Windy Pass + RR Grade + Cedar Butte
I wanted to get out to try my new cross country skis.
The past few days the temperature at Snoqualmie Pass had risen into the
40s only to drop down to the low teens at night. I did not want to get out
in an icy mess. The groomed track up to Windy Pass opened Saturday so that
would allow for a smooth test of the new skis. In case I had any energy
left or if the snow was crummy, I brought along hiking boots as well. I
did not manage to get out the door as early as planned but I was on the
road by 7:15. From my driveway on, the roads were covered with a thin layer
of ice. I drove slowly as cars zipped by at 75+ mph. Just after passing
Highway 18 traffic came to a complete stop. I soon saw why. One truck bent
in the middle, a car in the ditch, and another upside down. When the highway
rose up the valley beyond North Bend the road was suddenly bare. I had to
go up into the mountains to escape the bad roads.
The wind was howling as I neared the pass giving me some concern. It
was also 16 degrees at the pass. When I reached the Hyak sno-park there
was only one other car. It was no more than 20 degrees but there was no
wind. The railroad grade was freshly groomed and much faster than the week
before. It only took 12 minutes to cover the first mile up to Mill Creek.
From there I tried skiing through the trees on the connector route. It was
icy but I persevered almost up to the groomed road above when I fell right
on my rear. That convinced me to walk the rest of the way.
As I had hoped, the Cold Creek Road was freshly groomed. There was not
a single mark in the skating lane. Of course, it was so hard that I'm not
sure anyone could have left one. It was sunny west of the pass but clouds
covered the east slopes. As I rose patches of blue appeared. Although the
tracks were frozen solid I did have enough grip for the climb to the pass.
One skier caught up and passed me after the last switchback but otherwise
it was deserted. The blue overhead grew and I had a nice view of Silver
Peak in the sun. It was still completely calm as I neared the pass.
At the last minute the wind began to blow. 20 degrees and strong wind
is not much fun. I continued on to the crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Granite Mountain, Kaleetan Peak, Chair Peak, and the Tooth shone in the
morning sun. I left the sno-park at 8:42 and reached my turn around point
at 10:25. About 5 miles up gaining 1300' in 103 minutes. Going down was
just a bit quicker. I would have liked to stay longer and enjoy the view
but the wind was causing my face to go numb. I should have brought a balaclava.
By 10:30 I had to get going. The trip down was fast and fun. I'm not that
skilled so It was more exciting for me than it would have been for most
I reached the first switchback in 6 minutes. In 24 minutes I was all
the way back to the forest section. The Cold Creek Road will soon be crowded
every weekend but for this day I saw only a handful of others. It was still
not quite 11:00 am so I turned right on the grade instead of heading directly
back. The clouds were now gone and it was bright sunshine. There were some
people out but not as many as I would have expected. I had a nice fast
trip down to the site of the old snowsheds and turned around there. I had
nice views of the Gold Creek Valley over Lake Keechelus. Chikamin Peak
and Alta Mountain were cloaked in white.
Back at the sno-park the lot was now mostly full. Many were just arriving
and I had already finished 13 miles. It was just noon and there was plenty
of sunshine left to enjoy. I drove back to North Bend and decided to exit
the highway there. I drove up towards Rattlesnake Lake. The road was bare
but where I parked it was on a sheet of ice. The road walk was very slick
but improved when I took the connector trail. It is a little overgrown
but not too bad. In short order I was back on the same railroad grade I
had been skiing on earlier. There was some snow but not much down here.
The start of the Cedar Butte Trail was obvious with a number of footprints
in the thin snow cover. The problem was that the footprints packed down
the snow and it froze and thawed numerous times. I'm glad I had poles to
help keep me upright. When the trail finally left the clear cut and entered
the forest the going was much easier. In fact, there were even sections
of bare ground. The last switchbacks went fast and I was soon on top. There
are a few small log benches that have appeared since my last visit. I had
a nice view of Mailbox Peak, the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie Valley, Mt.
Teneriffe, and Mt. Si. I checked my thermometer and it read 45 degrees.
The ground was snow covered but it was warmer than Seattle at sea level.
My legs were about shot by now. I was concerned about coming down the
icy trail but it was not as much of a problem as I thought it would be. After
leaving the railroad grade I took a short detour to the shore of a small
lake. It was completely frozen. I had a good view of Cedar Butte above the
ice. A Kayak was tied to the shore. It was full of ice and completely surrounded
by more ice. It only took me another 10 minutes to reach my car. I managed
to use just about every muscle between skiing and hiking. I think I used
a few I didn't know I had. It was now nearly 3:00 pm. I'd had enough by this
This was a really nice day. I had a chance to try out new skis and boots.
An early start allowed me to visit a popular ski area and see very few
people. I even managed to get in a snowy hike. For the day I covered 16
miles with 2400' gained.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Cold Creek Road
Near Windy Pass
Kaleetan & Chair
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2005