Mt. Pilchuck

New Year's Day and time to get in the first hike of the year. Gwen joined me for a hike up Mt. Pilchuck. Recent reports mentioned snow on the road but that it was drivable. We met in Lynnwood at 8:00 am and headed north. It was a balmy 24 degrees. We had record high pressure a few days earlier and it was clear and cold. We headed to Verlot and onto the Mt. Pilchuck Road. There were a few cars at the Heather Lake trailhead. A report mentioned that the lower gate may be closing any time. We were glad to see it was still open. A few miles farther along snow began. The coating was still thin until a few miles from the top. Driving was okay. The only problem was the deeper snow on the side and not much room to pass an oncoming car. Gwen's Subaru had no problems.

We arrived at the lot to find 8 or 9 cars already there. The snow was very lumpy but we parked out of the way. The car next to us had icy windows. The owners spent the night on the mountain. The route begins with a short bit of old road. It was largely glare ice. Microspikes went on immediately. The ice lessened but we kept the spikes on all the way up and down. It is a little under three miles to the summit lookout with 2200' of elevation gain. We were not in a big hurry. We were underway at 9:30 am. On the first creek crossing it was mostly frozen. I walked across with one rock hop.

The snow was minimal in the forest but before long it covered the trail. The snow was well packed but not icy. It had not been above freezing in several days. No freeze, thaw, and refreeze. In early November of 2009 we snowshoed to the lookout in deep fresh snow. It was windy and snowing at the top. This day was cold but clear with no wind. Much different conditions. We took our time taking lots of photos. As the trail left the forest views really improved. We could see Three Fingers from the trailhead but the mountain views were much better higher up.

A few faster hikers passed us by as we enjoyed the vistas. Mt. Baker, Three Fingers, Whitehorse, Sloan, and more. Crystal clear. No haze at all. Nearly perfect conditions. It was warmer too. I even rolled up my shirt sleeves leaving just the polypro down. The route followed the summer trail all the way up. Not a lot of snow yet but enough to cover most all the rocks. More switchbacks and the ridge drew close. We took a short break on the ridge. The summer trail is narrow along rocky ledges above here but this day we had nice smooth snow to walk on. A few more switchbacks and the trail traversed onto the west side and angled up to the top.

First we went out to the point just beyond the gunsight. Really good views from here. Everett and downtown Seattle were in view. To the north peaks we added Mt. Stuart, Daniel, Baring, and the peaks of the Cascade Crest. Folks were heading down as we went over to the lookout. Instead of boulder scrambling we had a solid snowy path to follow. The walkway around the lookout was covered by compact snow. One group was packing up their tent from right below the lookout. The lookout shutters are closed for the winter. The door was open and we did go inside for a moment We closed the door when we left.

The west side of the lookout walkway was warm and sunny. The other side was in the shade and cold. We sat in the sunshine. It felt like about 50 degrees with no wind. I'd like to have spent all day up there. We arrived just before noon . We stayed until 1:30 pm. A long stay but not long enough. Much of the way down we met folks coming up. Many of them would not be able to summit and get down before dark. We made it down with lots of light to spare. We were in shade most of the way down. Views were still excellent. Lots more photos to take. We finally reached the car at about 3:15 pm.

We have a lot of dark overcast days in the winter. Occasionally we have a sunny one. This day was almost perfect. Lots of other folks had the same idea but the mountain never seemed all that crowded. There was enough snow to thoroughly flock all the trees but not enough to impair hiking. We did not even bring snowshoes and would not have used them if we did. Good snow, good views, and good company made for a great winter day to be in the mountains.

Three Fingers
Snowy Parking Lot
Icy Creek Crossing
Thin Snow Cover
Deeper Snow
Sun Shines In
Mt. Rainier
Forest Opening
Big Trees
Mt. Baker
3 Fingers Close Up
Summit Is Above
Little Pilchuck
Everett & Olympics
Blue Sky
Rime Ice Trees
Glacier Peak
Gwen & Glacier Pk
Sloan Peak
Summit Ridge
Whitehorse & 3 Fingers
Cloudy Mt.. Baker
Gwen On The Rocks
Ridge Viewpoint
Snow On Walkway
Snowy Peak
Heading Down
Gwen Is Ahead
Snow Laden Trees
Into The Shade
Sunshine Below
Another Group
Summit Behind Us
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015