Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blewett Pass - 12.11.10

Technically it is Swauk Pass. The old highway went over Blewett, and the name was kept when they rerouted over Swauk Pass. I headed out with the intention of seeing if there was any climbable ice in the area, but as best I could tell there wasn't any. It appears to me that the terrain is not steep enough, but there could be other issues as well.

I took the skinny skis out on the ungroomed forest service road 800. I have always stayed away from the Blewett Pass area because it is an area where snowmobiles coexist with skiers. This is usually not that pleasant, but I wanted to give it a try. After a few hundred feet into the woods, I could almost no longer hear them and I had stopped coughing on the two stroke fumes. Then it was a peaceful ski in. If I stopped, all I could hear was the snow hitting my body.

Peaceful skiing up the road

There are a few turns in getting to the correct road on the ridge, but it was fairly easy navigating. A group of three women started off long before me, so I had a decent track to follow, although with how heavy it was snowing, it wasn't obvious to me if they had been there the day before or not. (It wasn't until I caught them at my turnaround point that I could confirm they were there the same day.) I think they were following a track put in earlier in the week. Unfortunately I brought my track poles which were way too long to use efficiently when my skis were 4-8" in a trench. It really turned out to work my shoulders due to that fact. For future reference, I'll bring shorter poles in this type of scenario.

Snowing hard

This route would be fairly scenic if it wasn't snowing so much. But I did get some nice glimpses at the surrounding area. There isn't a whole lot of hills, and it made for a nice workout plugging along the road. Some of the downhills I could coast a bit, but mostly I had to keep kicking or double poling on the downhills as the snow was offering a little too much resistance to just coast every hill. At about the three mile mark or so I stopped to have a bite to eat and turned around. I wanted to get home to see Jennifer off to work, and hopefully eat dinner with her.

By the time I got back to the car it was covered in two inches of fresh snow. It was coming down fast enough that I had to scrape the windows three times before I eventually left the Sno Park. Then it was a slow ride down from the pass and out to I90. There were a few cars in the ditch on 97. From I90 things didn't get much better and I maintained a ~35mph pace from Cle Elum to Snoqualmie Pass. The area between Cabin Creek and Hyak was the worst. A plow hadn't been by in a while and there were stiff peaks of snow between the wheel ruts that made driving difficult. Heading up the hill from Hyak plows had recently cleaned the road, so it was much easier. Then everyone got stuck behind the plows on the downhill side and there were a few cars in the ditch near the big right hand turn before the Denny Creek exit. Soon after that we were low enough for the change over to rain and the speed picked up to near the limit. The forecast hard rain was being delivered, and I had to turn the wipers on high.

Being from the Northeast US, I had never associated insects with snow. Having lived in Seattle for a while now, I have learned to see spiders and insects on melting snow in the Spring and Summer. But now twice this Autumn I have seen this one type of insect on the snow. A quick search on the internet makes me believe it is a snow fly or winter crane fly. I have seen a bunch of these walking around today, and a few weeks ago with Steve at Hyak.

Snow fly?

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