three years it was time for a return visit to Mt.Catherine. The route
has very low avalanche danger to Nordic Pass. It also has few folks
most days. The summit probably has pretty good views but it's not a
trip we do on a clear winter day. It's close in and best for
those days that a more ambitious trip won't work. This day was no
different. Low avalanche danger but overcast with a chance of rain or
snow. Just one week earlier I made a first visit to Radio Mountain on
the opposite side of Nordic Pass. That trip was via Windy Pass and
mostly on skis. This one was all boots and snowshoes. I have an earlier
report with more specific
directions for the trip.
Our group of 7 people and 3 dogs were on the way by about 9:00 am. We
walked the road to the leftward switchback and found a six foot tall
snowbank. Easy enough to kick steps up. There is a pretty thick snow
bridge over the creek. One of the easiest crossings ever. I expected a
trench as there has been little snow the past week. Nope. Barry took
the lead as we kept our snowshoes on our backs and followed the blue
diamonds. Great snow conditions and even a little blue sky. It had
rained part way to Snoqualmie Pass.
We lost the trail at one point but just headed uphill and soon reached
the meadow before Hyak Lake. The lake is well snow covered as expected.
We were still on course at the power line swath. After crossing the
groomed ski trail we found the big tree in the meadow with the blue
diamond. Here we put on snowshoes for the rest of the day. light snow
blew on and off but never hard. Our route rounded Frog Lake and made
the gentle climb to Nordic Pass. We picked up some snowshoe and ski
tracks along the way.
We took a short break at Nordic Pass. There was an old track leading up
Catherine that made route finding a snap. The climb onto the ridge and
first part of the ridge are about the steepest parts of the whole trip.
Great traction this day made the climbing easy. It took us just under
two hours to reach Nordic Pass. The last mile to the summit gains
1000'. For the most part it stays on or just right of the ridge top.
The summit block is always interesting. On our first visit Suzanne and
I were stopped by deep unconsolidated snow just below the top. On my
second visit we contoured below the summit on the left side to the far
ridge then walked up. The next two times we scrambled up a steep gully
just left of the ridge before the summit. It seems to vary a lot each
This time we continued following the snowshoe track as it contoured
around the left side. A couple switchbacks below the summit brought us
up to the top. Very good snow conditions made for the easiest summit
climb so far. Visibility was minimal just like every other time I have
been on top. On the positive side, the wind was very light. We arrived
on top just before 12:00 pm. Something like 4 1/2 to 5 miles one way.
Other than a few skiers on the crossover routes we saw very few folks.
Dropping down to Nordic Pass was much faster. Near the pass we met some
skiers and snowshoers. The snowshoe folks had gone to Twin Lakes then
up and over the ridge of Catherine. They were glad to hear that there
was an easy way back down. The rest of the descent was just a slog.
Down at the meadow near Hyak Lake a group was having a picnic. The
track was much more defined down low. Folks were enjoying the lower
part of the route. We took three hours to summit and cut off a half
hour on the descent. We were back at the car just before 3:00 pm. More
rain on the west side of the pass driving home.
We had really good weather all things considered. A little snowfall but
no rain and very little wind. The snow conditions were excellent.
Really easy walking with just a little soft snow and great traction.
Great company added to the fun. Catherine was become a winter staple
trip. I'm sure I'll be back in a year or two.
Here is Suzanne's NWHikers trip report: Mt.
Catherine Report & Photos
Click on thumbnails to get
Old RR Grade
Gus On Trail
Meadow Before Lake
Crossing Hyak Lake
Mt. Catherine Ahead
Back In Forest
Tom & Jasper At NP
Break On Ridge
Filtered Blue Sky
Nearing The Top
Summit Is Above
North End Of Summit
Group On Summit
Usual Summit Non Views
Descending From Summit
Lower On Ridge
Recrossing Hyak Lake