Amabilis Mountain

Gary was fee for a President's Day trip and suggested a ski trip up Amabilis Mountain. We have done it separately and together many times. I had not done any long climb on cross country skis in 4 years on another Amabilis trip. Also, we have had a long stretch of dry weather with little mountain snowfall. A storm on Sunday did drop some snow. Monday was expected to have  some light snow but clearing after morning. With winds of up to 25 mph by late morning that could be a problem. I was hoping for enough new snow to provide some traction over the recent ice and friction for snowplowing on the descent. We wanted to beat the crowds so we met at High Point on I-90 at 7:15 am. By then we know that chains were required over Snoqualmie Pass except for all wheel drive cards. I have an all wheel drive car.

Climbing above North Bend we found a little snow on the road. Soon there were two plowed lanes and one snowy one. There were lots of semi tracks stopped to install chains. We also noticed a number of non AWD cars driving at 45 mph. They clearly did not stop to put on chains. The road had some snow, slush, and ice but it was not deep and I had no problems at all. We arrived at the Cabin Creek Sno-Park Just before 8:00 am. There were a dozen or so cars in the lot and more arriving as we started out. The trees were all heavily flocked by the very recent snowfall. Most of Amabilis Mountain was lost in thick white clouds. We reached the start and put on our skis. A skate skier started out just ahead of us. The track was freshly groomed that morning. There were no tracks in the skate lane.

We quickly took a right turn on the one way trail and it soon reached the road up Amabilis Mountain. Turning right we began to ascend. There were no new tracks. We were the first folks of the day on this groomed road/trail. Conditions were pretty good. There was a layer of packed snow atop the hard ice. The descent might not be too bad. I had plenty of grip going up. We immediately marveled at the heavily flocked trees. Everything was white. Before long both of us had snow sticking to our skis and had to stop to apply wax. That solved the problem for th ascent. We are just a couple of old guys on old fashioned skinny skis. We expected to see skate skiers or just young fit folks zooming by us. It did not happen. This was a holiday. Lots of folks were not going to work. There was fresh snow after weeks of snow turned to ice as no snow fell. Where was everyone? Chains were required and than may have kept some folks away. Higher elevation winds were supposed to by high. It was 28 degrees when we started. Cool but not that cold. Where was everyone?

We took a break at the "Y" junction. Both roads head up to the ridge top. Sometimes the whole loop is groomed. We saw the groomed track continuing up the right fork but no grooming on the left one. That is our usual route. We had almost no views through the clouds at the junction viewpoint. After some food and water we started up the left fork. From the car to the junction we traveled about 2.65 miles and gained 1000'. We could see a couple sets of ski tracks covered with fresh snow. At least a few folks went up that way the day before. The 3-4 inches of fresh snow changed the trip from a groomed road ski to a fresh snow trip. We were now breaking trail. It was more work but in a lot of ways it was more fun. I was glad to have soft snow on the way down instead of hard ice. Slower and softer if I fell. There was some avalanche danger this day and this route was a good choice. The slopes above were mostly heavily forested.

The grade was mostly gentle at first then began to get a bit steeper. From the Junction up to the ridge top is 1.4 miles gaining 640'. As we rose the clouds thinned. Soon we had some sun shining down on us. On went the sunglasses. It felt much warmer. On the way up we saw one squirrel and some hare tracks. We reached the ridge top at 10:19. Breaking trail definitely slowed us down. On a number of previous trips the wind was light until we neared the ridge top. Then it began to howl. We were concerned that is what would happen this day. As we neared the top we heard no wind. At the top it was almost completely calm. Those 25 mph winds were supposed to happen about then. We were very glad for the lack of wind. The sun break seemed to expand. Half the sky was now blue. We could see higher clouds all around us however. We noticed a small building just after the ridge top. We chose to check it out on the way down.

I was happy to have made it to the ridge top. I was a little nervous about the 4 miles with 1700' of elevation loss on the way down. Gary wanted to go farther. The weather was just too good. The sun shining on the flocked trees was beautiful. We just had a set of tracks partly buried with fresh snow ahead of us. The conditions were too good to turn back so early. Downhill skiing requires muscles I had not used in four years. It would be painful by the end but we had to continue on. The ridge top road/trail continues for 1.3 miles adding on another 500' of elevation gain. The ridge to  is at 4000'. The summit is at 4520'. The route starts on the top then the right side then over to the left and back to the right again. After crossing a narrow spot in the ridge it climbs up to the high spot. On my first visits about 33 years ago the top had several clearcuts. I recall climbing an open slope to a high bare bump on the ridge for lunch. Now there are 60' tall trees on that slope. The route is the same but the scenery is much different. On a clear day there are openings that provide views of Mt. Daniel and Hinman, Kachess Ridge, and Kachess Lake down below. We had some views to the lake and over to the ridge but all big and more distant peaks were lost in the clouds.

We reached the high point and our turnaround spot at 11:23 pm. Gary found a spot just below the top that was in the sunshine but out of what minimal wind blew by. I just put on a light windshirt. It was not very cold in the sunshine. We did not have great views of peaks this day but the close in views of the sunlit snow plastered trees in all directions was plenty. Lunch break lasted quite a long time. It was almost 12:20 when we packed up and headed pack. We went about 75' when we stopped again at a spot looking down to Kachess Lake. At the north end, Little Kachess Lake was frozen and white while the main lake was still open water.

At 12:24 pm we started down. We just had our own track to ski down in. Outside the track the snow was very slow. Our tracks were not even fully packed. The skiing was moderately slow but I was not disappointed. Instead of tensing my muscles to brake my speed I as able to just ski straight down the track. Two years ago Gary an I did a downhill section on our trip to Cheese and Bible Rocks. That was much shorter. This downhill would be a bit of a challenge since it had been so ling since I had done one. Short way down I had to call out to Gary to stop.. One of my skis had grown a big block of frozen snow under it. One ski moving and the other stuck in place is not a way to get down a mountain. I applied more glide wax and that solved the problem. It also gave me more speed that I wished for. Oh well...

We made it down to the end of the ridge pretty quickly. Now we checked out the small building. A sign identifies it as a warming hut. It is closed, at least for now. We saw a table and chairs inside. Perhaps post pandemic, it will provide a refuge from those high winds often felt on the ridge top. Now came the real fun. Four long miles of continuous downhill skiing. We had already lost 500' but we had another almost 1700' to go. Gary always goes first. He is much less likely to fall and he can go fast for a while then wait for me to appear. We were only a few minutes down when we saw the first people since the guy right at the start. A couple then one more guy. All of them were our age. Nobody under 60 was going high on Amabilis this day. We spoke for a few minutes then headed on down. I went mostly in our tracks that were better with the other three folks packing them down. Occasionally, I used the softer snow to check my speed. It was not fast skiing but the slower pace allowed me to do a lot less braking and kept my legs a lot fresher.

We reached the "Y" junction at 1:20 pm. A man with two young children were at the viewpoint. Now we could see across the valley as the clouds had lessened. We took one last break. It was a short one. We started down at 1:24 pm  The trip down would now be on the groomed road. It was still pretty smooth though with lots of ski tracks on it. Much faster than up above. I just hoped for few folks skiing or snowshoeing up the middle while I tried to avoid them. The route down has several sets of switchbacks and a number more near 90 degree turns. I often get down standing up but when tired after a long trip I have been know to take a few tumbles. We saw a number of folks coming up but far less than I was expecting. That helped a lot. I was a bit surprised to see the bottom and not to have fallen. Along the way my right arm cramped up.

We were both a bit beaten at the bottom. We reached the bottom of the Amabilis Road at 1:46 pm We just had a short ski back to the road and then a walk across the highway to the parking lot. When I tried to reach down to unclip my skis by right leg really cramped up. It was a bit comical as I tried to get my skis off. I did succeed and we were soon back at the car. The lot was now full. Not many of them were on Amabilis Mountain. I was really happy that the cramps did not recur on the drive home. It was sunny in the parking lot. One exit up the highway I had the wipers on as we were in a heavy snow squall. Our timing was excellent. I would not have wanted to ski in that. We had several more squalls on the drive but back in Seattle it was sunny.

I was a bit nervous about having my first significant elevation gaining ski trip by this long. The conditions were forecast to be marginal. What we actually had were near perfect conditions. Enough new snow to help both ascending and descending. A cool start then much warmer weather than expected. I did not expect much sunshine. We had plenty. The high winds never happened. The holiday crowds never happened. We went about 7 miles without seeing anyone. If I just make sure to do several longer ski trips with significant elevation gain each year they will become easier. Practice may never make perfect but it does make for more fun. This was one really spectacular winter trip.

Walking To Trails
Getting Started
Freshly Groomed
Gary On Route
Gary At Junction
Photo Time
Still Cloudy
Clouds Thinning
Some Blue Sky
Ridge Top In Sight
Absolutely Beautiful
Back In Shade
Flat Ridge Top
Continuing Higher
Gary & Sunshine
Heavily Flocked
Great Winter Scenery
My Turn Breaking Trail
Fantastic Day!
Rabbit Tracks
Untouched Snow
Nearing Highest Point
Highest Point
Lunch Spot
Me At Lunch
Twin Trees
View East
Me At Work
Time To Head Back
Little Kachess Lake
New Hut
Back At Junction
Paking Lot & Amabilis
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022