joined me for another cross
country ski trip. It looked like a cold morning and a much warmer
afternoon. We chose a trip up to Windy Pass from the Hyak Sno-Park. We
had several feet of snow in the past week and avalanche danger was a
concern. The Snoqualmie Nordic Center website showed that the Mt.
Catherine Loop was closed but the Cold Creek Trail was open. One short
trail of the loop was closed well beyond Windy Pass. With that in mind,
we met at Eastgate Park and Ride at 7:20 am and headed east.
was in the upper 20s in most places including my neighborhood. The road
was fine all the way up. It was down to around 20 degrees as we headed
over Snoqualmie Pass. We arrived at about 8:08 am. The parking lot was
almost completely snow covered though it was thin and well packed down.
On our walk across the lot getting started we ran into David Baxter and
his friend Kathie. Three weeks earlier we met them on a ski trip from
Hyak to the dam at the end of Lake Keechelus. This day they were also
planning a trip up towards Windy Pass. We believed the trail was open
and they read it as closed before the pass.
We started down the old railroad grade at 8:16 am. There were people
heading out ahead of us. The first mile went by pretty fast. I did stop
several times to take photos. It was quite cold but much warmer than
the 7F at Amabilis Mountain the previous weekend. I did start with my
heavier gloves. At just about 1 mile, we reached the connector trail
leading up to the Cold Creek Road/Trail. This trail allows skiers to
ski up to Windy Pass to access the Nordic Pass Trail without needing a
ski area permit. There was about 25" more snow than on our visit three
weeks earlier. The connector trail had plenty of fresh snow. Gary and I
managed to ski up it though slowly. David and Kathie skied much of it
then booted up the last part. They caught and passed me.
The Cold Creek route was freshly groomed. Almost no tracks in the
middle at all. We did see a few folks skiing up from Hyak. The route
drops down to cross a bridge over Mill Creek. The snow was pretty slow.
That was fine with me. Snow was all the way up to the guardrails on the
bridge. The route slowly ascended up the road. Gary pointed out the
start of the High Horse Trail. It has been marked as as trail since our
last visit. We thought about checking it out if we were not too tired
on our way back. We passed the turn off to the Hidden Valley Trail and
continued up. Then we came to the closure. There is avalanche danger
near the second switchback. We chose to go a bit higher but turn back
before nearing that spot.
We skied through ungroomed snow and the grooming started up again. The
grade steepened a little though it is not all that steep. We rounded
the switchback and then kept going to a viewpoint. This was still short
of the avalanche gully above the road. After some photos we headed
down. This was the best downhill of the day. It was not fast but we did
get up some speed. Gary went first and I followed. David and Kathie
followed us. Just before the switchback, I stopped to take photos of
David and Kathie skiing down. I managed fall before I stopped. My first
fall of the year. I managed to slightly sprain my foot though it did
not hurt at all until I took off my boots at home. I continued down to
where Gary stopped. I did get a video of Kathie and David skiing down.
Since we would not get in the elevation gain to Windy Pass Gary
suggested going back up to where we had stopped. Up we went. David and
Kathie went up to the switchback. We gained another 200' of elevation
and zoomed down again. This time I stayed on my feet. David took photos
of Gary passing by and a video of me skiing. That is the first time I
have seen myself moving on skis. We skied back to the open groomed
route. We noticed the groomer went down past the warming hut to the
bridge below. Gary and I went down to check it out. It was just a dead
end as the grooming stopped at the bridge. David and Kathie headed back
to the railroad grade. Gary and I soon started back. At the turn for
the Hidden Valley trail Gary suggested another detour. I went up Hidden
Valley once in early spring on icy snow and once with Gary some years
back. I knew it did steepen a ways along. It starts out at a moderate
grade we up we went. Where it started getting much steeper I decided to
turn around. It was much faster going down. I almost crashed then got
back under control. I thought someone was behind me and we pulled into
snow on the side to stop. The rest of the way back to the Cold Creek
Trail was fine.
We skied down the Cold Creek Trail to the start of the High Horse. We
skied a short way up it. The sun was out and we skied a short way off
the trail into the sun for a brunch stop. A corridor was cut for
overhead lines and it let in the sunshine. We arrived at 10:44 am. Our
break lasted until 11:32 am. We chose to go farther on the High Horse
Trail. It dropped to cross Cold Creek on a bridge and started climbing
again. The track was narrow and well packed down by some big
backcountry skis. In fact, two skiers on wide skis passed by as we
climbed the narrow trail. It was already getting sketchy to ski down on
our narrow non-edged skies so we chose to turn around. We skied back to
the Cold Creek Road and retraced our route back to the connector trail.
Rather than try to ski down, we saved some time and energy by just
walking down. We reached the Palouse to Cascades railroad grade at
11:58. So far, we had covered about 7 miles. A mile down the grade and
then two miles back would get up up to a 10 mile day.
We turned right and headed south on the grade. There were now a lot
more folks out than in the morning. We passed a few slow people and
skate skiers zoomed by us. At a little past 8 miles we turned around.
The track was freshly groomed and though it was now at or above
freezing, we had good kick and glide. I stopped for more photos but we
kept up a good pace. We arrived back at the parking lot at 12:57 pm.
For the day the gps recorded about 10.5 miles with 1100' of gain. We
skied the railroad grade, the Cold Creek Road, the Hidden Valley Road,
the High Horst Trail, and the grade once again. Quite a bit of variety
for one trip. Even with our long brunch break we were done by 1:00 pm.
The weather was good. Very cold at the start but it warmed up all day.
The snow was very good. For much of the day we saw few people. This was
the third ski trip of the year for me. Long ago I did up to 18 trips in
one winter but just getting out three times so far feels pretty good.
Hopefully, I will get in a few more ski trips this season.
Click on thumbnails to get
View Of Lake Keechelus
Gary On Connector Trail
On Cold Creek Trail
Gary On Route
Turn Around Spot
Heading Up Again
Hidden Valley Trail
Me On Skis
High Horse Trail
Crossing Cold Creek
Mill Creek Bridge
Back On The RR Grade
View Of Lake
Gary On The Grade
End In Sight
Gold Creek View