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|-+  2014 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  January 2014 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
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Author Topic: Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass  (Read 8177 times)

Posts: 2089

Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
« on: 01/19/14, 12:21 PM »

Crest Trail sign near Lodge Lake.

On Saturday (Jan 18), Brandonee and I scouted the route of the upcoming Mountaineers Patrol Race (on Feb 8th) between Snoqualmie Pass and Stampede Pass.  The trip answered several questions I've been mulling since I last skied the route in 2006. I've updated my detailed route description on

The Mountaineer organizers may adjust the route in the coming weeks, especially at the Stampede Pass end. I've been advising Nigel Steere and the other organizers, but I don't have the final say on how the race will be run.

Removing skins at Beaver Lake pass, before beginning the descent of the Crest Trail above Lodge Lake.

Brandon and I started from the Summit West ski area at 7:30 a.m. intending to ski to Yakima Pass and back. We weren't originally intending to ski the entire route.

We quickly ascended to the saddle next to Beaver Lake and removed our skins for the descent of the Crest Trail above Lodge Lake. The descent started out well, but soon we encountered many places where the trail was bare or cut by streambeds. We made several short ski portages, then kept the skis off for a while after we passed the old Mountaineers Lodge site. The trail is completely bare for about a half mile north of the Rockdale power lines. 

We hit snow again after emerging from the trees and followed the Crest Trail across Rockdale Creek to the Mount Catherine Loop road.

Skiing the Crest Trail toward Rockdale Creek.

The Mount Catherine Loop was groomed for a short distance, but soon the grooming ended and we skied lumpy, rain crusted snow on the road to Windy Pass.

The Crest Trail below Silver Peak had widely variable snow conditions, from frozen chicken heads to rain channels, soft wet snow under the trees and bulletproof crust in the open.  I carried ski crampons and a whippet and Brandon brought boot crampons.  We used them on the final open slope below Tinkham Pass. 

Rain channels and hard crust along the Silver Peak trail.

The descent to Mirror Lake was survival skiing.  Breakable crust.  We descended mostly by a series of traverses.

Mirror Lake, on the other hand, was marvelous. The lake was hard-frozen with a smooth, unbreakable crust.  You could skate across it like the wind.  I took a few video clips of Brandon ski-skating.  See the short video here.

Skating across Mirror Lake.  (Screenshot from a short video.  For more, click here.)

From Mirror Lake we crossed to the east side of the outlet stream and worked south and east (left) to a narrow opening in the trees that led down to the basin below. We found the Crest Trail again and followed it (avoiding any clearcut thrashing) to Yakima Pass just west of Twilight Lake.

Checking the GPS during our lunch stop at Yakima Pass.

Our initial plan had been to scout the Crest Trail to the 4200-ft gravel pit on the Meadow Creek Road (FS 5483) then return to Windy Pass.  Since we'd heard that the roads between us and Stampede Pass were groomed for snowmobiles, we decided to continue in that direction. We figured it would be faster and more enjoyable than returning the way we came.

We continued south on the trail and climbed along the edge of the Cedar River Watershed to the National Forest boundary. 

National Forest boundary sign above the Cedar River Watershed.  At this point, we turned eastward and climbed a short distance to the 4200-ft gravel pit on the Meadow Creek Road (FS 5483).

The National Forest boundary sign provides an excellent marker for leaving the trail.  We turned eastward and skied through mostly open woods to the Meadow Creek Road.  Removing our skins, we zipped down the road for about two miles, dropping below the fog along the way.  Then we turned onto the Dandy Creek road and skinned to Baldy Pass.

From Baldy Pass we removed skins and descended to Stampede Pass.  I didn't know if there would be good snow coverage on the power line corridor I've taken down to Meany Lodge in the past. I didn't want to risk a bushwack.  So we decided to skip visiting the lodge and instead descended directly from Stampede Pass to the Crystal Springs Sno-Park via FS 54.  This was fast and easy.

Skiing along the Cascade Crest near Baldy Pass.  The Snoqualmie Pass peaks can be seen in the distance. Keechelus Lake is blanketed by fog.

Brandon managed to reach his wife on his cell phone and she drove to Crystal Springs to pick us up.  My cell phone (AT&T) was useless.  We returned to our starting point at Summit West around 3:30 p.m. (about eight hours round-trip.)

If the Patrol Race were held tomorrow, you could run it along the "modern route" across Summit Central instead of the Lodge Lake trail and it would be "okay." The Silver Peak trail could be quite challenging for folks with fat skis or a splitboard.  Some of that snow was hard as a rock. I hope we get another storm that starts warm so some new snow will bond to the crust.

I don't know what the best route is from Stampede Pass to Meany Lodge right now.  We could have taken FS 41 to get there.  This is shown on my south map as the "Alternate Route." We chose not to since we were more concerned about catching a ride and we didn't need to go to Meany to do that during this trip.
« Last Edit: 01/19/14, 08:17 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged

Posts: 328

Re: Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
« Reply #1 on: 01/19/14, 05:55 PM »

Nice report! Conditions like that really make every step count!

Conditions were pretty ripe for skating today along the west shoulder of  Hurricane Hill ...fairly rare this time of year Smiley Cougar tracks in the foreground.

* skate.JPG (35.92 KB, 600x450 - viewed 1765 times.)
« Last Edit: 01/19/14, 06:06 PM by runcle » Logged

Posts: 17

Re: Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
« Reply #2 on: 01/19/14, 09:59 PM »

Thanks for the great post Lowell.  Let's keep our fingers crossed for more snow to make things a little more enjoyable.  It looks like the "snow crux" that I was worried about (the Lodge Lake trees area) is still quite thin.

Posts: 743

Re: Jan 18, 2014 - Snoqualmie Pass to Stampede Pass
« Reply #3 on: 01/20/14, 07:42 AM »

Lowell, thanks for the report, I'll be hoping for more snow as well. If you thought some of the conditions were survival skiing, I'm not sure what they would be for me, maybe; "better stay home!". Looks like you were rigged for fast travel. 
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