July 30, 2012

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Hiked solo from White Pass to Chinnok Pass to Interstate 90 July 23rd to 28th. Snow up to 8 feet deep on trail from White Pass to Chinnok Pass in sections up to 1/4 mile long. Could see human and elk tracks heading north and some southbound.

Several thru hikers passed me heading north to Canada. North of Chinnok Pass trail is essentially bare . Some trees on trail and a 300 feet long avalanche has covered trail about 5 miles south of I-90. Met several southbound hikers that had started at Canadian Border.

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Left Steven’s Pass July 21 to Hike section K opting to exit at High Bridge and return to Seattle starting with the ferry in Stehekin.

My hiking partner and I convinced several of our friends to give us a ride to Steven’s Pass from Seattle and hike in the first 10 mile to Lake Janus for a fun evening of camping. A sign of things to come, we ran into snow just prior to dropping into the Lake Vahalla basin. After a quick bite we all cruised in to a marshy and cool Lake Janus with plenty of snow still hanging around.

Parting with our friends we began our trek in earnest Sunday July 22 from Lake Janus. It was foggy and cool and after a quick ascent out of the lake basin we began to deal with a good deal of snow and route finding problems around Glasses Lake. Luckily we had brought microspikes and ice axes which became necessary as we crossed over increasingly difficult snow covered scree fields. Made camp at Saddle Pass just off the snow.

Made a quick descent into Pass Creek with some snow crossings. The easy travel was welcome after a long rainy night. Snow free travel out of the Pass Creek drainage and then spent the rest of the day in snow. Made camp at Indian Pass-halway melted out and shrouded in fog.

Quickly found the trail and finally enjoyed the first of many sunny days as we began working towards Red Pass. Easy going on the west aspect but as we crossed over towards Reflection pond we were traversing snow fields until we crossed back over at White Pass. There was still nasty snow patches in various states of melt out to deal with the rest of the way to Red Pass in the many ravines crossing the trail but by and large the snow was gone. After some lunch and spreading out our gear to dry on the rocks we made our way the last 1/8 mile to Red Pass the northeastern side was covered in snow and we glissaded a good 600′ down into the White Chuck River Valley. Snow continued to create route finding problems until we got to the switchbacks. Then travel was easy except for some brushiness nearing Kennedy Creek. Bridge is still broken but useable. Headed up Kennedy Ridge and made camp at Glacier Creek as the snow began to reappear.

Another sunny day and mixed travel on snow and exposed trail past Pumice Creek and then on to Fire Creek Pass. Eventually gave up on route finding and accended to the pass directly via the remaining snowfields. After lunch made it down to a frozen Mica Lake in four glissades interrupted by some short traverses. Dropped into Milk Creek basin. Trail in rough condition with lots of erosion, landslides, stress fractures forming and intense overgrowth nearing the bottom. Re routed onto the Milk Creek Trail after crossing the new bridge also very overgrown. After a series of switchbacks recconnected to the PCT where life improved. Still lots of bushwhacking everytime you cross the avy chute as you work your way up. Made camp in a small grove of Doug Fir in a snow covered meadow 1 mile short of the Grassy Point Trail

Our campsite definitely benefitted from the dry air of eastern Washington now that we had made our way around to the north side of Glacier Peak. Once past Grassy Point TH we made quick time to the new PCT section and Suiattle River Bridge Crossing. After some lunch made our way to the unmaintained but very useable Miner’s Creek Campground. Barely got the tent up before a thunderstorm rolled through.

Quickly made Suiattle Pass the next morning just as the sun burnt through the fog. Descended into Agnes Creek valley and talked to the first people we had seen since Sunday. Rerouted onto the Agnes Creek Trail which had some overgrown and marshy sections but was easy travel compared to our previous days. Lunch at Hemlock Camp was a real treat and we took our time. Hustled down to 5 mile camp in the afternoon. Two of the first thru hikers if not the first two soon appeared and after a brief conversation went scrambling over the log bridge.

Hiked the remaining 5.5 miles to the Shuttle in the morning. Without GPS, spikes and ice axes we would have probably turned back by day 3 if not day 2. Route finding would have taken a considerable amount of time, which we didn’t have, and some of the snowfields, especially in steeper ravines posed nasty hazards. Seems like things should improve greatly in the next two weeks though.

July 20, 2012

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Partial Report – Stampede Pass thru Snoqualmie Pass:

Trail 100% clear from Stampede Pass to Mirror Lake. From Mirror lake on, snow makes trail difficult to find in many places and there are some dangerous zones which necessitate alternate routes for safety. Easy to lose the trail if you don’t know the route. Recommend waiting a couple more weeks or so.

June 21, 2012

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We left Steven’s Pass to try to reach Snoqualmie on 6/20. About four feet of snow on the trail forced us to turn back. Bring gps/skis if you intend to hike this area anytime soon.

May 31, 2012

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The PCT is currently closed with a signed detour around a failed bridge at Snag Creek, just east (trail north) of the 2000 road (Red Bluff Road).


May 14, 2012

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Snowmelt in Northern OR and Southern WA is progressing much more swiftly than it has in the past couple of years. If the warm weather pattern continues, we expect melt-out at the 5000-foot level by early to mid-July, and at the 6000 foot level by late July to early August. Of course, there will always be pockets on north-facing slopes and under dense canopy that hold snow longer. Please be prepared with navigational tools to find your way in case the trail is obscured.

October 11, 2011

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Sep 27-Oct 2, 2011– hiked from Stevens Pass to Suiattle Pass on the PCT (west side of Glacier Peak), then detoured to Cloudy Pass and down to Holden Village. I took the brand-new trail segment to the new Suiattle bridge. The new crossing adds 5.5 miles and some elevation gain… but it is absolutely worth it, because it passes through some of the most magnificent old-growth forest anywhere to be found. Many hikers will be tempted to take the shorter route via the log-crossing. Don’t do it– you’ll be missing out on one of the truly enchanted moments of the entire PCT. This forest is magical. I backtracked and walked through it several times, even though my knee was in pain and my feet were cold and wet. If you’re thinking of skipping it because of the additional mileage, stop and remind yourself why you’re there.

The new bridge is really nice, visually striking and exceptionally well-situated. And the approach means you get to see (and hear) more of the very-wild Suiattle River.

All in all, this entire segment of the PCT (around the west side of Glacier Peak) is clear and easy to follow. There’s lots of brush on both sides of Milk Creek, but that’s to be expected– this is definitely the kingdom of the avalanche. The trail is still easy to follow through the brush, but if it has rained in the past few days you can count on getting thoroughly drenched here.

The damage to this trail segment over the past eight years was apocalyptic. You can see some of the flood-carnage in the White Chuck Valley, and you can see the massive amount of work involved in clearing the way. Restoring this trail was an epic undertaking. I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough to anyone involved.

Something to consider: the new Suiattle crossing means that you now pass the lower junction of the Miner’s Ridge trail. This could make for an exceptionally scenic alternate route via Image Lake, reconnecting with the PCT just before Suiattle Pass. That would only add two miles/800ft elevation gain. I opted to stay on the PCT, because it was raining heavily and I preferred to be in the forest rather than the alpine zone, but in clear weather I would definitely take Miner’s Ridge.

September 27, 2011

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The new bridge over the Suiattle River is now finished, and the new trail to the bridge is ready for all users. Traveling north, as one decends from Dolly Vista ridge (north of Milk Creek) at the point where the PCT formerly crossed Vista Creek, the new trail goes left and reaches the new bridge over the Suiattle in 3 miles. After crossing the new bridge the new trail ascends 1/4 mile to join the Suiattle River Trail #784. The east end of the Suiattle River trail #784 is now the PCT and rejoins the original PCT in about 3 miles. Temporary signs are in place and mark the junctions and directions.

I spoke with a number of through-hikers who had maps that did not quite cover the new trail location. Also they had maps that only list trail numbers. Many of the local wooden signs give information based on local features such as indicating the direction of Suiattle Pass or Miners Ridge. As a result these people were having dificulty comparing thier map lables with the local sign information. Still, everyone I met was succeeding in following the temporary signs and staying on the trail.