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.

Glacier Peak Wilderness Largely Inaccessable to Stock

By: Michael Hanley
March 4th, 2019

The Pacific Crest Trail in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is largely inaccessible to equestrian use due to significant numbers of large fallen logs.

The PCT between the junction of the North Fork Sauk Trail (approximately Halfmile 2502) and the Suiattle River Trail (approximately Halfmile 2540) is blocked by numerous down trees, washouts, and narrow sections of tread. Long distance riders are advised to trailer around these obstacles.

Logs some as large as 6 feet in diameter make the trail impassable to equine north of Sitkum Creek and on the climb up towards Vista Ridge (~2534). There are no convenient ways to get around these obstacles. The PCTA is working to reopen this area to equestrian users but it will not be accessible to stock in 2019.

Section K, WA, Steven’s Pass to Grizzly Peak. Smithbrook rd t.h.

By: Cassie
February 4th, 2019

4 significant trees down. First is right out of Smithbrook RD th, ~ 3’ diameter, no passage. Ride the road to the hairpin turn instead to join trail.

2nd tree: right before Janus. 3-4 ft diameter but easily navigated.

3rd tree: After lake Janus. Heading up slope to pass. Not as big as the first two, but too big for my single person saw, and more difficult to bypass.

4th tree: Right before grizzly Peak. It’s actually one tree that split in half, and both halves are over the trail. Very tricky to get around. Needs a bigger cross cut then I have to get it out. It’s passable, but you better have a horse that trusts you, and steps where you tell it to.

Also, shortly after Smithbrooke joins the PCT north, the hundred foot of trail that goes across the avalanche chute is narrow and crumbling, watch the edge.

No snow as of August 1, 2018, and not much water except at Lakes and one or two stream crossings. Mostly dry.

Collapsing tread in Goat Rocks along Knife’s Edge (impassable for equestrians)

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July 17th, 2018

The Pacific Crest Trail at the top of the Goat Rocks Wilderness may be dangerous and is impassable for stock travel. The problems are not new. The trail across the Packwood Glacier, the Knife’s Edge and past Rooster’s Comb can be steep and narrow and it passes by steep cliffs. Tragically, stock have fallen off the edge in the past.

Historically, it’s been a very hard portion of trail to keep passable for stock. Substantial work was done in 2013 to improve the Packwood Glacier portion but dangers remain, especially near Rooster’s Comb. Many horseback riders and stock trains report that they won’t even attempt this portion and instead trailer around it.

N. Fork Sauk Trail closure during summer 2018

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March 16th, 2018

An important side trail to the PCT, the N. Fork Sauk Trail, will be closed from August 8 – 15, 2018 while explosives are used for trail maintenance. This is in Glacier Peak Wilderness. There will be rolling closures of the PCT around mile 2502-2503 as well during that period to allow for the actual blasting. Forest Service staff will be on site to manage the safety of hikers and restrict passage for short periods (rarely more than one hour) while the actual blasting is taking place.