Photos from this trip can be found here.
Frustrated by the lack of recent photos around the Katwalk on social media, I decided to check out the conditions firsthand. There are few scrambles beyond the Katwalk I would like to tackle before climbing season gets into full swing.
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)/Commonwealth trailhead was still inaccessible by car due to snow; only top of the Stop sign was visible at this point. Two cars were parked by the snow bank at the intersection of NF58 and Erste Strasse. “No Parking” signs were posted around there, and so in fear of getting towed I parked in Summit West lot across the freeway and walked to the trailhead. The area was very quiet for a Saturday considering the nice weather.
I first followed the well beaten Commonwealth Basin trail on firm snow, then left the path at 3650′ and connected with the PCT at 3800′ where I put on snowshoes. At the switchback at 4000′ where the trail took a turn to go southward, I continued on toward head of Commonwealth Creek for a direct approach. Some avalanche debris on the west slopes of Kendall Peak, but overall snow was in good conditions. Meanwhile, the daunting Red Mountain was towering overhead.
At 4500′ I started heading east, up steep slopes toward Katwalk to avoid some cliff bands at head of the basin. Steeper terrain from 4600′ to 5000′, beyond that terrain eased up and I topped out on the ridge at 5450′. Katwalk itself looked to be free of snow, but a good stretch of snow arete leading to the Katwalk was corniced on the east side. Without any protection I was not about to go farther, but glad I finally got to see the conditions for myself!
After spending some time enjoying the views on all sides except the south, I started making my way toward Kendall Peak for better views. Thankfully the usual rocky ridge had sufficient snow coverage to stay on top rather than sidestepping on steep west slopes. Where summer trail started to make its way around the west ridge to bypass Kendall Peak, I switched to crampons with ice ax and followed some old ski tracks up to the north shoulder at 5600′. Terrain steepened past that point and the ski tracks turned around and made their way south.
After spending just enough time for photos I started heading down northwesterly and passed a snow-covered tarn just before descending into a steep gully. In the gully at 4600′ I switched back to snowshoes and then reconnected with my up track in the upper basin at 4450′. After getting back down to lower basin, I proceeded to follow the creek downstream back into the forest where boot/snowshoe tracks started to appear again and headed out.
Access: Pacific Crest Trailhead > Commonwealth Basin Trail (#1033)
Gear: snowshoes, ice axe