The Columbia Icefields, Jasper, Canada
Pacific Northwest Trip Reports!
Reports of personal experience of hikes and climbs in the backcountry of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and the surrounding area.
Windy Pass 3,800' March 31, 2002
Windy Pass is a fine trip for skiers. From I90 exit 54 go to the Keechelus Sno-Park. There is special fee but it is worth the price. Attendants are there early to sell you the permit.
We followed the Iron Horse Trail for .5 miles before cutting up through the woods on a marked ski route to "shared corridor" from Hyak. We followed this easily without skins to Windy Pass, 3,800. It was indeed windy and felt more like winter than spring. Our views were limited, with the clouds dropping to 5,000, but it stayed dry.
Mount Catherine lies 1,000 to the east and Silver Peak, 1,600 to the west. Both would make a fine adventure for a well-equipped strong party and good weather. We didnt see any tracks of anyone heading in either direction.
After a hearty lunch, Doerte and I started down, practicing our telemark turns on the gentle but long run. The Scarpa T3s were great. 8 miles round trip and 1,300 elevation gain, and six hours. We hurried over to the WAC Cabin to see what was going on and try out the new coffee maker.
Mount Margaret 5,520 March 09, 2002
The trailhead is off I-90 Exit 54 just two miles east of Snoqualmie Pass. Go under the freeway, past the Kendall Lakes and Gold Creek Sno-Parks to the end of the road, and then park among the snowmobile trucks and trailers. We had some high clouds, but it looked like we were in the window between systems. Seattle had just received an unusual March snow the day before.
Doerte, Tilmann Gneiting, and I started out on snowshoes about 9:30 am in 2-4" of new snow. We expected to see many parties. The route follows I-90 for 1.5 miles, then after crossing Wolfe Creek, it begin to climb, passing the summer trailhead. At about 3.5 miles, 100 yards after the summer trailhead, the route leaves the main road and turns left. If there was a sign marking the trailhead, it was buried in the snow.
We continued up the road until we neared the ridge. The summer trail crosses the clearcut basin before heading for the trees. We went steeply up the to the ridge, encountering extremely strong winds and blowing snow. Looking over my shoulder, 50 away, Doerte and Tilmann disappeared in the blowing snow! My face felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper across my cheeks. Doerte had to brace herself with her poles to keep from being pushed over. The pack straps slapping my face was really bothersome!
We dropped below the ridge to get out of the wind, but then had to bust through 1-2 feet of drifted, heavy snow, weaving around trees. It was hard work, and we traded off the lead, since we all wanted to break the trail.
We crossed the 5,100 saddle where the wind had blown the new snow away and it was only hard pack and ice. We gained the ridge again, and had a lunch right with a view of both summits, above Margaret Lake. Steep slopes and giant cornices were off the ridge to the north. The views were wonderful up to the cloud ceiling of 7,000. We could see the base of Mount Rainier close by, the Bears Breast, and the Dutch Miller Gap Peaks. Big Mount Stuart was hidden by clouds. We watched snowmobilers high point on the avalanche slope below Mount Margaret, and were amazed at their audacity.
After a fast lunch I headed for the summit, struggling through 2-4 of heavy snow on the ridge. Eventually I climbed the backside of an icy cornice, kicking steps and handholds to the summit, but the false summit, at 5,440. It was clear that the neighbor peak was higher by 80. It was 2:30 p.m. and I guessed it would take another hour to bust a route to the main summit so I headed back down, only to meet Doerte and Tilmann coming up, and then two parties of telemarkers. The telemarkers had come up the summer route before joining our trail on the ridge.
We followed our route down, finding the trail blown completely over in many places. Doertes MSR snowshoes binding broke while still on the ridge, so we traded and I limped down on one snowshoe. We took a direct route down through the clearcut, heading directly for Keechelus Lake far below. The lake is starting to ice out at the inlets.
We were back at the deserted trailhead at 5:00 p.m. Only three cars remained, ours, and the two telemarker parties. A winter trip of high adventure, 7.5 hours, 9 miles, and 2,880 gain.
Mount Spokane 5,883 March 02, 2002
From I-90 in Spokane take Highway 2 North to State Highway 206, the Mount Spokane Road. We passed the closed Park headquarters, continuing on for three miles to a saddle and large parking area for snowshoers, skiers, and snowmobilers. This mountain worked it's way up on out "to do" list until it was at the top.
We parked here and started up through the old-growth timber, following a broken trail. Not having good directions Doerte and I hoped for the best. After a mile we caught a reassuring glimpse of Mount Spokane above us, and we could relax with the route finding.
The trail through the woods soon gave way to a scenic meadow which gained in steepness and panoramic views as the trees became fewer and fewer. We saw several skiers coming down from the lifts, but no other snowshoers or teleskiers. The mountain receives 300 of snow a year.
Mount Spokane, 5,883 is the most southerly peak in the Selkirk Mountains. The summit, which has a road to the top in the summer, has radio towers on one side and two ski lifts on the other side. We soaked up the sun while we enjoyed lunch and spectacular views in all directions including the surrounding states of Idaho and Montana, as well as Canada.
The mountain has been called Mount Carlton and Mount Baldy. The road to the top was constructed by Francis H. Cook in 1912. The area was the first state park east of the Cascades, and the Civilian Conservation Corps did the initial development. The mountain has been a popular ski area since 1950.
The word "Spokane" is accepted as meaning "Sun People" or "Children of the Sun", although the interpretation is not without controversy. In 1807, David Thompson, a trapper with the Northwest Fur Trading Company, first used the name "Spokane" in referring to the three Spokane bands.
We had an easy trip down aside from a little trouble route finding to join the trail in the woods. Other summits in the neighborhood are Mount Kit Carson and Day Mountain. This trip was too easy and too short. 5 miles and 2,000 gain (Im guessing) Next time I would start just above the Park Headquarters and add 3 more miles each way and more elevation gain.
Hex Mountain 5,034 February 16, 2002
Hex Mountain is a fine trip about two hours from Seattle. Take I90 to the Roslyn Exit, and then to State Route 903. Turn left; drive through the old former coal mining towns of Roslyn and Ronald, a total of 9 miles to Forest Road 116. Look for the Newport Creek sign and park at the plowed pullout 100 yards before Road 116.
Doerte and I started up Road 116 on snowshoes after a party of three skiers, but soon passed them at 1.7 miles, at the summer trailhead. The day was calm and clear, with only a few high clouds above. It was probably the best weekend day in weeks, and we felt lucky to be outside enjoying such a fine day! We could hear the high pitch wine of snowmobiles in the Valley far below, but they were hard to see.
The skiers enjoyed a morning snack and encouraged us with a laugh to continue on, into the unbroken snow up the ridge. We couldnt find any markers of the summer trail, so we busted trail up the snout of the ridge of Hex Mountain. Occasionally, we saw the remnant of an old track, but mostly we went directly up the ridge. It was hard work and were soon down to our bottom layers.
We heard the tap, tap, tap of a woodpecker, and stopped to listen to him work for a while. By his slow, irregular, very loud drumming we identified him as a Pileated Woodpecker. They like a deep forest with many standing dead trees. I wish now I would have followed the sound to get a view. My bird list is pretty short!
Plum Creek Timber Company had been busy in the area, so most of the trees to the North of the ridge were gone. As we made our way up the ridge, we were careful to avoid the big rounded, beautiful cornices, which grew larger as we gained elevation. The wind must be incredible here at times. Some of the drifts were 8 deep in the trees.
At 3.5 miles we gained the treeless summit of Hex Mountain, 5,034. The skiers joined us a few minutes later, and being hardy souls, planned on camping on the summit. What amazing views we had! Majestic Mount Stuart, 9,415, Colchuck Peak, 8,705, Little Annapurna, 8,440, and entire Stuart Range to the North, and Mount Hinman, 7,492, Mount Daniel, 7,986 to the Northwest.
In 1853 Captain George B. McClellen summed it up from near Naches Pass when he wrote, "to the northward there is a vast sea of bare, jagged, snow-crowned ranges extending as far as the eye can reach!" This is also fitting for the views from Hex Mountain. Cle Elum Lake was far below in the valley.
On our descent, we met yet a second party that was overnighting on the summit. Many hardy souls in this part of the Cascades! Out time down was half of the ascent time. A tough, but rewarding trip, 7-mile roundtrip and 2,600 elevation gain.
We made it to the WAC Cabin before dark to change clothes and fix a nice pasta dinner. At the cabin for the holiday weekend were the Rue Family, Sargent Family, Amodei Family, and the Brown Family. It was amazing to see three generations of WACers enjoying the cabin together. The Family dorm was overflowing and Laura Sargent remarked in the cabin log that there was "lots of logs sawing uptairs!"
Wenatchee Ridge 4,050 February 09, 2002
The Wenatchee Ridge Trail begins at Lake Wenatchee at the end of Highway 207, about 12 miles from Highway 2 at Coles Corner. It is actually on Forest Road 65, but we could not tell when it changed from Highway 207 to Forest Road 65. There is a small plowed area at the end of the road, which on this beautiful day, was occupied by three snowmobile parties, two snowshoe parties and one nordic ski party.
The trail follows the now unplowed Forest Road 65
for two miles, then up Forest Road 6502 for another three miles. The snow was softer and
finer on this east side of the Cascade Crest, and Doerte and I enjoyed the quiet and
solitude as we gained elevation and the views got better and better. The snowshoeing was
easy at first, and then became more difficult as the snow got deeper.
It was fun to look down on the increasing flowing water of the Little Wenatchee River in the Valley and up to the big panoramic views of Mount Mastiff and Mount Howard high above. We picked out many routes up the big mountains.
There were some clouds lingering on the high ridges, but overall the weather was mild and dry. We made four miles each way which didnt quite get us all the way to the endpoint on the ridge before our turnaround time of 2:00 pm.
As we came around a turn near the carpark we were shocked to come face to face with a big Bobcat on the road! It was a real beauty in its winter coat and much larger than we had imagined they would be! We all stood and looked at each other for a while before it ran a few yards in the woods and turned around to look at us again. We have seen tracks and scat many times in the past but never a real sighting until now.
The snowmobilers were polite and it was a pleasure to talk to the nordic skiers. The nordic skiers always seem to have their egos in place. If you go, be sure to get an early start to ensure you have enough time to get all the way on to the ridge for the best views. We did 8 miles round trip and 1,600 elevation gain.
Haney Butte 6,260 February 02, 2002
The route begins off Highway 97 on the way to Leavenworth at the Swauk Pass Sno-park. Most people still refer to this as Blewett Pass. However, Blewett Pass is the old unpaved road a few miles to the south. When the modern highway was built the pavement was rerouted over Swauk Pass. Park on the south side at elevation 4,102. There was enough parking, although some parties park at the pullouts a little farther down the road to save the Sno-Park Pass fee.
On this beautiful Saturday, there were snowshoers, skiers, and snowboarders, most heading to Diamond Head. Two miles and 1,800 gets skiers and snowboarders to the summit and some great runs off the west side.
Doerte and I very quickly tired of the snowmobiles racing by at 40 to 50 mph, and not even raising their hand off the throttle, so we decided to avoid Diamond Head and go toward Haney Meadows instead. We took the skier only trail. The snow was light, soft, dry powder and a foot deep on the open slopes.
This trail was well marked, easy to follow, and contours around Diamond Head. At 2.5 miles it joins Tronsen Meadow, 4,500, another access from the highway. The trail begins to gain elevation; crosses two avalanche slopes, and then meets a narrow valley on the steep east side of Diamond Head. Now out of the trees, the trail ascends the valley and heads up the open slopes to the edge of a ridge. A strong party of four telemarkers with skins passed us.
We climbed the ridge another 350 on hard windblown snow to the summit of Haney Butte at about 6,260. The four telemarkers were beginning their steep run off the summit through the powdery glades of Haney Meadows far below. We had a broad panorama of the Cascades, with occasional views of Mount Stuart and Mount Rainier. Because of the cold wind, we quickly added some layers, enjoyed a lunch, and began our descent.
We met four snowshoers and a lone backcountry skier hoping to gain the summit. As always, going down took only half the time it took to ascend. We only saw three other parties so there was lots of great solitude and backcountry. The only negative was the loud, noisy, stinky, racing, snowmobiles. 10 miles, 2,158 elevation gain, and 5.5 hours.
Talapus Lake 3,280' January 12, 2002
Talapus Lake, an after dinner stroll in the summer, is a good day with 1,600 of elevation gain in the heart of winter. From I90 take Exit 45 to the North side of the highway and follow forest road 9031 to forest road 9030. There is a lot of snow right now, so we parked where the plow stopped and made our way in the rain up the road on the snow to the Trailhead in 2.5 miles.
Another three miles through fir and hemlock, a few switchbacks, and a crossing of Talapus Creek brought Doerte, Dave, and I to the lake. The rain had turned to snow, and the Lake was covered with a blanket of white. We had great fun enjoying the occasional views! It was a real winter wonderland.
High above us was Bandera Mountain to the west and Pratt Mountain to the north. Either mountain would make a great winter trip with stable snow and good conditions. We met two guys attempting Pratt Mountain, but they wisely turned back with the poor conditions. Mike Garrison climbed Pratt a few years ago in February. Both together would make a challenging early season day. Talapus Lake is 11 Miles and 1,600 gain from the car.
Kendall Peak Lakes 4,400 January 06, 2002
The Trail starts two miles east of Snoqualmie Pass at the Snow-Park at Exit 54 off I-90. The trail is a forest road and easy to follow. Many people come to play and sled at the lower reaches of the trail. The day was overcast, and the forecast was for a front to move through later in the day with the snow level rising to 5,000.
Doerte and I walked happily along in the three inches of new snow that had fallen during the night. We saw a few parties, but not many considering how close we are to Seattle. After 2 miles we found a track that left the trail and ascended steeply into the forest. We hoped it would eventually join back up with the main route. It was hard work, but fun, to climb the steep slope through the big trees, covered white with snow. All the limbs of the trees hung heavily with snow. The route zig-zagged around the limbs.
Finally, we broke from the forest and climbed a crest to the top of a ridge. We seemed to be on a big hump in the middle of the valley. We knew we must be very close to the Kendall Peak Lakes, but we couldnt tell where they were. All we could see was fog and clouds. We continued down the track and finally stopped for a snack. A woolen solo snowshoer told us to continue on another 10 minutes and we would see the lake.
It was easy to become disoriented in the fog, and when it started to rain, it turned the silky light powder into thick mashed potatoes! At the lower lake we had a good visit with two backcountry snowboarders, the only party we saw besides the woolen solo! We made our way to the middle Lake of the Kendall Peak Lakes, 4,400, on wet snow in a mad rain. Located in a small basin below Kendall Peak, 5,784, the three Kendall Peak Lakes are gorgeous any time of the year.
Once again, Doerte and I were having a typical day in the Pacific Northwest. Snow, rain, and no visibility! The rumored views were no where to be seen. But, it was a good day to field test our gear and see if that Gortex really works! We had a five minute break at the middle lake and then started back down in the rain. We couldnt see anything except the trail in front of us. Losing the trail would have been a terrible disaster!
The descent went fast and we were back on the main trail in an hour, and back at the truck in 30 more minutes, chilled and wet. Our gloves and pants were wet, feet, upper-bodies, and heads were dry. 4.5 hours, 1,800 elevation gain, and 9 miles.
Keechelus Ridge 4,900 January 05, 2002
The trailhead is at Exit 62 on I-90, then drive back West a little more than a mile to the Price Creek Snow-Park, 2,800. The Snow-Park was full of snowmobilers and we wondered if we were at the right place. There was only one other party of snowshoers.
Doerte and I started up the trail at 10 am on hard pack. We followed the forest service road, avoiding the snowmobiles (load and stinky) when they came by. We stayed on Road 124 until it appeared to descend, then headed cross-country up the ridge. It was beautiful in the glades and open areas. The big trees all had big white blankets covering them. The hard pack turned to a few inches of soft powder.
By now we knew that the summit ahead of us would be a false one and we kept plodding along. The visibility fell to only about 50 as we got above 4,500. Doerte came upon a couple having lunch at the base of a stand of second growth. They were the only party we encountered since leaving the Trailhead. They had managed to avoid all of the dreaded snowmobiles by traveling crosscountry.
The Keechelus Ridge summit, 4,900, has a big radio tower that we could barely see even while standing underneath it! Besides being in a cloud, it was covered in ice. Looking to the south, we imagined all the wonderful views and panoramic vistas we would have on a clear day as we added a couple layers for the descent.
We had to be really careful to follow our tracks on the way down to be sure we stayed on route. It was a sea of white powder! The route down through the trees was fast and fun. We were surprised there were no skiers or snowboarders as the snow was perfect.
A great trip, even with the snowmobiles, and without the views. 8 miles, 2,100 elevation gain, over 5.5 hours.
Third Beach 0 January 01, 2002
We always enjoy the Pacific Ocean, so Doerte and I have made a trip to the Olympic Beaches an annual event for New Years. There was not a single car at the Trailhead, although one party had just hiked out on New Years Eve.
A nice storm was coming in from the South so we put on all our rain gear and strolled down the 1.5 mile trail to Third Beach. The trees were swaying in the wind, and it is still warm enough that the ferns havent been killed by frost, yet. The rain was steady enough that we had to keep our hood on.
We could hear the waves before we could see the water. Many people like to come to the Pacific Beaches to watch the storms, and it was easy to see why. The waves were bigger than we have ever seen them, although the storm was just a little one. The waves were breaking right at the beach! The bigger waves completely covered the sand. The waves deposited huge logs on the beach and completely covering the sand. Their power was amazing.
We could only go along the Beach to the south by running in between the waves and climbing on the big rocks and trees when the waves came. Our tracks were erased with the next wave. All the headlands would have been impossible to round on a day like this! The only campsites were the high water, winter camps.
We looked for the Gray Whales on their migration to Baja but didnt spot any. The weather needs to be a bit calmer to see their spouts.
3 miles and 300 elevation gain.
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