Mt. Washington (I-90)
February 21, 1998

The weather was not promising blue skies and sunshine, but most of the folks who had signed up for this trip showed up at the appointed hour in Issaquah to head for the Mt. Washington trailhead. At the parking area we were greeted by rain and gray everywhere, with a few glimpses of snow higher up when there was a brief break in the clouds. Only slightly daunted, and our enthusiasm (and only our enthusiasm) undampened, we headed up from the cars to the old railroad grade, and on to the start of the trail. Climbing up the Mt. Washington trail There is now a sign (very small, and very high up on a tree) indicating that this is the "Mt. Wa." trail, but even before this sign was up, the trail was hard to miss. Some of the damage done by bringing in heavy equipment last spring to clear a major log jam has been re-camoflaged by new growth, but the first section of the trail is still very rocky. As we climbed up past the climbing areas (Club Paradiso, The Actual Cave, Chainsaw Bob's and the Peannacle), the clouds actually got thinner, and for a while we had no precipitation falling on us. Just before the creek crossing we passed a major blowdown that has obscured part of the trail - stay close to the creek, and you'll be back on the trail in 50 feet or so. By the time we hit about 3000', the rain had turned to snow, and there was a fair amount of snow on the ground. We followed boot and snow shoe prints along the trail/creek bed and eventually up onto an old logging road. Here, all the prints headed east along the road grade, and the long route to the summit. We headed west past a small, frozen pond
Frozen pond on Mt. Washington until we found a suitable slope to head directly summit-wards, Ascending steep slope on north ridge of Mt. Washington cutting several miles off the standard route to the summit. Urging the rest of the team to head up and kick me some steps, we started gaining some elevation. The snow was soft and deep, and it lies over a slash area, so there were numerous and excellent examples of snow swimming and snow floundering! We eventually made it up to a small plateau, and then continued on into the tree bashing section of this route. Fortunately, this section is short, but the trees are short and stocky, and grow together so thickly there is no way to go around them - you just have to put your head down and push through (note: ponchos are not the ideal rain wear for tree bashing!). The trees end at a short, steep wall of snow that put us back up on the logging road again - we followed this left and around a hairpin turn, then picked another likely looking slope and climbed the last 100 or so feet up to the summit.
Summit shot on Mt. Washington The winds were blowing the snow horizontally (note: ponchos are not the ideal rain wear for strong winds!), so after a quick summit picture we headed west to the subsidiary, but tree sheltered, summit for a quick bite of lunch. Realizing it wasn't going to get hot and sunny any time soon, lunch was a hurried affair, after which we all agreed it was time to head for the cars. We chose a different slope to descend, allowing for many more examples of snow swimming and post holing before we reached the frozen pond once again. Not content with the adventure so far, the group allowed me to talk them in to trying a "short cut" from the pond straight back down to the trail. While the route certainly covered less distance, it forced us through much more brush (and devil's club) than our meandering ascent route. At one point, the brush was so thick, and the snow was so thin, that I just started wading down the middle of the creek to regain the trail - wet feet seemed better than barked shins and devil's club spines! Once back on the trail, the remaining descent was uneventful - the rain even let up for a while. This wasn't an outing for great views, but it's still a fun late winter/early spring route - I think everyone had a good time!
Descending Mt. Washington


Last updated: April 3, 2001