Commonwealth Basin

     I had snowshoed into Commonwealth Basin only two times before. With some avalanche danger present this seemed to be a good choice. I was nervous because of the weather the last week. On Thursday it reached 45 degrees at Snoqualmie Pass and dumped 3 inches of rain. It cooled on Friday and 7 inches of snow fell. I expected half a foot of cascade concrete over ice. I was to be pleasantly surprised. Suzanne, Rick, Bernadette, and I met up at the ski area and walked under the freeway. We headed up and shortly reached the summer PCT trailhead. The outhouse is nearly buried and the sign has only a sliver of wood showing. We found that our 9:00 start was not early enough to beat several other groups. The good news was that we had the start of a nice trench to follow. Now, about the snow. Powder! At Snoqualmie Pass! It was some of the driest snow I have seen up there. It was a pleasure to snowshoe in that type of snow. Even breaking trail was not too difficult with short MSR snowshoes. I do not expect to see any more of that type of snow this year.

     We had no preplanned agenda so we just kept following the track into the basin. In due course the grade leveled off and we came to the place where most people had crossed the creek. It was wide and not very deep with a track cut down one side and up the other. Our group consensus was to avoid wet feet so early in the trip so we stayed on the right side of the creek. A smaller track continued this way and soon headed uphill. The slope is too steep to stay by the creek but it was easy to climb up above it. We soon could see open slopes above which I recognized at the talus field where the PCT descends before intersecting the Commonwealth Creek Trail. The track ended here and we were now on our own. It was soon possible to drop back down to the creek.

     We followed the creek a ways until finding a downed log which made for a nice snow bridge. We crossed and soon picked up the main snowshoe track again. The route was climbing along the left side of the valley. Clouds hid Red Mountain and Kendall Peak but we had some views of Guye Peak. Across the creek I could see the ridge which the summer trail follows up to Red Pass. We passed one group and caught up with the trail breakers. They were heading down to the creek below. We decided to follow them down and across a nice snow bridge. They were heading straight up an avalanche slope on the other side. The snow was good and we followed but under different snow conditions it would not have been a good idea. After gaining about 300' we turned right and traversed back into forest. Although there were many small trees and tree wells we found a good route. The goal was to keep at a steady elevation and intersect the ridge where the summer trail is located. This plan worked perfectly and we were soon on the ridge top.

     The summer trail makes many switchbacks just below the ridge crest. With 8 feet of snow it was easy to stay right on the crest. It was a blast to slog down the ridge in the soft unmarked snow. Once back to the bottom we followed the creek again. In the summer there is one creek and a few dry creek beds. It is a little different in winter. We soon had a creek coming in from the left. We had to cross one creek or the other. It was a good 8+ feet down to the creek with vertical walls on each side. It would not be easy to climb back out if you fell in while crossing. We found another snow bridge on the left and crossed that creek. A few minutes later there was another creek. This one too required a bridge of snow over a log. Yet another crossing and we were done with snow bridges. We climbed high above the creek when the slope steepened and soon saw and heard the waterfall that drops onto the summer PCT. We soon met up with tracks again. The route out was just a nice walk in the snow. The conditions turned out to be among the best I have ever had for a snowshoe trip. It was only about 6 miles but a very good time was had by all.

PCT Bathroom
Cascade Crest Trail
Guye Peak
Creek Crossing
Untracked Snow
Sadie And Evie
Bare Slope
Valley Floor
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