Creek - Iron Horse Ski
wanted to get out for a ski trip. I was available. We planned a trip up
to Windy Pass from Hyak. Their website the night before stated that the
Cold Creek Trail was open and freshly groomed. The Mt. Catherine Trail
was closed. The Cold Creek Trail is part of the Mt. Catherine Trail.
Hmmm?? Sometimes the route is closed just before the
switchbacks as there are some avalanche slopes from there to
Windy Pass. The trails going down the other side from the pass were all
closed. We hoped it would be open to the pass where we would turn
around. After weeks of very cold weather a big warm storm came in early
in the week and dumped a lot of rain and freezing rain. Then there was
six inches of snow at nearby Snoqualmie Pass. Snow? Ice? We were not
sure what we would find. The sno-park opens at 8:00 am and we were
there right then. It was usually warm. After hikes from 20-30 degrees
the past few weeks it was right around 32 degrees when we started out.
We were the first folks of the day to head out on the Iron Horse
railroad grade trail. Much to our surprise, there had not been any
recent grooming. A few tracks from the day before was all we found.
Normally, they groom on Friday and Saturday each week. Later we found
out that an avalanche on the grade farther along kept them from setting
tracks. They were still working on clearing it when we left for home.
It was just like the old days before the grade was groomed. We would
have to set a track ourselves in the morning. About a mile along we
came to the common corridor route from the grade up to the Cold Creek
Trail. The common core allows sno-park skiers to get up to backcountry
skiing above Windy Pass.
The snow was much better than we expected. More than the six inches
listed. Enough to cover any icy layer from earlier in the week. I had
no trouble skiing uphill to the upper trail. The Cold Creek Trail was
freshly groomed. Very nice conditions. Although that trail was not yet
open we did see one guy ski by and quickly ski back past us. I've only
been getting out skiing once or twice a year the last few years and the
first trip of the year can be interesting. I have never been a great
skier. My goal it a fairly easy route and not falling down. This day I
succeeded. We skied up past the turn off for Hidden Valley and
continued up the valley. As we neared the first switchback, we saw the
posts and colored tape blocking the way. The signs stated the route was
closed due to avalanche danger. The grooming ended right at the barrier.
We took a look around the corner to see if the grooming picked up again
but it did not. Time for a short break. It was now 9:10 am and to this
point we had seen just a handful of folks. It was disappointing that we
would not get to ski up to Windy Pass. The snow conditions were
excellent for a first trip of the year. Fresh snow is much easier to
ski down that ice. Especially without any metal edges. We knew this was
possible and planned to ski the flat railroad grade to get in some more
mileage. We headed back down the valley. Many years ago in the spring I
skied up the Hidden Valley Road. It became seriously steep and icy and
I went down and never returned. Gary was interested in heading up it. I
was nervous but it was our last opportunity to get in some elevation
Hidden Valley starts out at a gentle grade before it starts to steepen.
The steep stop is a black diamond on the map. It starts right after the
switchback. I chose to head down a little before that. Still, I had a
good fast descent. The snow was groomed and snow enough I could check
my speed. Gary went up to the switchback and headed down. Back at the
Cold Creek Trail I went back uphill to keep moving while Gary was on
Hidden Valley. A few minutes later I heard the groomer coming up behind
me. Since there were so few tracks since the previous grooming I did
not think there was going to be more grooming this day. Unless, that
is, they were going to open up the route to Windy Pass and groom that.
I decided to head back up to the closure to check it out. Perhaps, we
would make it to Windy Pass after all.
Gary soon caught up with me. The groomer passed him on the Hidden
Valley Road and he had the same idea I did. We skied back up to the
closure spot and found... it was still closed. The groomer had moved
the posts, gone by, and put the posts and barrier back in place. There
was no grooming beyond there. Oh well, time to head back again. We
started seeing some folks heading in as we skied out. Still not much of
a crowd. We skied back to the common corridor connector and I was able
to ski down it. That took very good snow conditions. We did not yet
know about the avalanche on the railroad grade. We had hoped that it
would be groomed by the time we arrived. No such luck. Just a couple
tracks made by skiers. We had eight miles done and wanted to get in a
little more. It was just after 11:00 am.
Heading down the railroad grade we saw a few skiers coming and going.
At the start of the old snowshed we stopped for lunch. A little wind
here was cooling but with the temperature above freezing it did not
feel like winter. The trip back to the parking lot was about 2.5 miles.
We were not in a big hurry and just kept up a steady pace. On the way
back it finally hit me that the lack of people made sense with the
Womxns March going on is Seattle. The day after President Trump was
inaugurated brought out 175,000 protest marchers in Seattle. And a
whole lot less people in the mountains. We arrived back at 12:50 pm.
The lot was mostly full but there were a number of open spaces. We
talked to the folks selling sno-park
passes and found out about the grooming. Without the groomer they did
not open the sledding hill either.
By 1:00 pm we were ready to head for home. We covered 11 miles in just
under five hours. We were home by mid afternoon. The snow conditions
were much better than I expected. The groomed track on Cold Creek was
excellent skiing. I just wish it had been open to Windy Pass. The grade
was a bit more challenging but still had good snow even without any
grooming. The lack of crowds was a rare January treat. All in all, a
very good first ski trip of the season.
Click on thumbnails to get
End Of The Road Today
Back Off Trail
Mt. Catherine Sign
Summer Trail Sign
Back At The Closure
Iron Horse RR Grade
Gary On Grade
Avalanche Shed Site
Returning To Sno-Park