Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snoiwshed Butte 3798' 11.30.10

   With a strong front moving in ONELUV1 and I had a healthy debate about what to do today. We ended up just meeting up and winging it. The original plan was to do something around Easton but the Avy danger seemed too high for that.  My second choice was off the Middle Fork and then we tossed around the idea of some dumpster diving on the North Fork. When we reached North Bend the rain was driving and it seemed unlikely we would reach the snowline without walking a long ways in the windy rain. I decided that I would rather chance it on making it over Snoqualmie Pass and avoiding being in the rain altogether. As we made our way up to the pass it changed to heavy snow. Just as we reached the pass it turned over to freezing rain. It certainly made trying to see out the windows problematic. I have saved Snowshed Butte for a day like this. While it isn't blessed with a lot of prominence it would do for this day. You can see this easily when travelling West bound and it is directly over the Snowshed (short covered area on I-90) and that is where it derives it's name.

  We exited at Hyak to find the road that parallels I-90 hadn't been plowed. Since the freezing rain switched to heavy snow and didn't look like it was going to slow we parked at the Gold Creek Sno Park. I hesitated since my pass is outdated and didn't want a ticket. I figured that it was not very likely that there would be a patrol so I decided to chance it. After gearing up I noticed that passes are not needed until tomorrow..... it certainly put a smile on my face and some extra pep in my step. We walked the road  and I was thankful that the snow wasn't overly deep making for easy walking. A truck passed us making it even easier. We reached the park truck a short time later and had a chat with the driver who owned nearby cabin. We finally reached the traditional plowed end of the road and the rest of the road had been groomed over the weekend so again the waking was quicker than it could have been. Finally after about an hour the road finally started to climb. I enjoyed the steady snowshowers and was glad to finally start tucking in some elevation. We stayed on the mainline passing the turnoff to the Mt. Margaret Trail and shortly thereafter hung a right. I took over the trailbreaking and we almost didn't make it more than a 100 yards. After leaving the road I immediately sank to eye level in the snow. After much effort I finally was able to make it up the other side. The initial portion is choked with small trees and doesn't climb much. The snow was deep but it was doable. The real fun began when the pitch turned steep. I wallowed unable to find a base to hold my weight. My only option was to scrape 2 feet of powder away from in front of me and grab small trees to hoist myself up. With much persistence I was able to keep plugging away. Once we were higher I was able to find some more solid base and the pace quickened....slightly. Thankfully some sort of tower appeared and this gave me some more purpose. Once reaching the tower I suspected the ridge continued higher. Thankfully the ridgeline was more wind scoured and made for easier walking. We reached a rock outcropping that took considerable amount of time and effort to mount. Once on top it was very difficult to see if we were on the highpoint. It did appear that there might be a higher point further East. We were both spent so we decided to call it good. 

   We only stopped for a short time before we began our descent. The descent of course was much faster and other than an awkward fall while straddling a tree things went well. I think it took us 1/10 the time to go down. Once back on the road we had the long slog back. By the time we reached the lower slopes the snow had completely covered our tracks. The road out seemed endless and the ups and downs coupled with the much deeper snow was very taxing. Thankfully we reached the road were cars had driven allowing us to take off the snowshoes and just boot it. There were some areas that were frictionless and in one spot I slid about did about 5' slow motion slide and thankfully I remained upright. It was not helpful to see the road signs letting us know that we had  1 mile to go. Truthfully I thought we were never going to make it back to the car. Once reaching the car I pried the frozen doors open and we spent considerable time getting the 5  inches of snow off the car. While there wasn't anybody when we arrived the area was bustling with some snowmobilers getting ready and a car trying to get unstuck.. I broke out the trusty snowshovel to lend a hand but they managed to get out just as I arrived. Instead of changing clothes we got in the car and blasted back out on the paved road. I thought for sure if I changed I would have to get out to get the car back on the plowed road. I parked under the underpass and we changed into more suitable clothes. While this Butte provides very little challenge most times of the year today it was all we could handle and was probably the one of the harder 1700' climbs I have done.

Approx 10 miles 1700' of climb 5:30 car to car

More picutres can be viewed here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/etecky/sets/72157625377940973/

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