Pipe Creek Loop
I first did this trip two
years earlier. It was overcast and we had no views. Also, I did not
have a camera that day. With the weather looking lousy near the crest
we decided to go
back to this area near Blewett (Swauk) Pass. Gary, Mark, and I met in
Issaquah at 7:45 and headed east. Brian was coming from Cheney, near
had a longer drive. It rained hard from North Bend to Denny Creek and
remained overcast to Easton. The phenomenon I call "The Easton LIne"
was in full
force. From there east the sky was clear and blue. We arrived at the
Creek Sno-Park at 9:15. The lot is just a mile or so south of the pass.
temperature had been near 40 degrees the previous few days with cold
No snow had fallen the last few days. I was prepared for crusty, icy
I was very surprised to find the snow was decent. Brian arrived after a
drive at 9:45 and we were soon on our way.
Brian had wide backcountry skis with skins. Mark,
Gary, and I had narrower touring skis and carried snowshoes. We did our
loop counter clockwise. It began with a quick 100' descent then a long
climb up a road. We were the first to arrive but about 4 more cars came
in within 15 minutes. Our wait for Brian was not all bad as the other
groups set tracks for us. The tracks sank 3-5 inches in the snow.
Following was definitely easier
than leading. It was very cold at the start but warmed quickly as we
When the road ended we took a break, still in bright sunshine. Our
then became more interesting. We continued on in mostly sparse forest.
route had a few steeper spots. Brian with skins went straight up while
and I made short swithbacks up the slope. Mark seemed to be able to go
straight up with his waxed skis. At one point we reached an old road
it a short way. Then it was back cross country up the slope. At that
we had our first view out to the Teanaway area. Clouds were coming in
we could see the summit of Mt. Stuart.
After a whole lot of sweating we reached the major
snowmobile road. Gary was doing fine but the other three of us had
ice build up on the bottom of our skis. Brian's big wide skis seemed to
have an extra 5 lbs. of ice on them. After a short stay on the road
led us onto his bypass route. This is one of the best parts of the
We skied through several open meadows along the way. After leaving the
meadow we had another steep climb. The snow was soft but fine for
At one point we were hemmed in by small trees. Everyone took a
route and I took the worst one. One ski went under a branch where the
tip was buried under snow. I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go
Instead I slid down a tree well. My long 215 skis were jammed in. I had
heck of a time crawling out as the soft snow gave me no purchase. It
kept sliding down further burying me. After much cussing I managed to
my way out. I didn't catch up until we reached the snowmobile road
By now the blue sky was all gone. It was gray and darkening by the
We came out by an intersection. We took the right
most of the two roads going to our left. After a very short distance on
road we turned off onto a very narrow road climbing to our right. When
and I were here in 2002 there was a tree down across the route which
snowmobiles. With the tree gone the road was freshly packed down by the
We climbed the road for less than 10 minutes to a wide flat area and
into the forest. By now it was 12:30 and we needed to stop for lunch.
trailhead is at 3600' and our lunch spot was at about 5000'. With the
gone it was cold again as we sat down for lunch. I knew this was as far
I could ski so on went my snowshoes. I left my skis there. Gary also
on snowshoes but he carried his skis on up. Mark and Brian remained on
I was amazed at the depth of fresh snow. I sank 4-6 inches even with
on. I did not see any online record of significant snowfall in this
the previous week. Brian went out ahead and made a wide enough track to
it much easier for Gary and I. Mark did not have skis but doggedly
to climb the steep slope with his touring skis. The route was heavily
It was amazing to continually find small openings that allowed us to
forward. Several times Gary and I saw spots we remembered from our
trip. We were reasonably sure that we were on virtually the same route.
about 5500' we traversed along the top of an open slope. Thick forest
just above us and this was the easiest place to proceed. As we tromped
a long crack appeared in the snow. We were quickly beyond it but it
me a good deal of concern about reaching the ridge top up the final
We went through an opening in the trees and reached
the big flat meadow that Gary and I remembered well from our previous
trip. From this 5600' flat area it is one last climb to the summit of
Point 5969. We made it last time but were concerned about the
possibility of an avalanche this time. Last time we summited and had no
views and strong sub freezing winds. I had hoped to get back on a sunny
day. It started out that way but by now it was so cloudy that there
would be no great views from the top.
With all that in mind we decided to go up a short way to a bench to see
views there were and then head down. Gary switched to skis, Brian took
his skins, and Mark applied glide wax. When all that was done it was
to descend. For the most part I had a great time tromping down in the
snow. For the most part. Half way down I fell into a deep hole. The
gave way and I was nearly shoulder deep. Snow cascaded into the hole
buried me to my waist. With the weight of the snow I couldn't get my
out. Much more cursing ensued. Brian and Gary were ahead of me and Mark
still out of sight behind. I managed to pull one foot part way up but
other one would not budge. As I bailed snow out of the hole it just
right back in. One final big tug and my foot came out without the
Oh sh*!@t. Now I had to bend over and go fishing for my shoe. After
more cursing I found a corner of it and yanked it out. I managed to
out of the hole on my stomach as I had nothing firm to step on. I
the binding was broken (it wasn't) so I just waited for Mark. When he
I took one of the snowshoes he was carrying and was back on my way. I
immediately fell back into my waist again. Much more cursing ensued.
After getting out of that one it was an easy trek back to my skis.
The last leg was all downhill on skis. It began
with 3 miles of wide road. The road is gently graded and the snow was
soft and slow. Just my type of conditions. In less than 30 minutes we
were exiting the road and dropping into Swauk Meadows. On my previous
trip there were
snowmobile tracks right next to the sign which stated "skiers only".
meadow was a mess of deep snowmobile tracks. This time there were no
The meadow slopes down for a good distance. It is not very steep. I'm
Brian found it to be way too slow. I was glad to see it. At the end of
meadow is a road leading back to the sno-park. It was longer and
than I recalled. It was not really steep but I was so tired that my
was about shot. After a few falls we made it back to the start.
The trip was lots of fun. I really enjoy
ski/snowshoe combo trips. They allow me to go places I could not ski
alone. They also
allow much greater distance than snowshoe trips as the descent is much
The sunny morning turned to clouds much too early for me to get the
I hoped for. Still, I did get some nice shots. After taking no camera
my first trip there I really wanted to come back with one. Within a few
months I will be back in the Teanaway area for spring snow scrambles
will serve to tide me over until then.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Pipe Ck Sno-Park
Photo Page 2