Friday, March 5, 2010

Snow Lake - 03.04.10

Jennifer wanted to get out but not our usual Nordic skiing. But she did not want anything too strenuous. The weather was supposed to be partly sunny so we decided on a snow shoe.

The decision was to go to Snow Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. The round trip is around six miles with around 2000' of elevation gain. We got a fairly casual start leaving Seattle and arriving at the Alpental parking lot around 10am.

While not needed for floatation we donned our snowshoes immediately upon stepping off the road. The crampons on the snow shoes would aid in our traction on the extremely compacted icy snow of the trail. I allowed Jennifer to set the pace and we stomped our way up the trail under cloudy skies.

Due to the warmer temps, it seemed the snow in the avalanche zones had a little corn on top, but was mostly solid. (The predicted avalanche forecast was very low.) We stuck to the trail and hoofed onward.

We were passed by a lone man who was much faster than us. When we were across the last avalanche slope before Source Lake he was already returning. He questioned us on where the trail was to Snow Lake and I told him to go up once you get to Source Lake. He thought the area looked to "avalanchy" and he was returning. Then he explained it was only his second time on snow shoes. After that he inquired about rounding Source Lake and returning on the other side. I told him it was possible and all he had to do is stay above the lake and reach the tracks heading back on the other side. After that he headed in the direction of Source Lake.

Shortly afterward, a loose wet slide occurred on the slope we had crossed before our conversation. It started up in the rock and made its way down to the trail. Not enough material for burial, but enough to knock you off your feet and cause trauma. This was really the only sign of instability we saw all day.

Jennifer and I continued out above Source Lake to see the lone snowshoer returning to the Snow Lake trail after making it most of the way to the other side. We figured he was spooked by the snow conditions and started uphill to the ridge above the lake. There was no defined trail going up and snowshoes became necessary for their floatation properties as I broke trail for Jennifer. After a struggle to gain higher ground it started to snow as the terrain leveled off. We took a break for lunch without ever traveling down to Snow Lake and once our break was over we started heading back. It was now snowing harder and getting colder.

Then the sun started to break out of the clouds. It was still snowing on us, but we could see the sun on some higher ground. Then we were in the sun. It stopped snowing shortly afterward and the hike out was made in sunny blue skies.

We had a nice time in the valley and it was nice to be up there without a climbing objective.

Pics are here.

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