Cold Creek Ski

Gary 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. It 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.

Snowy Lot
Groomed Grade
Easy Skiing
View Of Lake Keechelus
Gary On Connector Trail
Skiing Connector
On Cold Creek Trail
Gary On Route
Groomed Trail
Turn Around Spot
Descent Route
Heading Up Again
Gary Skiing
Skate Skier
Hidden Valley Trail
Me On Skis
Blue Sky
High Horse Trail
Crossing Cold Creek
Mill Creek Bridge
Back On The RR Grade
View Of Lake
Gary On The Grade
Alta Mountain
End In Sight
Almost Back
Gold Creek View
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2023