2017/11/24 – Norse Peak IV / 諾爾斯峯之四

  • Reading time:5 mins read
Ridge bound
Ridge awaits

See more trip photos here.

Crystal Mountain Boulevard was clear of snow and ice despite low morning temperatures, with no problem getting to the gated Gold Hill Road at 4.3 miles past milepost 4. Located east of the main artery, the road could easily be missed if one is not keeping one’s eyes peeled. We parked before the gate and walked a quarter of a mile to the Norse Peak Trailhead.

Overall a nice trail with just a couple of small down trees to step over. Taking advantage of the largely snow-free trail in lower elevation, we quickly reached 4800′ before snow took over. The layer was thin enough to continue in boots comfortably.

Boulevard of broken dreams
Boulevard of broken dreams

See more trip photos here.

At 5600′, I finally put on snowshoes after punching through several times. New snow in the past week, so naturally, I anticipated a mountain full of fresh powder like two years ago on the same weekend. But to my surprise, snow conditions today were exceptionally good, if not perfect, for snowshoeing. A few inches of new powder over crusty snow made breaking trail faster.

The enormous impact of this past summer’s Norse Peak Fire was immediately felt the minute we stepped out of the forest and before crossing the wide gully. Extremely depressing to see evergreens that used to thrive on this mountain had since become ghostly chopstick figures. Even in cold air, the smell of the wildfire burn was still detectable.

Crystal clear
Crystal clear

See more trip photos here.

After a few switchbacks on the other side of the gully, we started cutting through slopes into the upper basin. Usually, we would attain the north ridge directly from the basin and then traverse the ridge to the summit. But today’s great snow conditions made it easier to attain the northwest ridge for a direct approach.

The summer trail was partially exposed across the south slopes, so we used it. We’d previously avoided the slopes due to steep snow and ice. Until now, clouds had been moving in and out of the area, mostly cloudy and with limited views.

Crystal and Rainier panoramic view
Crystal and Rainier panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

When we reached the summit, views around Crystal Mountain ski area became…crystal clear. People were busy getting their turns on those slopes. Behind us to the north, clouds had slowly lifted to reveal nearby valleys. Glad the wind barely picked up during our stay.

An hour later, the pup and I decided we got enough views for the day and began to descend. Sure enough, shortly after leaving, the sun decided to come out and make a cameo out of nowhere. Great timing!

Back to the basin
Back to the basin

See more trip photos here.

Everything around us looked like it’d been brought back to life with the afternoon’s colorful lighting! The tip of Mount Rainier appeared from behind layers of high clouds, making this trip that much more worthwhile.

We followed our nicely laid-out tracks down the mountain and returned to the car half an hour before sunset.

Access: Norse Peak Trailhead
Gear: snowshoes

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