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kitya
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PostTue Jan 29, 2019 6:06 pm 
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NWAC was showing avy danger as low below tree line, moderate above tree line for this Sunday and the weather was weirdly sunny, so I decided to visit Avalanche mountain above snow lake this time. Despite this name Avalanche mountain is actually pretty safe, mostly tree-covered little mountain, but getting there does cross some pretty significant avalanche terrain. For some reason all previous trip reports for the Avalanche Mountain I found here used summer Snow lake trail for the approach, so I did this too and in the morning the snow was still solidly frozen and safe, even though it crosses a few obvious avalanche chutes. The trail itself is very well beaten path and I’ve met a few people on it, so clearly it gets a lot of winter use. Not really sure why. Even in low avalanche danger days there is really no reason to use it. Once I got to switchbacks/cliffy area on the summer trail, the path in snow disappeared being obliterated by various slides, even through the trees. I basically pushed on without switchbacks over still frozen avalanche debris and it was a bit steep and otherwise nasty, but short.

Getting to the ridge was a delight. It is like a different world out there. I usually avoid going to Snoqualmie Pass area because how busy it is, but no single person, no tracks appeared on the snow lake side. Finally it was silent and beautiful. Snow was covered by a very icy and slippery crust, covered by interesting eroded ridges from all the rain that fell on top of snow. Snowshoeing to the base of Avalanche Mountain was very pleasant and almost flat.

From the map it looked like easiest to get to Avalanche Mountain summit would be to get first to the gap (low point) on the ridge and then follow the ridge up, but it turned out trickier than it looked on the map. Avalanche mountain slopes suddenly get very steep near the ridge and there are cliffs near to the gap. I up climbed and downclimbed like 5 times before I found an approach I was mostly comfortable with. Worse of all by this time of day the cliffy summit ridge of Avalanche Mountain was baking in a hot sun for several hours and snow was very soft and slidy. Don’t be like me. It looks like gaining ridge way later, more close to actual summit is probably way better and safer. Also avoids you some open cliffs/gendarmes on the ridge way.

Summit is open and views are amazing. Very surprising for a peak this low. Kind of similar to the views from Snoqualmie Mountain, but even better – you can see all the same things + the actual steep face of Snoqualmie Mountain. We can see Tahoma south and Dakobed north. Middle Fork Valley. Snow Lake. Snoqualmie Mountain, etc., etc., etc.

We also heard a large avalanche somewhere. Clearly even low avy day doesn’t mean no avalanches.

The way back was uneventful until we reached the top of summer switchbacks again. My path still existed, but looked steep and snow now was really-really soft. As I contemplated if it is safe to go down that way or not, a wet loose slide just came down and obliterated my track. It is not super big and went through the trees, but it could clearly break my or Cookie’s legs or drag us down the cliffs. Clearly it was a sign that summer trail was no longer a good route to take.

So we went back up and took winter route (through Chair peak avalanche basin and source lake). Very busy with several skiers out, but much-much nicer and safer. I mean on a really bad day avalanche from Chair peak would be destructive, but on a good day it is actually a safe and nice route. It is also shaded, so the snow was more hard and icy. The only disadvantage of the winter route is that it can be busy and especially towards the parking lot has a lot of dog poop. Disgusting. Including poop that people skied over and spread in long lines over snow ☹ Cookie never leaves her poop in the mountains. Stupid. But other than poop winter route is the best route for winter and also probably shorter.

Not a long outing, but lots of good views. Sadly it felt more like May than January.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3336127291

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Jeff
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Location: Someone get me out of Everett, WA
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PostTue Jan 29, 2019 6:34 pm 
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A timely report as I am planning on heading up there Sunday. Would you recommend crampons in addition to snowshoes?
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kitya
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PostTue Jan 29, 2019 6:40 pm 
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Jeff wrote:
A timely report as I am planning on heading up there Sunday. Would you recommend crampons in addition to snowshoes?

I always recommend bringing everything that can potentially help! Worst case scenario they will be useful as training weight, so there is really no downside.

It looks like some new rain/snow might fall before Sunday, so conditions might change. I brought with me microspikes/snowshoes/crampons/ice axe and avy gear. I only used microspikes/snowshoes and ice axe. Microspikes are little bit useful on icy trail part (either for summer trail or for winter trail, they are both very well beaten) and snowshoes are required once you are off trail, but I didn't use crampons at all. I found it easier to ditch snowshoes and just posthole on the summit ridge though. I also definitely used my ice axe there.

So as you see, while I did bring my crampons this time I didn't really use them.
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