Nordic Pass

Time for my second snowshoe trip in two weeks. Avalanche danger was elevated so we were looking for a safe place to go. First, Janet was interested. Gary and John were too. Steve wanted to come with Janet. We settled on a very safe trip to Nordic Pass. Gary was one of the people responsible for the existence of the trail. I have joined several trips to replace the blue diamonds that show the route. We met at 8:00 am. While we were packing up David Baxter passed by. He brought new skis and snowshoes. He was not sure of which trip he would do but decided to join us. Our group grew to six people. We got started at 8:16 am. We headed up the road through the houses. It was a little slick but more slush than ice. No traction devices needed. At the switchback in the road we climbed up onto the snow. Instead of the usual wall of packed snow  we had a couple steps up. Definitely not a lot of snow for mid January. Snoqualmie Pass at 3000' reported only 57". We had a little less.

The first and sometimes biggest problem is getting across the creek right at the start of the trail. There is a log across that was covered with icy snow. The water level was also pretty low. I went first and crossed the log then cut steps in the snow up the other side. Gary chose to cross on rocks and in low water. Everyone made it across one way or the other. We immediately put on snowshoes. I was a bit surprised to find snow not crusty ice. There were two trenches in the snow. The right route went through some brush that was not completely snow covered. That is the correct blue diamond route. We chose to take the left route that climbed right up to the old railroad grade. That is the original grade that went over the pass before the tunnel was built.

We turned right continuing in the previously packed down trench. We passed the spot where the real Nordic Pass Trail reaches the railroad grade and continued ahead. The left turn off the grade is marked with a blue diamond at the end of a horizontal pole pointing to the left. Whoever put in the track did a good job of following the route. In a few places the snow was not deep enough to cover logs or wet ground. The track went off the diamonds a little to get around and then picked up the route once again. David chose to pack his skis and use his snowshoes. The skis sticking up overhead did not get stuck under branches. He did just fine. The route crosses  ski track between Hyak and Summit Central and continues climbing. Gary pointed out the biggest tree we would see all day. It's right along the route.

There were several packed routes in places and they seemed to meet up again each time. There is another snowshoe route between the Nordic Pass Trail and Hyak Creek. In a few places they almost touch. That leads to the other route taking over a bit of our route. We reached the  big downhill skier crossover route to find nobody on it. It usually has a steady crowd of skiers. The trench on the uphill side did not follow the blue diamonds at first. Our route was a bit shorter and steeper. Soon we picked up the diamonds once again. We took a break when we reached the big meadow. So far we had had no wind. At our break it remained calm. Though it was right around freezing it did not feel very cold without any wind. While we ate and drank two snowshoers passed us coming down. We did not see many folks this day.

A few minutes beyond the meadow we reached Hyak Lake. After a few photos we headed on. David tried skiing here but the snow was a bit to crusty and he switched back to snowshoes. The route climbs to cross a cross country groomed sky track and then reaches the hardest part to follow. We followed diamonds through smaller trees and reached the main power lines. These are big metal pylons. We headed uphill a short way to the next pylon and turned left along the side of a groomed cross country ski track. A diamond led us off to the right for a short section in trees before reaching a groomed xc track again. We crossed this one and picked up the diamonds once again. Now we were done with all roads up to Nordic Pass. Just a forest walk.

We reached Nordic Pass at 11:23 am. A little less than 4 miles in 3:07 is not very fast but snowshoeing is often not very fast. It was still fun. I don't recall ever being at Nordic Pass with zero wind. Again, with just a rain jacket I was warm enough. All the way up the diamonds were far over our heads due to the low snow pack. The Nordic Pass sign was way up the tree but not as far as the diamonds at low elevations. One diamond was at least 12 feet over Gary's head. We try to put up more diamonds during deep snow pack years so they will not be too low during those years. This year the problem is looking high enough and not missing them. Perhaps we will get a lot more snow this winter. I hope so. After our lunch break we headed a little farther. The diamonds lead down to Windy Pass. David had decided to snowshoe down to Windy Pass and then ski out on the groomed road/trail.

Just beyond the pass the snow became much more crusty. We passed the weather station and went to the edge of where the slope steepens significantly down to Windy Pass. David headed down and we headed back up to Nordic Pass. David had a longer route back but on skis he beat us by quite a bit. We met another couple of snowshoers at Nordic Pass. They headed down before us. The trench was now very well packed and the route back was much easier. We left Nordic Pass at 12:26 pm. There were a few ups and downs going down but it was pretty easy walking. We caught up and passed the couple ahead of us at the first xc groomed ski tracks. We did not see many folks on the way down. We took a short break at Hyak Lake and otherwise just kept moving. We arrived back at the cars at 2:35 pm. We took only 2:09 to come down.

This is a fun snowshoe trip. Between crossing downhill and cross country ski runs there is a lot of solitude. We saw only a few other people all day. There is no great views so this is not a highly popular route but the forest is well worth the effort. There is some route finding after a snowfall but this day we had a track all the way to Nordic Pass. As mentioned at the start the route is never steep and is in forest so there is very little chance of an avalanche. It is a pretty safe place to be when avalanche danger is high. With our early start we were done early. Unlike the week before with a long drive to near Blewett Pass we were home well before dark. I was surprised to see that I had only done this trip once since 2012. This day a good time was had by all.

My 2006 trip report gives directions to find the start of the trail.

Heading Up The Road
Leaving The Road
Crossing The Creek
On The Route
Bare Spot
Tree Hugger Janet
Intermountain 90
Big Meadow
Break Time
Hyak Lake
Trees & White Sky
Snow Monster
Steve On Route
Way Up There
Gary & John
Snowy Stump
John Is Ahead
Group Ascending
Nordic Pass
David Departs
Low Diamond
Group & Weather Station
Open Meadow
More Flocked Trees
John Sluder
Out Of Forest
Groomed Track
Under Power Lines
Buried Log
Steve & Janet
Snow Cap
Cone Or Hat?
John On RR Grade
Descending Road
Hyak Lake Panorama
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2019