Section L Washington

Avalanche conditions in North Cascades this October 2019

By: Carolyn ‘Ravensong’ Burkhart
October 22nd, 2019

The PCT is not safe through this last storm! The snow is very unstable. Lives have been lost in avalanche on the PCT in the region noted below before.

Report from Northwest Avalanche Center.

‘Snoqualmie Pass
Oct. 19, 2019, 3:50 p.m. PST

Weather: Heavy snow with mixed graupel, gusting winds from the W, thunder, lightning. Weather data from ‘Snoqualmie Pass – Dodge Ridge’ (Alpental wind data not available) shows wind gust @ 18mph W/WSW around time of observation.

Snowpack: Loose unconsolidated that did not cover the vegetation/rocks until ~5100ft where the snow became noticeably deeper ~25″directly on bed surface.

Area Description: The PCT leading up to Kendall Peak around ~5100 ft which is an open area of terrain.

Avalanches: Witnessed loose dry snow slides originating above the PCT at around ~5600 which fanned out and resulted ~7-9ft of debris covering the trail which serves as a terrain bench. Party was able to quickly exit to a sheltered area of trees prior to impact. My assessment is (as predicted in the NWAC Special Statement), there was a wind loaded pocket in the SW facing feature of Kendall Peak as sustained westerly winds combined with strong gusts from the NW were depositing snow on the western ridge leading up to Kendall Peak. Slide seemed to be triggered by a particular strong gust of wind around 15:50.’

Snow water equivalent reported on SNOTEL is 388% of normal at Harts Pass for this date, today!

NWAC does not do daily reports until the end of November.

I have discussed risk factors with the groups of hikers and options…terminate their journey right here, wait until after the storm and then assess conditions, alternate routes and winter mountaineering experience/equipment.

Last week 2 others terminated their journey here at Mazama, due to snow conditions. Both had extensive winter mountaineering experience. One was a winter mountaineering guide from Canada and said she was not equipped for these conditions.

People need winter mountaineering expertise both individually and functioning together as a team with avalanche beacons for every hiker. In other words, in my opinion, hikers need to stay off the PCT through the Cascade Range.

Downed trees and snow.

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By: bambi barbie
May 27th, 2015

There were quite a few downed trees in manning park section. Some I had to crawl under, some I had to go around, and some I had too lodge myself over. Not equestrian ready. Then there was snow at castle pass, but could find my way through. At Hopkins pass then there was too much snow to find the trail, I tried to push through (and I did find it), but then the traverse up to liberty ridge was completely snowed out. Wouldn’t recommend doing this section at this time without crampons and a detailed map of the trail. Depending on the face of the mountain the snow level varies, but I would say the snow started around 6,500 and became unpassable at 6,700. Water is not an issue there is at least a small stream every .5 mile. 5/27/15

Pasayten Wilderness – horse issues

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By: Bob Woods
July 18th, 2014

North of Rainy Pass the trail gets rough and the snow lingers on the north facing slopes into late-August/early-September. There are two rockslides that took place in the summer of 2013 that you’ll have to deal with.

The first is between Glacier Pass and Tatie Peak and the second is between Rock Pass and Woody Pass. You can dismount andwalk through the first rockslides with some caution. The second rockslides are impassible for stock and require a detour. From Holman Pass, head down Trail #427A to Trail #427 to the Pasayten Airport. Take the Boundary Trail #533 west to Castle Pass back to the PCT.

Snow report from a southbounder 6/26-6/14

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By: Jes Shap
July 11th, 2014

6/26/14 Rainy Pass to Castle Pass
Trail is 90% buried in snow, mostly too soft for crampons. Western aspects above treeline are usually the snow free part, good dry camping on the trail itself. Saw no one on this section until Rainy Pass.
6/14/14 East Bank TH to Castle Pass
North Cascades National Park
Boundary Trail: mostly under snow still, lots of down trees and slide debris. The switchbacks climbing out of Little Fish are largely covered with down trees and grown back in so don’t expect to follow them all the way to the ridge.
Three Fools Trail: a good way to practice following a faint trail. It took me 2 hours to walk the 3 miles from Deerlick to Little Fish on a sunny afternoon. The first mile (up to the wilderness boundary) is a normal trail, then it became severely overgrown in numerous places, with the last quarter mile being barely identifiable. Where it is not obscured by deadfall and overgrowth the tread is flat and makes for easy walking. No severe washouts. With the trees removed this would make an amazing trail into some amazing wilderness. The Little Fish shelter is gone but there is a sign to tell you when you’re there. Best to do this in the afternoon when as much dew as possible has dried from the trees, but expect to get wet anyway. Its only about 600′ of net elevation gain but some sections are steep and it feels like more.
Desolation Trail: 4 small blowdowns, water available at 3 creek crossings, patchy snow for the last quarter mile, lookout closed.
East Bank: Clear between East Bank TH and Desolation. 3 big blowdowns between the Desolation Trail junction and Deerlick Cabin.

August 8, 2012

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We left Rainy Pass July 23. Spent the night at an unofficial camp site above Porcupine Creek. Climbed through minor snow to Cutthroat Pass the next day. Had to turn back about 500 yards short of Granite Pass.

I met a retired park ranger the next day. He said that Granite was one of the most snowed-in passes in the North Cascades and should not be tried this time of year without an ice ax.