Thomas Mountain

I have hiked up the Easton Ridge and Domerie Divide trails several times in the Summer. I had not been up them in the middle of Winter. This is a nice snowshoe trip to an infrequently visited summit with nice views all around. Lynn and Richard invited me, along with two other friends, on the trip. We hunted around for awhile looking for a way to start across Silver Creek rather than crossing it. I had heard there was a new trailhead and a new bridge but had not substantiated the rumor. We tried about every road off of exit 70 to I-90 with no success. Our last resort was to head to the summer trailhead via the Kachess Dam Road and the powerline dirt road. There was snow on the road beyond the powerline but we decided to explore the supposed new trailhead. We bottomed out a few times but managed to not get high centered on the snow as we drove further. Low and behold, a right turn was marked with a sign pointing to a trailhead. We drove a little further and parked. It was already near 10:30 when we started. It was mostly sunny but a cold wind was a strong incentive to get moving. We walked the road for about 1/4 mile and came to a tiny parking area and a trail sign. A few hundred feet on the trail and we reached the old trailhead. We dropped down to the creek and found it was a little too high for an easy crossing. Some of the group scouted down stream and I headed up. I thought the rumor was of a bridge a little up stream. Just when I was about to give up I came upon a very nice bridge across the creek. In short order everyone was alerted and we were safely across the creek. The trail began to switchback uphill on dirt. Some snow patches were met but they were intermittent. We soon reached the old logging road. You turn left on the road for a very short way to a sharp right turn. The trail goes straight ahead in a clearcut. The route switches back and forth with views out to Lake Kachess, Amabilis Mountain, and other peaks along the Yakima River. Snow was now along most of the way but only a few inches deep.

We next reached the ridge top and the trail divide where the Easton Ridge trail goes right and the Domerie Divide trail goes left. We headed left as the trail leveled off. On the right is the Cle Elum watershed and on the left is an enormous cliff. The view here is very good. The snow quickly deepened enough to require snowshoes. At this point the gentle terrain gave way to a fairly steep climb up the ridge. Route finding is fairly easy if you stay on the ridge. Richard, Lynn, and I moved ahead as the other two party members had much less snowshoe experience and were a little slower. None the less, they stayed fairly close. In some sections the snow had accumulated in drifts much deeper than the snowfall would have warranted. It was slow going as the leader sometimes sank up to their knees. Having more than three people breaking trail would have made it much easier. The wind was picking up and it was getting much colder. We stopped part way up the ridge and the temperature was 24 degrees. With the cold, wind, and fresh snow, it finally felt like Winter had arrived. We stopped one more time in sight of the top of Kachess Ridge. Richard stayed behind to wait for the rest of the group and Lynn and I continued up the ridge. We stopped on top of the ridge with a nice view of Mt. Stuart. Richard and Lynn had radios so we were able to keep in contact. By now it was about 1:30 and we were still more than a mile from Thomas Mountain. When the gang reached Richard he took off to catch up with us. The others decided that 2700' of gain would be enough for them. They were going to turn around at the ridge top. Richard arrived and we decided to press on to Thomas. Food and water recharged my batteries and I was ready to get going. It was also too cold to sit still any longer. My water bottle inside my pack was partly frozen. It was now 20 degrees. So much for afternoon warming. Lynn and I headed off while Richard ate and changed into more clothes.

The route now required us to descend to a broad saddle and then begin a long but fairly gentle climb to the summit. We dropped about 300' and slogged along the broad saddle. All the way along the ridge was in forest. We had to move around buried logs in a not entirely direct route. The going was even slower as the two of us traded breaking trail. When Richard caught up things began to speed up. By 2:45 I was thinking about suggesting we turn around when the summit of Thomas came into view. It was close enough to spur us on. The last 1/4 mile up the ridge was brutal. The snow was deep, the wind was much stronger, and our pace was very slow. At 3:12 we reached the summit. It is largely tree covered but a clear view is to the north and east. Lake Cle Elum was below us, and Mt. Stuart and the peaks of the Teanaway were to the east. We dove behind a tree to stop the sandblasting our skin had been enduring. It was now 15 degrees. I have seldom had a colder day near the Cascade crest. With the wind chill it seemed much colder. I finished what little water I had left as the rest was solid ice.

With a rut cut in the snow the way back was much faster. We reached the lunch spot on the ridge top in 25 minutes. It had taken us 1 1/2 hours on the way up. Amazingly, we had been able to maintain radio contact with the other two, even on the summit. They were safely down the steep section as we headed down the ridge. It's a blast to speed down a steep ridge with clear views laid out below you. We made good time coming down and reached the creek at 6:00, just as darkness set in. This was one of the best snowshoe trips I have done. Good terrain, good snow, good company, a fun summit, and just a whole lot of fun. I estimate the trip was about 9 miles with 4000' of elevation gained. It took us 4:45 up and 2:45 down. This was my first trip with my new Canon s45 camera so I hope the photos are a bit better from now on. 

Bridge over Silver Ck
Lynn On Road
Amabilis Mt.
French Cabin Mt.
Lake Kachess
Ridge Steepens
Lake Easton
Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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