Hex Mountain #1343
Jan 15, 2006
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Hex Mountain Snowshoe
- Region: Snoqualmie Pass -- Salmon La Sac/Teanaway
- Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Cle Elum Ranger District
- Trails: Hex Mountain (#1343)
- Avg Rating: 3.75
- Be Aware Of
- Snow on trail
Dan Nelson's ""Snowshoe Routes Washington"" recommends Hex Mountain as ""the epitome of snowshoeing in the Cascades."" I'd have to agree it's definitely a great one, and I'll be heading back when better weather improves the views.
Roundtrip door-to-door time from Bellevue and back was 7 hours; 4 hours of that climbing time to the summit and back. The 1.7 mile route from the road to the trailhead was heavily compacted, and shoers looking to save energy might think about keeping the extra weight off their feet and just packing their snowshoes for that section. The remaining 1.8 miles are steeper and require plenty of energy. Nelson's book does not try to detail the approach on the logging roads, and the latest topo maps are not up-to-date, but this may help: after leaving the road and taking the first hard right, then the first hard left, the logging road levels out and gently curves to the right. At this point, maybe half a mile from the start, there's a fork in the logging road. The fork to the right appears to be the wrong choice, but this is the correct route. There is another fork to the right just twenty yards later, but stick to the left. From this point on, just stay on what appears to be the main road. At about 1.6 miles, the road takes a hard left to the west and as you round the ridge maybe 100 steps later, watch for the Hex Mountain trail sign on your right. It took me an hour to get here with just one 5-minute break.
From the here the route basically sticks to the ridge crest, and the views just get better and better, even though you are weaving in and out of thin tree cover. Saturday shoers had already blazed the route the day before, so making progress was much easier, but still a great workout. Eventually you'll have a clear look at most of the rest of the route up the ridge. There's a point about halfway up this ridge that gets a lot of wind from Lake Cle Elum when the winds are blowing east, and on this day the winds were ripping over the surface at probably 50 or 60 mph - enough that I had to lean into it to keep my balance. A couple of descending hikers said they'd made it through this section, but then decided to turn around because of the wind. Don't let the wind scare you off, because from this section on you're safely back in the trees all the way to the summit.
Nelson's book says there's no avalanche danger on the route, and that would be true if you stick precisely to the ridgeline. But there's a point along the ridge that descends slightly, and a route had been put in on the right (east) that traversed below the ridge crest so as to avoid unnecessary climbing. Be careful here if avalanche danger is high.
Once back in the trees, continue to stay to the ridge crest even though it's no longer as sharply defined. At 3.3 miles from the hike's start, the ridge abruptly ends and appears to run east-west. Take a right here (it appeared some had gone left, at least for a ways) and take the time to finish the climb. It's only about a quarter mile, and the view at the top is worth it. The final distance gets steeper and steeper until the very summit, when you take the last 20 steps or so out of trees and have a 360-degree view of the Cascades and Cle Elum Lake. It took me 2:45 to get to the summit from the road, and 1:15 for the descent.