After going nearly two years without putting on a pair of snowshoes I can finally say that I finally got my chance this past February. Unfortunately despite summiting two summits, I did lose a very good pair of snowshoes in the process. Maybe that was the reason it took two years? I don't know but this trip with my friend Nathan was one my bigger trips of the winter 2016 season.
Despite all the warnings that Seattle was going into an El Nino drought, the season turned out to be quiet the opposite. This was the rainiest winter in the city of Seattle and many other areas in western Washington were in similar territory. Of course a rainy winter is not very good for hiking and snowshoeing. Yes there was plenty of snow but the avalanche danger was constantly high and the weather itself was downright nasty. I had at least 10 snowshoe trips that were either cancelled or modified into none-snowshoe trip due to the weather. Even on this day the weather was frightful until 20 minutes before the hike. Luckily though we were able to get this hike off without any bad weather.
In fact we picked Welldiggers because in the past it was a good place to avoid avalanche danger. If one picked the right route the slope are gently sloping and the high points are forested. Last time I was there I was able to get my wife BearQueen up to the summit. She struggled but she was successful on what was only her second true snowshoe hike. You would think that this one would be an easy snowshoe now, but with time everything can change.
Nathan and I got a late start on this mountain. Both of us had to sleep from work that happened the night before. After all this was supposed to be a very easy mountain so a late start was going to be no worry. We got to the trailhead and noon and though it was raining part of our trip up to Welldiggers, the sun was out and the temperature felt warm when we started. From the Yodelin lodge we immediately put on our snowshoes and started heading up the mountain following a set of ski tracks up the mountains.
With a couple minutes views off to the north formed and we were making great progress heading up the mountains. My lack of snowshoeing over the past two years though did catch up with as I seemed to have been huffing and puffing much of the way up the mountain. Now in past trips we went up most of the way up the ridge and then headed east just a couple hundred feet below a highpoint on the ridge that is now unofficially called Mount Weird. Either the trees have grown in or we were just were not able to spot the cutoff this time. Instead we stay on the ski tracks and followed them all the way to the summit of a small sub-peak which is now known as Mount Weird. From the trailhead to here was barely 1100 feet of elevation gain but both Nathan and I were getting a heck of a workout. At first we were disappointed when we hit the highpoint because it appeared the peak was completely treed in. However once we headed east the views from Mount Weird got progressively better especially toward Jim Hill and the Chiwaukums.
We stayed on Mount Weird for 5 minutes then headed on over to Welldiggers Ass. The quick but steep drop from Mount Weird was quiet challenging but we made quick work of it. My old snowshoes were starting to give me trouble here but I did not think too much of it. I instead though it was because I have put on a lot of weight over the years. After heading of of Mount Weird we entered into the saddle between the two peaks where we were greeted by a couple of skiers. We decided to take another break here so that we could finally gather our push for the final assault on to the summit of Welldiggers Ass. First we went up the burn area of Welldiggers where we saw the wooded sign pointing to Mount Weird.
Then we entered the thick forest. Most of this way was already broken in by skies. Unfortunately this this roughly a quarter mile from the summit. For the last 1000 horizontal feet we had to break trail heading up the mountain and this was very tough. I could really feel my weight gain on this finally little bit. Slowly but surely we fought the very wet and sometimes very deep snow and headed all of the way to the summit of Welldiggers. We were greeted by the excellent from the summit of this peak. In fact it was the clearest view I had ever experienced on this mountain. Middle Chiwaukum and Jim Hill stood tall off in the distance as did many of the other peaks in the region. Nathan and I stayed on the summit for about 15 minutes before a cold wind let us know it was time to get off this mountain.
Okay heading down is supposed to be easy right. All we have to do is follow our trail back and there will be no problems. And coming off of Welldigers Ass this appeared to be the case. We just followed our snowshoe tracks right off of the long summit ridge of Welldiggers. However remember that there was supposed to be a cutoff that we could take to avoid going over Mount Weird. Well we though we found it but after several hundred feet down the mountain it was very apparent that we did not. Unfortunately we realized that we picked up the wrong trail down the mountain.
We were clearly not lost but we now had to side traverse back over to where our original trail was. At first this was easy. But then just when we were making great progress to finding the road on which we started I went into a tree well that had a bush in it. SNAP!!! my bindings separated from my snowshoe and I quickly found myself in a very bad situation. While I still had one snowshoe working my other foot had to post-hole in foot holes up to three feet deep. Nathan at this point leading the way which clearly help but I was struggling mercilessly in these rough conditions. The next 1000 feet were the most grueling because I really had to watch where I was going. Finally we hit our starting tracks and I was so thankful to see them. I knew we were going to make it back in good condition. However even going down in heavily traveled tracks I still managed to posthole up to three deep in place it clearly was a struggled pretty much all the way to the car. Getting to car was a welcome sign however I was wiped from the trip.
Those snowshoes I had went over 100 mountains and probably thousands of miles. They had seen some rough terrain and manage to take to some special places. I went to the MSR factory to see if they could repair them but unfortunately they could not. But surprisingly they decide to give me a new pair for free and even paid for shipping. As a thank you I decided to buy another item from them which is an even more durable pair of snowshoes. The trip itself those was a major wake up for me. I had been a terrible funk for a long time with winter hiking and it came back to bite me on this trip. It would end up being my only snowshoe of this season but at least I got out for some hiking. Now hopefully next year will give me some wonderful adventures with my new snowshoes.