the switchbacks up to the pass with shimmering, fat snowflakes falling from the sky things began to get more challenging. By the time we reached the top of Trapp Pass we were cutting our way through 12+inches of fluffy powder.

We were granted in and out views of the ridge we were about to follow and Slippery Slab in the distance. We had been in this very spot just over a year ago when we had section hiked the PCT and turned off to do a side trip up Thunder Mountain. It looked very different now, but very gorgeous indeed. As more snow feel and the mist traded places very few minutes with hints of blue sky we turned off the trail and began to navigate along the ridge. The climbers trail was impossible to distinguish so we basically stayed the the right side of the ridge and cut through the trees and snow. Sometimes the snow was just a few inches and other times it was knee deep. When we exited the ridge and came out below the rock band on the left side the the ridge the fluffy snow was wind loaded and the high angled slope. We fought our way though waist deep snow. There was no base we found ourselves dropping into tree wells and gaps in the talus. It was more like swimming and cutting a deep channel than climbing.

After a long traverse we swam up though shoulder deep snow and up to the basin below Slippery Slab Tower. But then we were pretty beat and we nervous about all the pothole traps in the big boulders and talus hidden by snow that laid ahead. It was also getting on to evening. We found a ncie flat place on the edge of the basin by the ridge and dug our a large platform to set up our giant tent. Wow is it gigantic. The wind picked up a few times at night, but we only heard the wind in the trees. The tent barely flapped or made a sound. Bomber!

About two inches of snow feel overnight, but luckily we had cut a huge trench the day before on our way up from the basin and it was very easy to follow it back down to Trapp Pass. The same was true to the rest of the track back. A few more weeks of snow like this and there will be a good enough base to start climbing and skiing!

When wind, rain, snow and cold are in the forecast… well for us that’s a great time to play around in the mountains! When spent all of last week and most of the weekend moving so we needed a break from it all and escaped to the Mountain Loop Highway. Stillaguamish Peak was our objective. We started out on Perry Creek Trail at 8am. Not long after a frigid steady rain began to fall. Even with full goretex we somehow found the moisture seeping through to our skin. Luckily, after crossing Perry Falls at 3 miles we were back in the forest and more protected. The beta said to make note of the switchback at 4300 feet and take the climbers trail to the left .3 miles beyond theĀ  switchback. It also noted that usually the climbers trail is invisible and its easier to just continue of the trail to just below the saddle. Indeed we found no climbers trail. Instead we turned left just below the saddle at about 4850 feet and after a few yards if bushwhacking through easy brush we stumbled across a very obvious and clear climbers trail.

 

We followed this trail across the ridge. Note that it does descend about 200 ft, but them it switched back up. The precip turned from cold rain, to sleet and finally to snow. There was a chilly wind to that come up every now and then. I was on my 4th pair of gloves by then and our rain-gear was saturated. In short I was very cold and Damien was, well, I don’t think he’s ever cold. The trail follow just left of the ridge crest. Normally there would be great view of Mt Dickerman across the valley, but in the snow and mist there were vague that day. The terrain would be easy in the summer, but the wet snow made these very slick so movement was not as fast as normal. We made it past the false summit where i changed in my final 5th pair of gloves and borrowed a layer from Damien (the only other layer I had left was my down puffy and if it got wet it would be useless). We continued onward for about another 15 minutes where we got to a cliff edge and the trail seemed to vanish. There was a route down the cliff back down to the ridge. It would be doable but tricky in the slick conditions. We noted that the time was 2pm. Sunset was in 2 hours and we have 6 miles to walk out from where we soon. Navigating back along the ridge in the dark was not our first choice and the weather was constantly getting worst. We weren’t far. Maybe .25 miles and 150 ft of elevation. But it was time to turn back.

We made it back down to Perry Creek exactly at sunset and walked out with headlamps. Cold, soggy and elated that we had a chance to play in the mountains again!

Damien and I headed out for a backpack/scouting trip this weekend. The Enchantment permits were finally over and although weather and snow conditions were not promising for climbing Cashmere Mountain we decided to head in that direction anyway and scout out the route. We were happy to discover that Eightmile Road was still open. The trail was snow free to about 6000ish feet just before the pass above Lake Caroline. At the shore of Caroline there were a few sets of boot tracks and we gotĀ  abit turned around trying to identify the set of tracks that were actually following the trail to Little Lake Caroline .5 miles away. Although heavy rain was predicted we only experienced light to no rain right until we set up our tent on Little Lake Caroline. Then a cold, steady rain settled in.

It was still early in the day though and less than stellar weather never really deters us, so we set out to take a look at the trail to Windy Pass. We wanted to start in the dark the next day so we figured we’d see what we were in for… plus we had a feeling that just a bit higher up the rain would turn to snow and we love snow! As we suspected the rain did turn to snow at about 6600 feet and it was beautiful! We turned back once we got to the basin 400ft from the pass so we could turn in early. There had been a boot track the whole way so we weren’t too concerned about finding our way to Windy Pass.

The next day we woke before the sun and headed out. The rain had turned to snow overnight and there was fresh dusting at our camp and thicker fresh powder the more elevation we gained. Boot prints were blown out starting just we we had turned back the afternoon before in the basin. We put on our snowshoes and pretty easily navigated up the the ridge line just right of Windy Pass enjoying a fiery sunrise the sunrise! The clear skies didn’t last though as as we followed the ridge snow began to fall. No trouble there though. It gave things a more alpine feel! The ridge to Cashmere was pretty mellow and broad until about 7600 feet where we reached a talus hump covered in the thin layer of fresh slippery snow. We were able to traverse this sketchy section, but at 7800 feet, just before the false summit we decided to call the scouting complete for the day. The rock there was much more vertical and climbing technical rock in thin, slippery snow was not on our agenda.

The snow cleared by the time we got back to camp and the sun appeared for the hike out. With all the fresh snow there a wonderful bounty of animal tracks on the trail! Winter is coming and I’m so so happy!