Scott had the day off and wanted to ski before Thanksgiving. I wanted to burn the calories that I was about to consume, so I happily obliged. The plan if there was good snow was to go yo-yo somewhere and have fun in the powder. However, it looks like we have hit the El Nino segment of our dark months with higher temps. This meant rain at the passes the day previous and a 10000' freezing level on the day of our trip.
So we headed for Mount Catherine with the hopes of a summit. Chad joined us at the Mercer Island Park and Ride and we were on our way. The weather was clear and we saw a beautiful sunrise before arriving at Snoqualmie Pass to low clouds and fog. Instead of taking the Sno Park and forest road in as it seemed tedious. We opted for the skin up Hyak and over the other side. We followed forest roads (Nordic ski trails) down the other side a bit before leaving on a bearing across the North Face. After endless traversing through trees, we got to an open area which we confirmed with the map was the east end of the summit ridge. There were cliffs and no obvious way up, so we traversed more and more which reminded Scott and I about the Ski Patrol Race we had done back in February.
We occasionally crossed open slopes and contemplated trying to gain the ridge to the summit but we were having little luck. Our difficulties were exacerbated by the constant fog which made seeing ahead not easy and gave us little incentive to try and head up only to be confronted by cliffs. So we maintained a fairly level traverse and then we started seeing flatter terrain. We finally made it near Windy Pass and eventually saw a sign with an arrow pointing in that direction. There was a weather monitoring station there too, and some blue diamond trail markers. We stopped for lunch. (It was around 1pm.) The sun just barely came out briefly enough for us to see our shadows. Then we deskinned for a short ski down to another road. At this point we had forsaken our summit attempt and were content with a circumnavigation.
Unfortunately due to the poor sloppy snow conditions and the ungroomed state of the road, going downhill on the road took almost as much effort as going uphill. We worked hard to make our way out and after it seemed like there would be no more downhill, I gave up on the skinless skis and stopped to put my skins back on as it seemed they would offer me better propulsion. They did, but Scott and Chad were out of site, and I did not catch up with them until the final downhill to the parking lot in the Hyak ski area. (Which was in more disappointing slop.)
Overall, I was happy to get out. The weather wasn't great, but that wasn't really a big deal. We knew going into it that the snow wasn't going to be so good for skiing, but it was more about the journey. Even though the road out was tiring and tedious, it was still better than being on snowshoes. Plus I think this is the first time I have circumnavigated a peak. Cool.