Gary wanted to
get in another cross country ski trip. After a low snow winter we have
had a lot of new snow in the past couple weeks. Enough to make the
avalanche danger high. We chose to return to an old favorite, Kendall
Lakes. The route begins at the Gold Creek Sno-Park just off the Hyak
exit of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. Most areas at the 2600' start
level have been bare dirt the past month. We found two cars and new
snow at the sno-park. With the cold temperatures and heavy snow we
expected deep and soft. We found that the snow had a hard crust on top.
The crust broke with each step. It was about 8:20 when we started out.
There was a snowshoe trench in place and a set of downhill ski tracks.
Looks like a number of folks were out on Friday. I slipped a lot down
low and it improved a little as we ascended. The real concern this day
was the wind forecast. 15 -25 mph with gust over 30. It was nearly calm
at first and only picked up a little as we climbed. The trench made it
faster for snowshoers, at least on the way up. One snowshoer did pass
I found out how much snow was new. Several times my pole broke through
and went all the way down to grass. It was about two feet deep and all
of it had fallen in the past two weeks. This was true even at over
3000' elevation. It looked like winter with all the snow plastered
trees but the snow was not deep at all. We took a short break at the
junction. At least it used to be a junction. Left used to cross a
bridge and contour around the point. Gary's route to the lakes went
across the bridge then up the slopes. With the bridge now gone that
option is gone. Snowshoe tracks went straight ahead and the road
switches back and climbs to the ridge. We followed the road.
At the ridge top a right goes to the viewpoint. We went left and
followed the road as it climbed on or below the ridge. There were no
tracks at all here and we broke trail. The road was hard to see in
places as wind blown snow made the whole treeless area look the same.
Higher up the road we found the snowshoers tracks again. The one who
passed us earlier was now coming down from farther up the road. The
other snowshoer headed over towards Kendall Lakes and that's the way we
went. The track went straight up from the lower lake. We chose to cut
all the way across the lake and head up gentler terrain.
Other than sinking deeply even on skis it was not hard to reach the
middle lake. We dropped down to the lake for lunch. The sun was out and
the wind was still very gentle. We had a nice long lunch break. The
snowshoer's tracks would have taken him up to the other end of the
lake. We never saw him. After lunch we skied down to the lower lake
then down the road to the saddlw where the road first reaches the
ridge. The snow was awful. With narrow touring skis and no metal edges
we could not turn at all as we broke the hard crust. It was only my
second ski trip of the year and by far the hardest conditions.
We chose to head on up to the viewpoint. Pretty good views of peaks in
all directions. We did notice snow blowing off Kendall Peak as it
looked like Mt. Everest except for being 24,000' lower. One big puff of
billowing snow looked like it came from an avalanche. I was glad we
were on a pretty low risk route. We saw one group on the ridge. Still
not many folks for this popular route.
The way down was much faster than the ascent. We did begin to meet
folks in the last couple miles. Still not as many as I expected. We did
see four skiers. The other dozen or so people were on snowshoes. It
turned out to be a fine day for a trip on a very popular trail. Low
avalanche danger and much less wind than expected. From the ridge top
to the middle lake we had almost no tracks and a lot of fresh smooth
snow. It was nice to see a little winter after a very brown few months.