Type of HikeDay hike
SnowSnowfields to cross - could be difficult
PCT north of Snoqualmie Pass will be closed for logout 7/25-28/11. This will be a big, complicated job, thanks to the trail crews in advance. Intermittent snow on trail as low as 4400', at the high end of the southbound switchback, melting fast but it does slow progress. Just getting to the Katwalk, there were several places where I was happy to have my ice ax, but several people crossed them with hiking poles, or nothing. Having broken my ankle on steep snow with an ice ax and training, I fear that many people are oblivious to the danger of steep snow. Slip on this stuff, and you get going very fast very quickly. Kendall Katwalk is dry except for one short significant obstacle at the north end (class 2 scrambling move with some exposure). North of the Katwalk, it's continuous but mellow snow travel to Ridge Lake, with perhaps a few places I'd not recommend to those uncomfortable with ice ax travel. NE of Ridge Lake, on the steep slope above Alaska Lake (below Pt. 5928), it's definitely alpine ice-ax terrain with several steep snow chutes. I belayed my sure-footed dog in 5 or 6 places, and threaded the moat in one; this with nearly ideal snow-travel conditions, soft enough to kick good steps. I brought crampons but did not use them; 2" mush-on-crust, no postholing, but I'd advise bringing crampons just in case the snow gets hard in some of those chutes. Travel was much slower than I'd hoped -- my objective was Chikamin Peak, but I didn't even get close -- I settled for a summit bivouac on Alaska Mt. as a consolation prize, ascended the W ridge from the notch. Alaska Mt. summit has a bivvy spot barely big enough for 1 bivvy sack and 1 small dog and a good view. Saw several goats and large bear turds (what were the bears doing so high, in the snow?). Where the PCT heads SSE below Chikamin Peak and Four Brothers, it's mostly under snow still (!). I worry about later-season hikers steeping out onto one of those avy chutes filled with hard late-season snow and learning the hard way, like I did. Alaska and Joe Lakes are about 5% open, melting fast. Ridge and Gravel Lakes are frozen solid. On the return, ascended Pt. 5851 SW of Ridge Lake, an easy scramble from Ridge Lake, and all on snow for us. Recommended; it's 100' higher than Alaska Mtn. If you go to Ridge/Gravel Lakes, it'd be a shame to miss it. North of the Katwalk, there were occasional trickles of water. Note to future readers: the snowpack of 2011 is a bizarre anomaly; my remarks on snow conditions are unlikely to apply to future years. Lucky me, I get to be the last to hike the blowdown before the logout.