Amabilis Mountain

Gary wanted to get in a longer ski trip with elevation gain. Two weeks earlier we did a 13 mile ski trip from Hyak with zero elevation gain. Amabilis Mountain fit the bill. Saturday looked to be fairly sunny. On Sunday there would be moderate to heavy snowfall. That made our decision easy. We wanted to get an early start for a freshly groomed track and to be sure to get down before the weather changed. A 6:00 am check showed that the track was groomed up to the summit and also showed the temperatures. It was 6F at the base, 13F at the "Y" intersection, and 14F at 4400' near the top. By 8:00 am the sun would by up for an hour and it would be warming up. We met at Eastgate at 7:00 am and headed east. I stopped at Edgewick Road to fill my gas tank. At $3.95 it was $.44/gallon cheaper than North Seattle. The road was dry though the highest temperature from my home on was 25F. The temperature was still at 24F at Denny Creek then it plunged. It was in the teens at Snoqualmie Pass and kept dropping. We reached the Cabin Creek Sno-Park at 7:"55 am. My car thermometer read 7F. I skied one time at 0F and have hiked at 5F. This was the third or fourth lowest temperature I have been in outdoors.

The lot had about 15 cars already. The most dangerous part of the trip was walking across the lot and then on the highway overpass to the start of the ski area. Cars had packed the snow into glare ice. We made it without falling. The snow was indeed freshly groomed. There were only a couple skate ski tracks in the middle. I often get away with light gloves for our winter days around 32F. this day I had heavier gloves and even heavier mittens. Since I take a lot of photos it is much easier with lighter gloves where I can manipulate the camera controls. I started with the heavier gloves. I recently checked how to take photos with a voice command and enabled it on my camera. That helped. I still had to take off a glove on many occasions. That is not a good idea when it is 7 degrees. My fingers were cold and my thumbs much colder for the first few miles.

After a short distance on the main groomed road, we turned off uphill on the Amabilis Mountain Road. In past years, the road was groomed at to the far edge with the tracks over there. Now the tracks have been moved away from the edge and there is room for snowshoers to hike off the groomed track. This is better than having them out in the middle where skate skiers go up and all skiers go down. It does narrow the skate/downhill room a little. We saw one set of skate tracks in the middle and several bootprints to the far right. It had been subfreezing for days and snowshoes were not needed but they did leave light prints. We set a good pace trying to generate some heat. Fortunately, there was little wind all day long.

Gary's gps talks every half mile with time, distance, and the current elevation. We were surprised to find that our average speed was just under 3 mph going uphill. Since this would be our first significant gain on skies in a year, we wanted to conserve energy and to be fresh for the nearly 5.5 mile descent. Ironically, our last steep ski trip was to Amabilis Mountain almost exactly one year earlier on a sunny cold day. History was repeating. Well almost. It was nowhere near this cold a year earlier.

After a couple of miles we both noticed it was much warmer. We know that the "Y" was warmer in the morning and getting out of the valley did bring a warmer temperature. My fingers warmed though my thumbs still hurt. We stopped at the "Y" for a quick food and water break and to take a few photos. When I first skied up Amabilis on 3-19-89, it was only my fourth cross-country ski trip. My first was 32 days earlier. I'm sure I fell a lot on that trip. Gary's first trip up was a decade earlier than mine. On my first trip up much of the mountain was clear cut. There were views much of the way up to the summit. Now they are much fewer. Even a decade ago, the views from the "Y" were enormous. Now we moved to get the best gap between the trees. There is still a view but it is closing down quickly.  So far we had traveled 2.7 miles and gained about 900'. We had about the same distance to go with another 1200' of gain. It was still only 9:15 am. One lone skier had passed us so far.

The groomed tracks went both ways. One can do a loop up to the summit and back down to the "Y". We have done the loop counterclockwise but going up the left route more. Up we went. We lost the hikers' footprints and the track of the skier who passed us. The skate skier's track continued on the left road. The route gets a little steeper than down below but is never overly steep. When it is icy my skill level has a hard time descending. It was looking pretty good this day. Part way up we saw the new warming hut. Last year we saw it where we reached the upper ridge. It was locked. Now it has been moved downhill and it is open. We took a look but did not take off our skis and go inside. The route continues to climb and we started to get out of the forest shade and into some sunshine. We stopped to put on sunglasses. The sunshine did feel a lot warmer. We started to see folks coming down. The first guy with skate skis had to be the track we had been following. Then 3 more people skied down. We saw only one track so far. The other folks must have skied up the groomed track without leaving any marks.

I was pleased when we reached the ridge top. On many previous trips, the wind was blowing much harder on top. We now had a very light breeze at times but very little. I was able to check the Kongsberger Ski Club website and found the temperature at the base was still in single digits but near the summit it was up to 21 degrees. My thumbs had even warmed up. Off the groomed track there was 4 or so inches of very light powdery snow. It is seldom cold enough in the Cascade passes for that kind of snow. Going off the road was very easy. There is a junction at the ridge top. A road went over the top and headed left. Our route headed right atop the ridge. We found several other groomed routes heading right and left from our ridge top road. We also saw them last year but have not yet taken them to see where they go. For the first several decades the Amabilis Road was not groomed. Then the road was groomed up to the "Y". Grooming higher is a much newer occurrence.

Most of the ridge route makes a steady elevation gain. It was a bit steeper than I recalled. It is much gentler than much of the rest of the route down. We continued higher in forest. We noticed a small window with a view of Mt. Rainier. Up higher was an opening to the east with great views of the Cascade Crest Peaks up to Mt. Hinman and Mt. Daniel. With sunshine and lots of fresh snow, the views were outstanding. We stopped at a high point where we stopped last year. We had blue sky and views that day but also high winds. We dropped down out of the wind for lunch. This time we stopped just above the trail with good views. We saw a few people skiing up the ridge and saw a few more at our lunch spot. We arrived at 10:57 am. We took 2:57 to ski 5.35 miles with about 2100' of gain.

It was early and sunny. The trees were plastered with fresh snow. We were in no hurry to head down. Having not done any downhill in a year and looking at 5.35 miles of it, I was a little unsure how I would do. If the road was too icy I would be in a bit of trouble. It looked pretty good on the way up. Our lunch break continued long after lunch. We finally packed up and left on our descent at 12:04 pm. Skiing down the ridge top went fast. I started to feel comfortable and that boded well for the descent off the ridge. We did pass a group of snowshoers who were walking two abreast on each side of the groomed ski track and another over on the far side. That left a narrow gap for me to ski through and I was not pleased though I made it through fine. Otherwise, folks were where they were supposed to be and gave me plenty of room to ski by them.

Gary is faster and more skilled than me so he would periodically stop and wait for me. For the most part, I stayed in sight of him all the way down. Much of the upper mountain was in sunshine and the snow was a bit softer. I had very good control here. We stopped at the "Y" for another break. We were both feeling good. When it is icy I hold a partial snowplow to check my speed. Over time this wears me out. This day I felt great after losing 1300'. Things changed on the lower part. It was in shade and had a lot more use since the morning grooming. It was also icy. A short way down I caught up with Gary and he mentioned his legs were now hurting. So were mine. I bounced around on ice but remained upright. I was very pleased to reach the bottom of the hill. A few leg muscles were screaming. They do not get used while hiking. Gary arrived a minute or so ahead of me. He arrived at 12:46 pm. He took 42 minutes to ski down 5.35 miles with 2100' of elevation loss. I took about 43 minutes including the break at the "Y". 2:57 up and :42 down is one reason that skis are better than snowshoes on a route like this for me. The route back to the start of skiing went fast. The walk across the icy parking lot was even more fun with tired legs. The lot was now full as it is most every weekend day in the winter.

This was a really good trip. I'm sure it will be in my 10 best trips of the year. We had a lot of solitude, good snow, sunshine, and terrific views. It was crazy cold at first but then improved. I was very happy to stay upright all the way down. Falling and getting back up takes a lot out of me. My legs were hurting near the bottom but not falling really made the trip easier. Perhaps next February we will get another sunny day for a trip up Amabilis Mountain. We can only hope. I am really pleased to have such great conditions two years in a row.

7° F  To Start
Freshly Groomed Snow
Heading Uphill
Gary On Skis
Cornier Ahead
Gary At Junction
Junction Views
Gary On Left Road
Tinkham & Silver Peaks
New Warming Hut
Almost In Sunshine
Top Of Mt. Rainier
Photo Break
On The Ridge Top
Happy Gary
Ascending The Ridge
Dual Photos
Jim On Skis
Looking Back
Another Mt. Rainier Shot
Best Viewpoint
Hinman & Daniel
Cascade Crest Peaks
Lunchtime View
Me At Lunch
Gary At Lunch
Fresh Snow
Ready To Head Down

Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2023