This week brought a real winter storm to the Washington
Cascades even though we are only mid way through fall. Two weeks ago I
was in shorts and short sleeves coming down from Mt. Defiance. Last week
I was slogging through 6 inches of snow at 5600' on Silver Peak. This weekend
Gary and I set out to find a trip with a low enough start to avoid snow
on the drive but high enough to get into some fresh snow. Mission accomplished
with a hike on Mt. Dickerman. I've done this hike with snowshoes many times
after the first snow of the season. This time we had some serious snow.
We hoped to get a fairly early start with the short days but late enough
that someone else could do some trail breaking ahead of us. We half way
succeeded. The snow level was forecast to be at 2500' and the parking lot
is at 1900'. As we drove beyond Silverton there was already snow along the
road. Soon the snow was on the road. By Big Four there were only a few tire
tracks across the snow covered road. As we slowed down for the Dickerman
trailhead it was obvious that the whole lot was snow covered. We determined
that it looked OK and pulled in. Although it was already after 8:30 there
were no other cars in the lot. So much for any trail breakers ahead of us.
This is a popular trail with snow and I can't ever remember a November trip
where I was first to arrive.
By 8:40 we were ready to hit the trail. It was 30 degrees and the snow
was thin but firm. No slush to slog through. We made decent progress under
the circumstances for the first few miles. Snow bombs continuously fell
from the overloaded trees. We stopped to shed clothes and one huge bomb hit
us both just after we took off our jackets. Instantly we were soaked. Ah,
the fun of snow hikes. Clouds hung low and at a viewpoint where Big Four
can be seen across the valley we saw not much at all. After one final switchback
we began the long traverse to the left. Soon after we were slogging up to
our knees in really soft snow and we had to stop to put on snowshoes.
We passed the big overhanging rock and came out of the forest where the
snow became much deeper. Our pace really slowed down with the snow now up
to 3 feet deep. There was no base at all and I postholed to dirt several
times. The big gully where the trail crosses a creek with a waterfall above
was challenging. It was a steep drop to the bottom then very soft snow above
the creek. By now we were creating quite a trench. We figured anyone behind
us must be traveling at least 3 times our speed. I was ready for some trail
breaking help. We continued on to where the summer trail takes a sharp
turn to the left. The trail goes over and through rocks here and we were
now wallowing beyond our waists in snow.
Our speed was so slow it was getting real depressing. At this point a
reinforcement appeared. Steve was alone and on snowshoes. Now with a third
trail breaker our spirits rose and we continued on. The normal winter route
did not seem like a good option so we followed the summer trail. There just
is no base and the steeper winter route would have been swimming in 4 feet
of snow trying to get snowshoes to grab on anything. We made better progress
with a third but it was still really slow. We held out a slim hope of reaching
the summit but really just being out in so much deep snow was more than
enough payoff. In places the snow was nearly shoulder deep after we carved
out our trench.
Gary and I had stopped earlier for a food break but Steve had not. He
did so now and Gary and I continued to break trail. Steve would not have
much trouble walking up the trench to catch up with us. Shortly there after
two more snowshoers caught up with us. It turned out to be George and Sue
Olson. I have done a number of Mountaineer scrambles and snowshoe trips with
them in the past. It had been several years since our paths had crossed.
When Steve caught up we had a group of five which allowed for us to change
the lead much more often. The fifth person in line had an easy time with the
well packed down snow.
We climbed up onto the ridge and would have had a good view of Mt. Stillaguamish
and Mt. Forgotten if not for the thick clouds. In places on the ridge we
could barely move on the steeper snow. I sank below my waist on every step
when leading. This was one of the very few Cascade scrambles I've done where
monster 36" snowshoes would have been helpful. On the steep sections even
those would not have helped. By 1:30 it was apparent that we had no
chance of reaching the summit and getting out before dark. Five hours and
we were about 3 1/2 miles up the trail. That did also include about 3200'
of elevation gain on snow. We followed on the ridge top until the ridge
turned nearly straight up. At this point the summer trail begins a gentle
traverse to the meadow below the summit. Realizing we were already at our
turnaround time we stopped.
The flat ridge top provided a good place for a late lunch. The clouds
thinned a bit and we could vaguely make out Stillaguamish across the valley
of Perry Creek. After eating it was 2:10 and time time head down. The well
packed trench was so much easier to snowshoed down. As we dropped the clouds
thinned enough to provide a misty view of Big Four and Hall Peak. It was nice
compensation for a whole lot of work. Gary and I fell behind as we took
many photos. I had some camera problems and almost all my shots did not
turn out. Hopefully Gary can provide the photos for this report. The upper
mountain was a joy to descend. The trees were overloaded with a flocking
of snow. The scene was spectacular. All the more so after the abysmal winter
we had last year.
We caught up with the Olsons just after taking off our snowshoes. The
lower mountain was now really slushy. I was very pleased to maintain dry
socks the entire day. My new boots were water tight and I had no foot problems
at all. These look like real keepers. We caught up with Steve with about
a quarter mile to go. It was now getting quite dark in the forest and light
rain had started. It was nearly 4:30 when we reached the trailhead and almost
dark. The drive home was waves of light and very heavy rain. We did not
reach the summit but all in all it was a great first deep snow hike of the