Mt. Catherine

The previous day I went up the Nordic Pass Trail with Suzanne, her daughter Katie, and Katie's friend Mike. We broke trail as far as Frog Lake. No one had been up since the recent storms and there was no track. The snow depth was only about 50 inches at Snoqualmie Pass but it was enough to cover all the brush and logs. The blue diamonds were well above our heads but visible enough to keep us on track. Between the upper groomed tracks and Frog Lake we were a little off track but found the route at Frog Lake. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to cover the 3 miles to that point. It took only 1 1/4 hours to descend.

I had planned another trip for Sunday with Kolleen, Bob, and Carol. As usual we were still hashing out ideas Saturday night. Early this year Suzanne and I had gone to Nordic Pass and then on to within about 50 vertical feet of the summit of Mt. Catherine. Now that the trench was in place we settled on an attempt at Catherine. It was Carol's first time on snowshoes. She borrowed my MSR's and I took my big Atlas 30s.

The previous day it was 23 degrees when we got started at 9:30. This day it was 16 degrees at the summit at 8:40. By 8:52 we were on our way. The route is described here: Nordic Pass Trail . Our previous try at Mt. Catherine is described here: Mt. Catherine Snowshoe .  The road approach is just inside the Summit East ski area entrance. We walked up the road to the sharp left turn. There is no snow wall to climb at this time. I had cut a trail across the creek on Saturday. We had no problem getting across. With the trench in place we cruised on up. Saturday was all blue sky and Sunday was forecast to be mostly cloudy. Instead it was mostly clear all day.

We crossed a groomed track then the larger track and powerlines named Intermountian 90. It took some scouting the day before to find the continuation of the route on the other side. It is off to the right. This crossover trail has not yet been groomed. Next we reached the meadow and Hyak Lake shortly after that. Saturday we saw two skiers on the groomed track and nobody else. This day we saw nobody on the way up and three backcountry skiers and two groomed track skiers on the way down. Seven people in two days at Snoqualmie Pass is not too bad.

Beyond the lake we came to the upper powerline and groomed skiing tracks. The diamonds were much harder to find here. We were off route Saturday going up but found most of the route coming down. It was easier Sunday to follow the tracks and stay on course. We were a little left from there to Frog Lake but at the lake we were able to get back to the diamonds. It took us only 1:20 to ascend with the nice trench in place.

From here to Nordic Pass we had to do our own route finding. It was slower but we managed to stay on course the whole way. There was one set of ski tracks going up and down and we were near them most of the way. The snow bridge over Dicks Creek was thin but it held. We reached Nordic Pass and stopped for a food and water break. Our water had ice cubes in it.

On the previous attempt of Mt. Catherine we had a trench almost up to the summit. The snow had a hard crust. On some steep slopes it was icy. This day was just the opposite. The snow was honest to goodness powder. It has been so cold in the mountains that it was very unlike the usual Cascade Concrete. We dropped down a little then headed over to the ridge. Kolleen immediately found the easy access point where the slope is moderate. Part way up we intersected a lone skier's track. We followed it all the way up.

Once on the ridge we had a nice view over to Silver Peak and down to near Windy Pass. The ridge was just as I remembered it. Long with steep climbs followed by gentle flats then up once again. I found the 30 inch snowshoes a lot less maneuverable than my 22 inch MSRs. Still, they worked just fine. This was Carol's first time on snowshoes and even on the steeper sections she did great. I was really beat after breaking trail Saturday and was not going all that fast. At a couple places we had views out from the heavily forested ridge. We could see Granite Mountain, Bandera, and McClellan Butte among others.

On my previous trip we ended up just below the summit and tried to cut around the right side of the ridge. The snow would hold then break and I would fall through to my waist. It was very steep and exposed. We chose not to push our luck. This time as we neared the top the ski tracks went to the left side of the summit. It was steep and a bit exposed but the snow was so good we cut a nice secure track across the bad spot. Once beyond the summit we climbed to the ridge and had an easy ascent to the top. The top was narrow and wind blasted. We went up a few at a time. It was the first time since the parking lot that we were out in the wind. It was very cold.

Views from the top were outstanding. There was no haze and only a few high clouds. Mt. Rainier was clear as was Mt. Stuart. All the peaks near I-90 were in the clear and cloaked in a fresh coating of white. It is a very nice viewpoint considering that it is at an elevation of only 5052'. We had more food just below the summit and began the descent. Coming down was much faster. Part way down the ridge we met the three skiers. We dropped 1000' back to Nordic Pass in about 30 minutes.

The rest of the way out was a long snow slog. Although the temperature never climbed about the mid 20s we were plenty warm due to our exertion. We saw only the two groomed track skiers coming out. It was nice to finally reach the summit. The summer trail is so short I have never bothered and the conditions were not safe on my other winter attempt. The weather was great all weekend and the snow conditions were excellent. All in all, it was a very nice day in the mountains.

Start Of The Route
Railraod Grade
In The Track
Hyak Lake Ahead
Out Of The Forest
Frog Lake
Flocked Trees
Nordic Pass
Kolleen & Carol
Near Nordic Pass
Good Early Snow
Olallie Meadow
On The Ridge
Kaleetan & Chair
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2006