Norse Peak VI / 諾爾斯峯之六

Yesterday we enjoyed a long but gorgeous outing in the Olympic Mountains. Despite being sore still, we managed to get up early again. Then the pup and I continued our Thanksgiving week tradition on top of my favorite peak, Norse Peak, in the South Cascades. The parking area was empty when we arrived in the late morning.

Norse Peak summit within reach
Norse Peak summit within reach

See more trip photos here.

Norse Peak at a Glance

Access: Norse Peak Trailhead
Round Trip: 7.6 miles
Elevation Range: 3960′-6856′
Gear: microspikes, snowshoes
GPS: available

Norse Peak Trail

Crystal Mountain Road was full of cars going to the resort. So I didn’t want us to cross the road in the heavy traffic. Instead, I parked the car in a few inches of snow before the gate. Somehow I knew there wasn’t going to be enough traction to get the car out of the lot. But then I decided to deal with it later. Climbing first!

After putting on microspikes, we entered the gate and then set off for the trailhead. I was glad to see lots of recent boot tracks in the snow already. The tracks continued through to the trail but then ended abruptly at 5000′. We proceeded to hike up in the ankle-deep snow through a couple more switchbacks.

Crystal Mountain Resort
Crystal Mountain Resort

See more trip photos here.

Onward to the Upper Basin

We took a snack break by the first clearing looking out to the resort. There I put on snowshoes, and then we continued. Right before reaching the last switchback by the broad gully, I glanced over my right shoulder. Then I realized that the dog was missing. So I looked around and saw that he had gone down the slopes to greet a group of hikers.

The pup came back to join me minutes later. Then we proceeded to cross the broad gully at 5800′ toward the upper basin. We took turns breaking trail in the direction of the summer trail. At the Goat Lake Trail junction, we traveled south and aimed for the west spur ridgeline. It branched off of Norse Peak’s northwest ridge.

My snowplow
My snowplow

See more trip photos here.

Norse Peak Summit via North Ridge

The snow deepened the higher we went. I had thought about going up to the north ridge. But by then, trail breaking was getting tiring. I also didn’t feel like dealing with more fresh powder. So we continued south and worked our way up the spur ridge with much less snow. From there, it was a short traverse to the northwest ridge.

The snow depth was uneven throughout. We sidestepped below the ridge through a few inches to a foot of powder. The sound of snowshoes scraping the rocks in shallow snow was irritating. It always reminded of nails scratching on a chalkboard. Shortly after passing the northwest saddle, we made it up to the Norse Peak summit.

Norse Peak morthwest ridgeline
Norse Peak northwest ridgeline

See more trip photos here.

Norse Peak Summit Sunshine

My first time on Norse Peak was a hot summer day in 2010 with the black pup. Then the three of us made all subsequent trips during Thanksgiving week. I’ve since discovered that by visiting in the wintertime, we’d have a much better chance of finding solitude. The area is also much prettier in the snow. It’s even better when sunny!

We enjoyed 20 minutes on top before the group of 12 hikers showed up. It was a busy summit. One person from the group recognized me and the pup from last year’s trip to Snoqualmie Mountain. Small world, indeed. Another 10 minutes of enjoying the gorgeous weather and scenery, we proceeded to go back down.

Haggard the humper dog and Logan
Mount Adams and peaks

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Outro

We followed the other hikers’ tracks to be on the north ridge on our way down. Then we took a shortcut to get back into the upper basin. Soon, we picked up our tracks again at the junction. Judging by the boot prints in the snow, there were others up on the mountain. Then we met a couple before the gully crossing and chatted for a bit.

The weather wasn’t warm enough to melt the snow in the parking lot. So I started shoveling in the hope of getting the car but to no avail. Amazing what a few inches snow can do when there isn’t enough traction. But thanks to the group of hikers I met earlier. They showed up half an hour later and helped me with the car. A perfect time to be giving thanks, indeed!

Southwest panoramic view
Southwest panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vivian Hauer

    All your photos are breathtaking. But, these are my favorite, especially the pup rolling on his back on the snow.

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