Nordic Pass Work Party

I joined Gary Westerlund and others for a work party on the Nordic Pass Trail in 2006. In 2017 we had another work party. It was time for a third. Louise was proactive in getting this done. Gary was onboard too. Gary was one of the people who convinced the Forest Service to allow the trail. Louise brought five other Mountaineers. Gary and I were joined by Paul and his friend John. That made a team of ten. The trail is marked by blue diamonds tailed to trees. Over time they come off or trees fall down. The gaps make it hard to navigate the route. Everyone brought a hammer. Garry alloted us a supply of diamonds and nails. The trail is four miles of continuous diamonds. It takes a long time to snowshoe that far while replacing diamonds. We hoped to make it all the way though it was far from a sure thing. Also, after a cold winter, it was supposed to by 64 degrees in Seattle and 48 degrees at Hyak, That is a very warm day for a winter snowshoe trip.

We met at Hyak by 8:00 am. By 8:12 am we were on our way. We walk up the roads to the big leftward switchback and climbed up on the snow. There is a creek to cross right at the start. One reason for the work party was that we had 80"+ at Snoqualmie Pass and 120" at Nordic Pass. If there is too little snow, the diamonds are beneath the snow in higher snow years. This year was not a high snow year but it was at least average. The snow was quite deep at the creek. Climbing down and back up would have been very difficult. There was an old track and it went a little upstream and crossed on a narrow snow bridge. It was strong enough to hold our weight. We put on snowshoes immediately and crossed the creek.

We saw blue diamonds right away. We also had our first taste of a problem we would face much of the day. Over years small trees have grown up between diamonds. Often, they have grown up right in front of a tree with a diamonds. The diamonds were still there but were hard to see though the small trees with a lot of low branches. We were able to prune a few branches here and there to make the diamonds visible. The downside of working while snowshoeing is that I did not take as many photos as usual. The sections where I was breaking trail especially lack photos. Still, we were out long enough that I did get in photos off and on during the day. In some places we had diamonds ahead of us but looking back there were gaps. We did our best to fill in all the gaps.

Our route turned right where we met the old original railroad grade over Snoqualmie Pass. A few minutes later we turned left and climbed above the grade. The trail was built for narrow touring skis. That was before wide backcountry skis took over. As such, it does not go straight up. It traverses and switches back to gain elevation. This makes the trail a little longer but more gentle than some routes. The route goes by one very big tree. I took a photo of Gary in tree hugger mode. Farther along I was breaking trail when I lost the diamonds. The group caught up and we search a bit to find it again. Several new diamonds took care of the problem. We crossed a groomed cross-country ski trail lower down and soon reached the main downhill skiers crossover road between ski areas.

Where we met the crossover road, there is a short steep climb. There are no big trees on which to nail diamonds. We hung a diamond from a branch and added a tape streamer to make it more obvious. We turned right at the road and stomped in a trench along the edge. We crossed over and found a spot where we could climb up the road cut bank. There are a couple smaller trees below the main forest and the route continues near them. There was an old diamond hanging from a branch and we added another one. This is one of the more difficult spots to stay on the route.

I was back out front heading up the steep slope looking for diamonds. They were in pretty good shape. The slope grade lessened and then flattened. This led us to Gary's Meadow. Rather than planning the trail to go straight up from the crossover road Gary had it turning left and reaching this big open meadow. This day we came out of the forest into bright sunshine. It felt very warm. We stepped for a short food and water break. The trail continues along the edge of the meadow and quickly reaches Hyak Lake. The lake is buried under snow and there were some tracks going across it. We picked up the ski area snowshoe trail here. They have round yellow marker instead of our blue diamonds. They both go along the lake. At the end that trail continues straight ahead. The Nordic Pass Trail takes a sharp left turn. There is a diamond with an arrow inside pointing left. There is short climb up to another groomed cross-country ski trail. We turned right and followed the trail a short distance to an open slope with blue diamonds up the slope.

The route continues in open forest that enters an old clear cut. In 2006 the trees were only shoulder high and to small to nail diamonds to them. We had to hang diamonds. These to not last as long. The trees are now 30' tall but not large in diameter. We completely lost the trail here. Some searching showed it angling to the left. We added quite a few diamonds here. The trail leaves forest abruptly. There is a big powerline corridor here with groomed trails beneath it. We chose to take an early lunch in the bright sunshine. The next section of the route is very hard to mark. It goes right and uphill on the powerline corridor. At the next big pylon is a junction. The route turns left and begins to descend on another groomed road. A short way down there are a couple blue diamonds on the right side. The route follows an old road that now has small trees on it. Several more diamonds lead downhill to where the route reaches a groomed ski road. The route crosses straight across. A blue diamond marks the spot.

The next section has a lot of new smaller trees. We had to put up quite a few more diamonds here. You should now be able to able to navigate through the forest. The trail does go right by a Nordic Pass trail sign. We were able to navigate around Frog Lake and on through the forest. We ran out of time at Dick's Creek. We arrived at 2:17 pm. We took a break until 2:36 pm. Paul and John headed back at the powerline corridor. The Mountaineers headed back a few minutes before Gary and I. On the way down we placed more diamonds. Most were in the section before we reached the groomed ski track again. The trail is now much easier to follow. Our turnaround point was about half a mile short of Nordic Pass. The trip down was much easier as our group stomped in a trench going up and improved it going down. We reached the car at 5:34 pm. We took 9:21 to snowshoe about 6.7 miles. That seems slow but we spent a lot of the time putting up more diamond markers.

We accomplished a lot of work this day. Having ten people helped a lot. The weather was unusually good. Blue sky all day and it was warm when we were out in the sunshine. It is getting late in the ski season but I was really surprised to see so few people. We saw a couple snowshoers at Gary's Meadow going up. We saw four or five skiers on the main crossover road going up. We saw nobody going down. I saw as many people in our groups as I did all day on the trail and during our numerous crossings of the groomed ski trails. It was a productive day. If we can get back for another work party in the next five years the trail should be well set for the future.

Information on the Nordic Trail is available by contacting Gary Westerlund at:

View Of Alta Mountain
Getting Started On Trail
Group At Work
Gary & Big Tree
Waiting For Group
Two Diamonds
Catching Up
I'm Out Ahead
Near Crossover Road
Downhill Skiers
Tall Trees
Gary's Meadow
Near Hyak Lake
Hyak Lake
Left Turn After Lake
Snowshoeing Along Lake
Crossing Groomed Track
Near Dense Forest
Powerline Corridor
Brunch Spot
Relaxing In Sunshine
Paul & John
Nordic Pass Sign
Gary On Trail
Back At Powerlines
Looking Downhill
Hyak Lake Again
Gary At Meadow
Shaded Crossover Road
Nice Downhill Trench
Snow Blob
Lower Groomed Track
Two Diamonds
Crossing Snow Bridge
Sunny Mountain View
Mountain Reflection
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2023