Posted by: Matt | July 12, 2010

PCT NOBO from Snoqualmie

Rainier in the Distance

Rainier in the Distance

I’ve been getting ready for the section J hike at the beginning of August with Jim Nee and as a result of some email back and forth between the two of us I decided I’d test my theory that the route was clear of snow. There has been ample opportunity to view the southern exposure of the mountains north of the Interstate-90 corridor as it passes through Snoqualmie pass. Every time I head over the pass and I can stop for a minute or two I get off the road and look that direction (often with longing). The southern exposures of Chikamin Ridge show some snow well above the tree line, but otherwise the view from Gold Creek looks like most of the snow has melted.

Friday evening I hefted my pack for an overnight. The plan was to jog up the trail to Joe Lake, bivouac for the night, and then run back down in the morning. Tess and I had some errands that needed to be run on Saturday otherwise I might have just kept going.

The trail through the lower reaches of Commonwealth Basin was more or less clear of snow. I passed five people in three groups (3 together and two individuals) on their way back down to the trail head. What I noticed as I climbed is that their tracks stopped after a while. There were a number of downed trees along the way and I marked them with my GPS and snapped a photo so I could bring in the correct saw or axe for the job.

Downed Tree along the PCT

Downed Tree along the PCT

As I stated the traverse up the left flank of Kendall Peak the wild flower blooms were amazingly prolific. Stone crop, strawberries, lupine, glacier lily – but what I should have realized was that most of these were only recently exposed to the sun and had barely begun to bloom. Oops!

It didn’t take too long to wrap around the North West side of the Peak and start encountering snow fields across the trail. I crossed where I could, there’s not much wiggle room at this point in the trail and if there’s not an easy way across the field, there’s not a way along the trail. Just before the Kendall Katwalk I encountered one that made me stop and scratch my head. The head of the field was about 300 feet above the trail and extended all the way down to the tree line. The trail cuts a collier here that’s pitched at about 65 or 70°. There were old foot prints across the snow, but I decided to play it safe and cleared a block of snow from the edge to see how easily it might slide. Ouch! Good thing I didn’t head out on that, there was an ice layer over some very granular bits and the whole thing barely stayed in place after I cleared the edges.

Ok, so my view to Chikamin Ridge is giving me a false reading. At this point I can still see and sometimes hear the Interstate below, I’m not particularly interested in camping in the trail. I’m not interested in climbing around the snow field (steep and dangerous). I stop and eat my dinner (Aztec grains from Whole Foods) and think about my situation for a moment.

Ultimately it seemed most wise to head back to the trail head. It cut my intended mileage in half over two days, but the 11 miles and climb I got in on Friday was certainly welcome and helped.



  1. The glacier lilies especially are a good indicator of recent melt. Sometimes they burn through those last few inches of snow before it has even melted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: