2017/11/24 – Norse Peak IV / 諾爾斯峯之四

Ridge bound
Ridge awaits

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Crystal Mountain Boulevard was clear of snow and ice despite low morning temperatures, 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 not keeping one’s eyes peeled. We parked before the gate and walked 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 made it to 4,800′ before snow took over. The layer was thin enough to continue in boots comfortably.

Boulevard of broken dreams
Boulevard of broken dreams

Photos from this trip can be found here.

At 5,600′ 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, smell of the wildfire burn was still detectable.

Crystal clear
Crystal clear

Photos from this trip can be found 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 north ridge directly from the basin and then traversed the ridge to the summit. But today’s great snow conditions made it easier to attain northwest ridge for a direct approach.

Summer trail was partially exposed across south slopes, so we made good use of it. In the past we’d avoid the slopes due to steep snow and ice. Up 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

Back to the basin
Back to the basin

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Everything around us looked as if 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 and made this trip that much more worthwhile.

We followed our nicely laid out tracks back down the mountain and got back to the car half hour before sunset.

Access: Norse Peak Trailhead
Gear: snowshoes


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