Cold Creek - Iron Horse Ski

Gary 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 gain.

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.

Getting Started
Groomed Road
End Of The Road Today
Cold Creek
Back Off Trail
Mt. Catherine Sign
Summer Trail Sign
Back At The Closure
Break Time
Iron Horse RR Grade
New Bridge
Gary On Grade
Looking Back
Avalanche Shed Site
Keechelus Lake
Returning  To Sno-Park
McClellan Butte
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017