2018/12/31 – Avalanche Mountain VI / 雪崩山之六

The beloved
The beloved

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Access: Snoqualmie Alpental Ski Area
Round Trip: 7 miles
Elevation Range: 3120′-5360′
Gear: microspikes and snowshoes; ice axe and crampons packed but not used

Last hike of the year! Pup and I continued our New Year’s Eve tradition on Avalanche Mountain under moderate avalanche conditions. I managed to rally two friends to help spice up the typically low-key outing. Anne, who later regretted not to have brought her skis, and Shannon, the personal blogger behind musthikemusteat.com.

Through stream
Through stream

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We met in the empty Alpental Ski Area parking lot bright and early and started hiking at the break of dawn with microspikes on. Despite snowfall from the last two days, the Snow Lake Trail was surprisingly well beaten. Consequently, this expedited our approach to the long switchback below the icicle cliffs at 4,400′.

Icicle cliffs
Icicle cliffs

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We quickly got through the avalanche slopes below the cliffs in soft snow. Using deep tracks left after the previous snowfall, we headed straight up next to the cliffs. After picking up the trail above the cliffs, we then proceeded to finish the last bit of trail hiking to the pass. We switched to snowshoes on the pass marked by the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary signage.

Entering Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Entering Alpine Lakes Wilderness

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Heading northeast, we began the one-mile-long traverse to the base of Avalanche Mountain while breaking trail in fresh, velvety snow. The mountain immediately came into view in the basin. Along the way, we saw parts of Snow Lake and snowshoed above Lake 4240 through dense forests. Terrain remained moderate until we arrived at the base of the mountain at 4,600′.

Leg work
Leg work

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For the next 400′, we continued to break trail on steep terrain until we reached the south ridge at 5000′. The imposing north face of Snoqualmie Mountain first came into view. Heading north on the narrow ridge, we stayed mostly west of the crest to avoid the potential drop-offs on the east. Then in a quarter of a mile, directly below the summit, a small section of slab crux finally put us at the top.

East panoramic view
East panoramic view

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Phenomenal weather plus virtually windless summit abounded with views far and wide. It was a much-needed relief from the all-too-familiar recent gloomy weather. This was the best vantage point to view Snow Lake Basin. The highly anticipated temperature inversion failed to make an appearance like in years past.

Snow Lake basin and friends
Snow Lake basin and friends

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After enjoying a good hour of leisurely stay, a group of three skiers showed up on top. They had just traversed from the basin below Chair Peak and were about to ski down the precipitous west face of Avalanche Mountain. Of all the visits to this summit, this was the first time I had seen anyone other than us.

Group Kodak moment on Avalanche Mountain
Group Kodak moment on Avalanche Mountain

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We made good time getting down the steep west slopes and through the east basin to arrive back at the wilderness boundary. The skiers we met earlier caught up to us on the pass shortly after. Thanks to the kind skier who brought me my tripod I’d forgotten on the summit! Now back to the trail…

Thanks for an avalanche-free day
Thanks for an avalanche-free day

See more trip photos here.

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