Tag Archives: snoqualmie

Snoqualmie Nordic – Opening Weekend

Cold, clear evenings and plenty of snow made for fast and smooth conditions, both at the Snoqualmie Nordic center and for downhill runs at Silver Fir. After two powder weekends in a row it was good to break out the good form, cruise, and get some exercise.

Here are some shots from the Rockdale Lake area of the Nordic Center. Hidden Valley loop is open and in very nice shape but the Mount Catherine loop isn’t open yet.
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Abiel Peak

Abiel Peak

5365′

Class 3

Abiel Peak is a fun scrambling peak off of I-90. I attempted this two ways – once in a failed attempt to see if we could finish an unusual route from Annette Lake, and one the easy way from the PCT.

Abiel from Annette Lake – The Hard Way (Sep 12)

On an overnight camping trip at the lake, a friend and I tried to scramble up the rugged, tree covered west ridge of Abiel by gaining a saddle in a talus-filled ravine southwest of the lake. We ambled around to the southwest edge of the lake, left the trail, and travelled on open talus to the steep treeline at the westerly of two saddle points on the ridge. This one looked more open and less forested than the east saddle point, but it turned out to be a bad move. The terrain was steep, loose dirt with very few hand and footholds. We found it too dangerous to continue and turned around. I bet the more easterly saddle marked on the map would go but we haven’t tried it; nonetheless, it was a fun adventure.

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Looking at the talus gulley from Annette Lake’s north shore
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Silver Peak on the ascent

Continue reading Abiel Peak

Dumpster Divin’: Blowdown Mountain and Lake Twentytwo

Hiking trips aren’t always spectacular, magazine-worthy endeavors. Here are a couple of examples from a recent weekend.

Blowdown Mountain (4/18/15)

I wanted to go for a mountain run for exercise and decided to explore a little bit higher on the Mt. Si ridge without doing the slog that is Mt. Teneriffe in the snow, so I found this little “gem” on Summitpost, described as a “Peakbagger’s peak, nothing more, nothing less”. I found this peak has a lot to recommend for itself.

For one, the approach follows the Mt. Si for most of the elevation gain (one of the most crowded trails in the I-90 corridor). Here’s nwhikers poster Angry Hiker’s artistic rendition:

Credit: The Angry Hiker

From the Haystack, proceed through the trees along a faint foot/deer/old Jeep trail up the ridge. How is there snow here still?? I was, of course, in running shoes and shorts with no gaiters and promptly packed my shoes full of snow.

The Haystack

Continue reading Dumpster Divin’: Blowdown Mountain and Lake Twentytwo

Where is the snow?

This winter has been without precedent as a horrible one for skiers. Record high temperatures throughout much of the west, combined with Washington’s relatively low elevations, mean that the ample precipitation we have received has largely fallen as rain rather than snow. Cliff Mass’s weather blog has a good discussion of how this has come about and why it might be a preview of the Northwest as affected by climate change more than half a century from now. I’m moving to Canada.

Capture

I’m taking this opportunity to get Mountain Running season off to a good start. I signed up for the Yakima Skyline 25K in April so I’ve been trying to build in some elevation to work up to it. The Issaquah Alps are snow free and have been particularly beautiful lately.

Rattlesnake Mountain (2/14/15)

West Tiger Mountain (2/21/15)

I found the “Tiger Mountain Dumb Ass 50K” route suggestion online and tried it for lap one – up the steep, steep Section Line trail and down the pretty technical K3 trail. One lap was enough for me so I went up the normal West Tiger 3 trail on the second lap for a total gain of around 4000′.

One of the very best pictures I’ve ever taken on my iPhone 4
West Tiger 2

Ski Mountaineering/AIARE Level 1 Class

In November I started a course with the Foothills Mountaineers, called Ski and Snowboard Mountaineering with an AIARE Level 1 avalanche certification module included. There are lots of informative classroom sessions, but the heart of the course is a series of field trips.

Paradise Shakedown Tour

The first field trip was a quick jaunt up into the Alta Vista section of Mount Rainier National Park, not far from the Paradise visitor’s center. It was great to get a chance to test out all the equipment with some knowledgeable instructors there to assist, and we even got some views.

 

 

 

Snow conditions were largely stable, with a well-consolidated snowpack, although we did see some avalanche crowns from a cycle earlier in the week.

 

We were supposed to build snow shelters but the low snow conditions made that fairly challenging. I learned that the dense snow sets up as hard as concrete so we tried to cut slabs of it with some success. My sad attempt at a shelter might have kept me marginally warmer than being out in the open but I’m looking forward to trying again during the overnight field trip in March.

The ski down was not much fun – foot-wide runnels where water had run off the snow during a rain storm earlier that week made it difficult to make turns. There were also lots of exposed creek beds and rocks.

AIARE Level 1 Class

The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE)  sanctions local avalanche training courses at multiple levels of depth. The Level 1 class is designed for backcountry enthusiasts new to the backcountry, and it taught a very important set of skills that will serve me in multiple activities through the snowier months.

There were four classroom sessions covering avalanche risk factors, how to read avalanche forecasts, human factors, safe travel techniques, and other pieces of knowledge. The heart of the course was a weekend with two field trips in the Snoqualmie “backcountry” where we got to put our book skills to use.

Day 1 consisted largely of avalanche beacon practice. We tested the function of our transceivers, got a sense for the working range, and ran two “realistic” victim rescue scenarios as a team. Those were definitely the most useful portion of the course. It rained pretty much all day, and the low snow conditions made things challenging (navigation around exposed bushes and rocks).

 

Day 2 was a group tour in and out of bounds near Summit Central – we practiced making decisions as a team and discussed potential avalanche problems. Even though it was a low-risk day according to the NWAC forecast,  temps reached over 50F so we were able to observe the precursors to wet loose avalanches (as if there was enough loose snow to even have a problem!)

 

This picture pretty much sums up the conditions: