Wright Mountain

After a wet but fun trip to Goat Lake on Saturday I was ready for a sunny day in the snow. Suzanne, Barry, David, Eric, Kolleen, and Bob were heading up the Snow Lake Trail and I signed on. The plan was to summit either Avalanche or Wright Mountain. Avalanche sounded good but there were three reports put up on nwhikers.net and I hoped we could do something different. On the other hand, it snowed the day before and 11 miles in fresh snow made Wright sound like a long way. We met in the Alpental ski area lot at 8:30 and were ready to go by 9:00 am. Joe also showed up. I had not done a trip with him this year. There was some snow in the parking lot and a promise of more higher up.

We made the decision to leave our snowshoes behind. Fate was smiling on us. It was cold and clear as we headed up the Snow Lake Trail. A few others had already gone through earlier and the snow was well packed down. We had no trouble staying on track. That was much different than the spring trip we did where we went too high and ended up on really steep rotten snow near the ridge top.

A few creek crossings were icy but for the most part we made good progress. The only slow downs were because of the beautiful views we had to capture with our cameras. We cruised by the sign for the old and new trails and began the series of switchbacks up the slope. Though there are now a lot of steps blasted in the rock they were smoothed out by the snow. It was smooth sailing. Near the ridge top we found hundreds of icicles hanging from the rock. We soon reached the ridge top and started down the other side.

Snow Lake came into view first in slivers of view through the trees then out in the open. The switchbacks went fast. Down on the flats we crossed the inlet and reached the turn off for Avalanche Mountain. We finally had to make a decision. It was only a little past 10:00. We made much better time than I dreamed and the group chose to head on to Gem Lake and Wright Mountain. The boot path we were following also went in that direction. There was a good foot of snow on the ridge but with our nicely packed trench we hardly slowed down.

There is a steep slope above the lake that I was a bit concerned about but the track went right across. We had great views of Snow Lake plus Chair Peak. The forecast was for 15 - 25 mph winds in the mountains and we had almost no wind climbing up to the ridge. Now as we headed down the lake the wind picked up. It was frigid. The thought of climbing to Gem and then Wright in freezing temperatures with a steady 20+ mph wind did not sound like fun. The trail headed away from the lake and we found the junction with the Rock Creek Trail. I then headed back towards the lake and down to the log crossing of the outlet.

We met Jack the German Shepard and his owner who goes by Jack's Mom on nwhikers. The other had met her on a trip up Jolly Mountain. Jack did not want to go across that snowy log. The log is pretty wide but it was snow covered and a strong wind was blowing across it. We all managed to get across with no problems. The trail again goes away from the lake and provided another respite from the wind. The snow was now deep enough that we would have been slowed down considerably without snowshoes if not for the anonymous track setter.

The route winds all around as it climbs towards Gem Lake. It seemed to take a long time in the summer and even longer in the snow. We had great views back to Avalanche Mountain and Snoqualmie Mountain. Chair Peak was across the lake and then Kaleetan and Roosevelt come into view. We could see Hinman and other peaks of the Cascade crest as well. The higher we went the more mountains we could see.

At long last we slogged up one more slope and reached Gem Lake. The wind was really blowing. We met the trail breaker here. Chris is Jack's Mom's son and goes by Shadow on nwhikers. It's a small world. He had snowshoes and his work saved us a lot of time and effort. We now had to set our own tracks as we went around the right side of the lake and out of the wind. This provided a chance for a food and water break. We continued on around and back to the lake shore. Joe decided to call it a day here and the rest of us headed up to the saddle to the right of Wright. A short climb brought us to the saddle.

Barry was out in front and did a very good job of staying close to the summer climbers trail. The ridge had some trees and took us far enough around the mountain to get out of much of the wind. It was not nearly as cold as we had feared. Much of the way up is on talus and it's easy when dry. With a layer of unconsolidated snow it's not so easy. We slogged on more slowly up the last 300' of the mountain. It looked like it would be much harder coming down. The views expanded with each step as Glacier Peak come into view. In short order we were all on the summit.

The view is very good for such a low peak. We could even see the top of Mt. Baker. Gem and Snow Lakes were laid out below and we could see to Wildcat Lake in the other direction. I reached the top at 12:30. 5 1/2 miles in 3:30. Not bad at all for a winter trip. It was cold and a bit windy so our summit stay was short. Within 15 - 20 minutes were packed up and heading down. The slick talus proved to be much easier than expected. We had no problems getting back to the saddle then down to Gem Lake where we met up with Joe.

The way back was mostly downhill with a few ups and downs and the final 350' climb to the ridge from Snow Lake. Another couple groups came up as we descended Wright and the combined boots had the trench well packed down. Suzanne and Barry shot out ahead and reached the cars half an hour ahead of the rest of us. From Snow Lake back the crowds picked up considerably. All the boots made the route from the ridge down pretty slippery. Some folks put on traction devices and some of us just slipped a bit. We all mad it down without and hard falls.

We finally reached the trailhead at about 3:45, more than an hour before full darkness. In the course of the winter I hope for one, two, three, or maybe even four weekend days with blue sky, fresh snow, and little avalanche danger. Some years there may not be any at all. This day qualified as one of the best. Dark gray days are ahead this winter but this was a nearly perfect day to out in the mountains.

Suzanne's report is here:  Nwhikers Report & Photos

Early Trail View
Kolleen On Trail
End Of The Valley
Flocked With Fresh Snow
Bright Blue Sky
Bob Photo Stop
Whispy Clouds
Into The Switchbacks
Glimpse Of Snow Lake
Lake Is Not Frozen
Wright Above Lake
Mt. Roosevelt
A Little Sketchy
Mt. Hinman
Bridge Over Outlet
Spindrift Snow
Mt. Roosevelt Again
Nearing Gem Lake
Wright Over Gem Lake
Kaleetan & Roosevelt
Slope Of Wright
Cascade Crest
Snoqualmie Mountain
Heading Up Wright
Bob Coming Up
Final Slope
Bob & David
Kolleen Near Summit
Wright Summit
Glacier Peak
Snow & Gem Lakes
Snoqualmie & Avalanche
Upper Wildcat Lake
Summit Cairn
Big Snow Mountain
Snoqualmie Zoomed
Frozen Pond
David Above Snow Lake
Last Look Back
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2008