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Working for winter on Snoqualmie Mountain
posted by John : March 8, 2015


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It was recently observed that I'm "a snow person." Well, duh.

As a result, it's been a very hard winter for me. Yes, we've had a couple of good trips, but they've been few and far between. And we've had to work for them. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that winter will become a season cloaked in the mists of time.

In the future, more and more of our winters in the Northwest will be like this one. Cliff Mass, a professor at the University of Washington, recently wrote that this winter is remarkably similar what we might expect in the year 2070. That's a sobering thought.

This year, to get easy access to quality snow you had to travel. For people without the means or time to travel the only way to get to the snow is to work for it. That's the category I fall into.

Sunday morning was decently cold at home and at the Pass. It was only just barely above freezing, but that was pretty good for this winter. There was snow starting at the parking lot, but I figured higher it would fade out in the woods so I didn't bother with crampons to start. Sadly, I was right.

The trail I was following was a familiar one, which was the only reason I even considered it with the possibility of snow coverage.

When the snow did make a return it was rock hard and no fun. I picked my way through it only so I didn't have to stop to put on crampons. Plus, the snow and ice would last for only a few hundred yards and then it was back to rock. More than I hate to see snow melt I hate the sound of crampons on rock. It was only on the final ridge that there was solid snow coverage.

In June, when we normally climb Snoqualmie Mountain, there are big cornices hanging over the basin. This felt more like July in terms of snow with no cornices and just a bit of snow, but at least it wasn't hot.

Looking deep into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness there was plenty of snow to be seen and some of it looked to be in prime condition. Getting to that snow would not be a simple hike. Instead, it'd be the type of trip that would require serious effort and serious preparation.

All this means that as snow becomes more scarce and difficult to access more and more people will become disenfranchised from winter. Only those of us willing to travel or work for it will be able to enjoy it.

That means climbing higher and higher to chase snow when it's gone from our traditional lowland slopes. Or traveling to the volcanos where winter will hold on and push the other seasons around as it should. Or traveling to where the snow is falling and it's cold enough to stick around.

Whatever comes in the years ahead, whether it's deep snow next year or bare slopes in 2070, I'm confident I'll be able to satisfy my need for snow as long as my legs and lungs keep working. The real question is whether everyone else will, too, or if winter will become a legend we speak of in hushed tones around barbecues in February.

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