Mt. Washington

The last two winters did not have much snow. This year I have had a few good snow trips but not many. Time for a close in peak that still has lots of snow left. Recent reports told of snow for the upper half or more of the route. It also mentioned snow shoes not needed. Though it would be a fairly warm day for this time of year I chose not to take snowshoes. I headed east knowing that west bound I-90 was had only one open lane over Lake Washington. I was early enough to cruise through with barely any slow down. I took exit 38 and quickly drove into the parking lot. It was only 8:35 am and I grabbed one of the last open spots on the left side. More cars than I have seen this early in the day and the year. I expected to see lots of folks when I came down but not on the way up. By 8:35 am I was on my way.

I caught up with two hikers adjusting gear right where the Mt. Washington Trail leaves the railroad grade. They soon passed me not be seen again until the summit. I had on heavier leather boots and a full winter weight day pack and I was a few decades older. Well, maybe a little more than a few decades. Either way, they were clearly faster than me. A single hiker passed me a few minutes later while I was taking photos. Half an hour later another hiker passed by. That was it for most of the way up. I did see four or five groups coming down while I ascended. One was about 8 folks strong. They had an early start. The middle half of the hike I saw only a few groups coming down. More solitude than I expected with the lot as full as it was.

With all the rain we have had all winter long water was running in all the creeks. By the last switchback before the Owl Hike viewpoint there was a little snow on the trail. Not much up to the viewpoint. I took a short break their. I took a first break before that switchback to zip off my pants legs. It was only about 40 degrees but with sunshine it felt pretty warm. I hiked most of the way up in shorts and short sleeves. Gaining 3200' also keeps you toasty. Just after the viewpoint the trail was suddenly mostly snow covered. There were still some bares spots in thicker forest but the snow deepened on most of the trail. At the crossing of Washington Creek there were rocks mostly above the water. With my waterproof boots I crossed easily. With low top boots it would be a little more difficult to stay dry. I was nowhere near deep enough to turn anyone back.

I brought microspikes along and considered putting them on at this point. The snow was well packed down but not too slick. At least going up. Rather than stop to put them on I just kept ascending. The trail next came out into the open meadow. The snow was deeper here. Some good views opened up too. At the other side of the meadow is a seasonal creek. It was in season. I had to partly dunk my boots crossing here. I stayed dry however. Across the creek the old road was now bare and rocky with water rushing down it. I routed a little water to a not very deep ditch on the side but most water as on the road/trail. Once past the rushing water snow began again immediately. It was quickly several feet deep. There was no more bare ground all the way to the top.

In many ways the route was easier to hike than in summer. Though a little slick the snow was nice and smooth rather than the very rocky old road beneath it. At the narrow gate that theoretically keeps out bikes the snow was just about to the top of the gate. Easy to step right over it. Just before the pond the track went straight uphill cutting the summer switchback. That was the only place I post holed all day long. The lack of tracks leading to the pond meant that nobody has done the north ridge winter route recently. I could just make out some old snow filled tracks. Quickly, I was up to where the Mt. Washington Trail and the new bike trail share the route for a short distance. I could just see that the pond was mostly not frozen or snow covered. A little more forest walking then the route broke out into the open.

There were no signs of recent slides. The snow was firm. The track seemed to closely follow the summer route. It crossed the open snowfield then switchbacked up and into forest. I had some more good views from this area. The way went back into forest and headed for the north ridge. Just before reaching the open slopes I had stopped to put on microspikes. While not absolutely necessary they were very helpful. The trail became quite narrow on the steep hillside and a bit slick. I felt much safer with extra traction. I took another break at the north ridge to enjoy and photograph the views. A clear look west towards Seattle, down to North Bend and out to Mts. Si, Teneriffe, Green, and Mailbox Peak. A duo passed me here. The first folks I had seen since near Washington Creek.

The ascent in forest to the old road was on a narrow slick trail. I was very glad to have the spikes. The twosome ahead of me stopped to put on spikes. It was interesting to pass several groups coming down on the narrow track. The snow was getting deep when I reached the old road. Now it was just a short way to the summit. I caught up with two more hikes along here. At 10:50 we reached the summit ridge just below the top. Mt. Rainier was half out of the clouds. It was mostly clear in the other directions. A few more photos and I headed for the top. There were several groups sitting in the sun on the ridge. At 10:54 I reached the top. Several more groups already there. I took 2:19 to hike up four miles with 3200' of gain. Not a great time but not too bad with all the snow. The weather station was half buried by snow. I took some photos and retreated down the ridge.

Lunch in the snow was fun. Just being out in the sun was fun. Not much of it the past six months. It was still about 40 degrees but felt much warmer in the sunshine. I spent half an hour on top. At 11:23 am I headed down. When I started hiking Mt. Washington in 1993 it was very unusual to see anyone else any time of year. Those days are now gone. While not crowded there were a dozen to twenty folks on top all the time I was there. The trail is no longer empty but also not as crowded as many in the area. Heading down was much easier. Quickly back to the road. Quickly down to the switchback on the north ridge. And then I slowed down. Way down. The sunshine and views were about to end. Below it was mostly forest. A quick stop turned into about 15 minutes. I hated to leave. All too soon I started moving again.

I kept on my microspikes until I reached the bare road/trail creek just before the meadow. It was too rocky for the spikes so I took them off. After the meadow there the route was steeper and slick. I made it down without falling but it was very slick. By the time I reached the Owl Spot viewpoint the snow was done and I just had the old crappy wet rocky road/trail to hike down. Not one of my favorite bits of trail. I made it back to the parking lot at 1:35 pm. Now all the spots on the left side were still full and a long row of cars were parallel parked behind us on the right side. Down at the main road were another seven or eight cars. Most had Discover Passes and had no place to park in the main parking lot.

This was a really  fun hike. Partly bare and at least half under snow, the conditions were excellent. The snow was much better consolidated than I expected this early in the spring. Snowshoes were not needed, even for someone as big and heavy as me. A few folks carried ice axes but at least this day they were not needed. Traction devices were a big help. Most of my snow hikes up Washington have been with poor and poorer weather. I've been rained on and blown away but high winds on top. This day it was almost perfect. Even the views were mostly clear. Mt. Rainier never did come out entirely but most everything else did. All in all a great day to be out and I was still home early.

Morning Parking Lot
Big Cliff
Faster Hiker
Clouds In Valley
Rattlesnake Ledges
A Little Snow
Creek Crossing
Snow Deepens
Snowy Meadow
Views To Peaks
Snowy Old Road
Near Pond
Snow Filled Gate
Snow Depth
Open Slopes
More Views
Mailbox Peak
Mt. Si Peaks
Teneriffe To Bessemer
More Hikers
Almost To Ridge
Mt. Rainier
I-90 Below
Weather Station
McClellan Butte
Mt. Rainier Again
Crowd On Top
Lake Below
Chester Morse Dam
Chester Morse Lake
Starting Down
Snow Wall Off Ridge
Mt. Teneriffe
Mailbox Peak Again
Big & Little Si
Summit From North Ridge
Snowy Pond
Melting Away
Small Waterfall
Bandera Mountain
Full Lot
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017