Guye Peak 5168 ft
Snoqualmie Pass, WA
March 15, 2013
My brother, Mark, and I are preparing for an expedition to Denali this spring so we practiced pulling sleds and snowcamping this weekend up at Snoqualmie Pass. The forecast wasn't great but the freezing level was predicted to drop Saturday so we hoped the rain would turn into snow.
Mark picked me up at my house a little after 9am and we loaded up the car with skis, packs, and sleds. An hour later we were at the Summit West parking lot putting our boots on. Mark was using his Koflach mountaineering boots with my Volkl Snowranger skis and their Silvretta 404 bindings. He got to try them out for the first time two weeks ago when we spent a day up at Skyline Ridge across the highway from Stevens Pass ski area where we practiced hauling sleds and crevase rescue with a sled.
We carried our skis, sleds, and duffels across the road, under the highway and up the snowbank. Soon we were skinning through the woods and making our way up the easy grade towards Commonwealth Basin. I made sure to refer to a map I had downloaded to my phone to make sure we were heading the right way. It was raining lightly but not enough to put a damper on our trip. Once up the steep, windy section we made our way past some old growth douglas fir trees then descended to the flats below the large waterfall coming down from the cliffs above and to the right of us.
As we skied in we met several large tours heading out. We chatted with them for several minutes after they commented on our large packs and sleds. The groups were part of a Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest program where snowshoe tours are led by Rangers and volunteers. We said goodbye and continued on through the forest and found a flat spot beneath some trees to set up camp. We quickly put up Mark's new REI Arete 3 person tent, stowed some gear then continued up the valley to climb Guye Peak.
We started off skiing but once we crossed the creeks via two snowbridges we gained a ridge and it got pretty steep so we switched to our snowshoes. We kicked steps up through the steep woods to the saddle between Cave Ridge and Guye Peak. We took a little break here then continued up the ridge to the summit. I had forgotten about the exposed sections so we took out our ice axes for security.
Once on the small summit the wind picked up and the clouds started moving in, so we snapped a few shots then ski-daddled! Mark and I have both been running and hiking a lot so all our training paid off and we cruised back down to our skis. It started to get dark so we put on our headlamps and skied down an open slope. We had seen ski and snowshoe tracks heading up from the bottom of this drainage which we assumed would empty out in the flats near where we camped but we knew that snowbridges to cross the streams were few and far between, so we put on our snowshoes and headed back up the other side of the open slope to the ridge that we came up.
With daylight fading we were glad we made the choice to follow our tracks back to camp. Even with this "bread crumb trail" we nearly missed our camp with all the various tracks covering the forest. We arrived back at camp just before 9pm; a full day in the mountains!
We pitched the Megamid then fired up Mark's Dragonfly stove and my Jet Boil. While the stoves melted snow for our dinners, we alternated changing into warm, dry clothes from the tent. It really wasn't cold but being wet saps your strength so it felt good to change. Soon we were enjoying hot Chickem Teriyaki, Black Bean Soup, and Ramen! We finished off dinner with some honey roasted mixed nuts that Mark had packed in and some chocolate chip cookies that our Mom had made earlier in the week! We shut down our kitchen and crawled into our sleeping bags. The sound of the rain on the tent lulled me into unconsciousness and I believe I fell asleep mid-sentence.
My phone alarm went off far too early but fortunately the battery died so I didn't have to worry about hitting snooze. After it had been light for an hour our two we decided to get up and have breakfast. At dinner the night before we decided that if the weather was still poor we would forgo the fixed line practice and just pack up and head out. We quickly broke down camp, loaded up the sleds and put our skins back on our skis. I wasn't able to find the skins that go with Mark's skis so he was making do with an old pair I had laying around. Unfortunately the skins were too short for the tip clips to attach properly and the skis were too wet for the skins to stick. So Mark strapped the skis to his pack and snowshoed back down the trail. We both spent a lot of time pulling our sleds out of tree wells on the descent. We agreed that we were glad there weren't any trees on the Kahiltna Glacier!
We negotiated the steep, windy sections of the trail as best we could and were glad when we reached the flat portion of the trail. Soon we were at the snowed in trailhead and could hear the freeway through the forest. Once we got to the road we dropped our packs and sleds and Mark walked back to the car as I ferried the gear down to the road where Mark met me.
Thanks, Mark, for another great day in the mountains! Looking forward to our next training trip!