It turns out the ski guide book wasn't a great choice for finding the trail head. It leads you to the winter trail head which is near the Hyak ski area and not the summer trail head at Windy Pass. Once near Hyak I drove around a bit trying to find the road which I did finally locate through the private development to the right of Hyak. This was a poorly maintained road that crossed the ski slope before passing by a private residence on the other side. It then joined the main road which I followed around Mount Catherine before reaching the point where everyone was parked due to snow on the road. (This is actually a continuation of the road Hyak is on.) I could have driven a little further, but I could not tell if there was parking available, so I parked pretty far down the road. Apparently, many others had the same idea I did.
I got out and geared up. Once I walked past all the (20) cars, I walked through the first snow and stopped at the continuous snow on the other side of a dry patch on the road. From there I started skinning following the skin track through the clear cut. Some areas where real thin, but there was pretty decent coverage. It of course got thicker as I got higher. Clouds were rolling in and out keeping the temps manageable as well. The route got steeper as it headed into the lower basin, and views of the Snoqualmie Peaks began to show from the north. The snow was soft, and a little weak on some of the steeper traverses making me slow down a bit.
I arrived at the ridge an hour after leaving the car. There were a bunch of people up there, many doing laps on the Annette Lake side of the ridge. I took my skis off and stood a bit before attempting to head up the ridge to the summit. I hopped over the ridge and scrambled some talus before getting back onto the ridge proper. I was no more than 20 meters from where I had gained the ridge on skis. Due to the time and my desire to be back before dinner, I decided not to make a summit bid. I was also feeling quite clumsy scrambling in my ski boots. If I was to try again in the upcoming week, I'd bring some trail runners for the summit scramble. Clouds also appeared to be rolling in from the west, so I didn't want to dawdle too much.
I went back to my skis and ate some snacks before setting up to head down. Not having been there before I discussed descent options with a guy before making my decision. The drop in point was fairly steep and so I hit that and made a bunch of turns down to the upper basin which I attempted to cross and head over a rise. I didn't carry enough speed, and had to side step up before descending the other side. Due to me breaking one of the rules of backcountry skiing to never descend what you haven't come up, I was slow coming down. I had to pick my way through some steep terrain with trees that I was concerned would cliff out. I eventually made my way to the drainage that most people were using for descent and followed other's tracks down from there. There were a few points where I had to do a few side steps to gain ground. Especially right before reaching the clear cut and the skin track in.
Once back out in the clear cut it was controlled skiing through the trees to avoid bare spots. At one point I wasn't quick enough to make a decision and had each ski go on the opposite sides of a small tree which resulted in me crashing. I skied out from that point making sure I could see where I wanted to go well in advance. I returned to the point where I had put my skis on in the morning and walked back to the car.
Overall, this was a super enjoyable and easily accessible ski outing for this time of year. I wish I had more time and I would have made an attempt on the summit. Or at least brought different shoes, so that attempt would have been quicker. Due to the nature of this trip, it could easily be done after work sans summit for a less than two hour car to car trip. Although it is staying light until after 9pm right now, so it wouldn't hurt to do a summit, or a second lap. The skiing was pretty good and I had a fun day.
My pics are here.