Often I ask myself why certain mountains are popular and others are not. What makes one mountain more desirable than another mountain? In winter this in large part is due to accessibility. Let’s face it Mount Hood is extremely popular in winter and spring due to the fact that almost any vehicle can get there to the Timberline Ski Area. Such is also the case for Hurricane Hill which is well known by experience winter hikers and novices alike as a great winter destination. All it takes is a beautiful drive from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge and then a quick 6 mile 1000 foot cumulative elevation snowshoe to the top of Hurricane Hill. What also helps is the fact of the tremendous views throughout the entire snowshoe.
Our Goal For Today
For CascadeCohen and I this was going to be our next destination. The weather forecasted another very warm April weekend day. Temperatures in the mountains were supposed to be in the 50’s and 60’s. Avalanche danger was supposed to be considerable that day due to cornice breaking off from the heat. We were thinking of doing either more remote or higher but the thought of full day of sunshine combined with considerable avalanche danger made us decide to go a longer distance for a short but more scenic snowshoe. CascadeCohen was also coming off of a 12 mile run the day before and was a little tired from the run
Coming from Seattle this is long drive-ferry combination we estimated about 4 hours one way or 8 hours round trip. I have to thank Joel for driving this route. I was just coming off of the night shift at my work and did not have the strength to drive this route myself. For him it was going to be his very first Olympic Mountain summit whereas for me only by third (of well over three hundred summits lifetime). Not only was the trip tiring but costly in that with gas food and ferry toll it ran over $100. I honestly slept through much of the drive and had to have security guards wake me up on the ferry.
Once we got to the Hurricane Ridge visitors center we were greeted by a fairly busy trailhead. To be honest I was really expecting much of this trip except for some occasional nice views of Mount Olympus. The mile and a half of this hike was slog. Many others that were hiking on this were not even wearing snowshoes and there were really cutting into the road. Others on the trail were just there to hike along the ridge and they did not have any interest to head to Hurricane Hill. After about a mile CascadeCohen and I had the whole road slog to ourselves.
After a mile and a half the road quickly became a snowshoe route. CascadeCohen was going a little slower due to the large run he did the day before but other than that we were going at a decent clip. The terrain got a bit more interesting around the narrow ridge. At one point on the northern side we were dealing with huge cornices that was rapidly giving way and going down the side while at the other side we were dealing with a steep slope with some partly melted out snow. This made the trip a little more interesting especially for CascadeCohen is just now starting to find his groove in mountaineering. We decided to take it slow through this section because the wet sloppy snow was not giving us much traction.
Nearing the Top
We then hit a grove of trees which helped block us from the very strong sun. By this time it 2 pm and well into the 60’s and the sun was hitting us both very powerfully. After the grove of trees we finally hit the final 25 degree open slope that leads to the summit. Out of the whole trip this nice open sloping field really made the trip. The open slope leading to summit was an excellent touch for this snowshoe trip. It made me forget the fact that I was going up a popular easier mountain. Slowly we continued up the final slope up the mountain. It was neat to look at the strange group of trees above us. As we headed up the mountain we were constantly being hit with the powerful. We noticed a few high clouds blowing in and pretty much hoped that they our way.
Nice view near the top
On the Summit
We hit the summit soon after the open field. For the first ten minutes we had the summit to ourselves. The views from this summit were excellent both of the Olympics to the south and of Vancouver Island to the north. For Joel it was the highest elevation he been in since moving to Washington State and probably the best view he has seen since coming here. After doing the typical goofy hero pictures we to a rest where we ran into another hiker. For Joel and needed to take a much needed rest due to his knee bothering him from the day before. The high clouds that I was hoping to blow in did and quickly the temperature dropped 10 degrees. That made it a whole lot easier to sit down rest and enjoy the summit. It took a while but a couple gust of wind started to affect us and get us a little cold. After 45 minutes we decided to head off the beautiful summit area.
Looking towards Mount Angelos and company Looking into Canada View looking west Griff and Unicorn
Time to Head Down
Heading down the slope
Heading down we had to take our time. CC’s knee started acting up as he was heading down the mountain. On the main open slope I had him lead down the mountain and stayed fairly close behind him, As soon as we hit the grove of trees I decided to take lead and carve out a nice trail to lessen the impact on his knees as much as possible. The narrow ridge was even more interesting with the snow on the south side melting off even more and the cornice on the north side breaking off at a regular basis. We stayed the on our tracks heading down this area often resting to take in the views and rest CC’s knee.
Looking towards Nasty cornices on the way up and down
As soon as we hit the road slog of the trip we ran into another group of people who were hoping to summit Hurricane Hill. They did not have snowshoes and decided to wisely turn around. As moved up the 1.5 mile road slog of the trip we had to go over some awful soupy snow. This was made worse by all the footprints made from the entire people booting road. Some of their postholes went about two feet deep! The sloppy snow conditions were really eating up on CC’s knees and he was really starting hurt. The sun really was really getting to both us. On this day I was thankful not to do anything larger because I think a major attempt during the day time would have led to failure.
Snow lining the Olympic Mountains
The Drive Back and Conclusion
Final view before we left the parking area
Finally we got back to the trailhead where we signed out and headed to the car. The clouds have lifted now and the sun was out in full force. Even though it was 6 pm. We were able to dry out a lot of our gear in a mere 15 minutes before the long 4 hour road-ferry trip back to car. Of no drive out can’t go out without a good meal this time at the Northwest’s on Taco Time. After enjoying a delicious burrito we were set for a trip back.
From what I saw I think we timed this mountain perfectly in every way. Hurricane Hill with its beautiful views awesome alpine slope was great fix for my need for adventure. For CascadeCohen his knees quickly recovered and his desire for mountaineering continues to be stronger. Soon the bigger ones will come his way and it will be the trips like Hurricane Hill that is set the path for that.