July 30, 2012

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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

Sections: /

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.

August 28, 2011

Sections: /

Patches of snow remain on trail, Stevens Pass to Pear Lake. Minor occasional blowdown, especially South of Lake Janus. (8/20).

Snow patches more persistant North of Pear Lake, thicker where trail is along Northeast facing slopes. Occasional blowdown. Saddle Gap and Cady Pass, clear. Lake Sally Ann is 50% iced over, camping area is bare and dry (8/21).

Indian pass, Clear. Occasional snow patches on way to Red Pass, bare and dry where trail is on Southwest facing sidehill. White Pass, clear. Red Pass, Clear. Upper basin of White Chuck River below Red Pass still holds conciderable snow. Trail begins to peek through in spots after first 1/2 to 3/4 mile. Snow is soft in mild temps. Snow patches decreasing on way to footbridge over White Chuck R. Occasional snow around West side of Glacier Peak to Fire Creek. Water is high, some crossings without footbridges may be wet for some hikers. Bridge at Sitkum Cr, good. Broken bridge at Kennedy Cr, still there and useable. Camps at Baekos Cr, bare and dry. Thicker, harder snow on slope south of Fire Creek camp, but tenting area at camp is bare and dry. (8/22 – 8/23)

Abundant snow on approach to Fire Creek Pass. Pass is clear. From top to Mica Lake is abundant snow with trail peeking out on steeper slopes. Mica Lake is 95% iced over, but some tent areas near outlet are clear. Snow patches persist below Mica Lake giving way to clear trail, but brushy as approaching Milk Creek. Note that Milk Creek now has a footbridge crossing about .3 mile downstream from the old destroyed bridge. Most (all?) of the maps and guides do not show the approach trail to this newer bridge. On northbound approach to Milk Creek, follow the well used path, proceeding downstream to the bridge and continue downstream after crossing to join the Milk Creek Trail. There, signage will point you back uphill and up stream to join the old PCT track. Switchbacks to gain the ridge above Milk Creek are choked in heavy brush, but bare. Minor snow sidehill along ampitheater of E Fork Milk Creek, with Dolly Vista camp clear and dry. (8/24).

Trail down into Vista Cr , v. minor snow, occasional blowdown and some brush near Vista Cr crossing. Crossing here is on low log that other hikers observed was awash in higher water. Before crossing, note also the newly cut(but not connected) approach trail to new Suiattle R Bridge,in woods 50 yards away. No signage to indicate if this route is now available, but hiker info says some have taken this new route. New approach trail goes downstream a few miles to just past Dolly Cr, finding the new bridge, where the trail then backs up river on existing track to rejoin the old PCT near the site of the old footbridge. Most hikers, however crossed Vista Cr and headed on the old PCT track to log cross the Suiattle River, punching through the brush and piled driftwood, where the trail gets to the flat sand bars. The two crossing logs located near the old bridge area still exist. Follow tracks and cairns upstream ( 200-300 yards?) to find the flater , shorter (easier ?) log to cross. Walk back downstream on user trail to find the old PCT track heading off and up, downstream into woods. Only minor blowdown on way up Miners Cr, trail improves up to Suiattle Pass which is bare and dry. Snow fields are in both amphitheaters north from Suiattle Pass, all marked camps are bare and dry. (8/25)

Trail down Agnes Cr, bare and dry to High Bridge. Hiker info is that High Bridge to Rainy Pass is clear and dry. (8/26)