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
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
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
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'
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,
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
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
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
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.
Click on thumbnails to get
7° F To Start
Freshly Groomed Snow
Gary On Skis
Gary At Junction
Gary On Left Road
Tinkham & Silver Peaks
New Warming Hut
Almost In Sunshine
Top Of Mt. Rainier
On The Ridge Top
Ascending The Ridge
Jim On Skis
Another Mt. Rainier Shot
Hinman & Daniel
Cascade Crest Peaks
Me At Lunch
Gary At Lunch
Ready To Head Down