Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, our group of four ventured into the Goat Rocks via the White Pass trailhead for the PCT heading south for a five day trip. We made a last minute location switch after doing a NOAA forecast pinpoint on the Goat Rocks, which showed more sunshine than Olympic National Park...and it proved to be fairly spot on.
Since no one has provided a trip report since last year, I'm focusing more on the conditions in this trip report than a day by day description.
On day one we headed from White Pass on the PCT and got to see firsthand how the Miriam Lake fire affected the trail. Fortunately the fire only crossed the trail for about half a mile or so and it was intermittent. There's only two spots where the fire burned incredibly hot over the trail -- your "scorched earth" type fire. In other spots the fire jumped from tree to tree (or stand to stand) leaving some green vegetation in between. The trail is still visible throughout the burn with some fallen trees, although not nearly as many as it could be -- let's say at least a handful but not more than 10. And all but one or two can be easily walked over. The remainder of the trail was in good shape with a tree down across the trail here and there but more so in the beginning of the hike. Other obstacles are a couple of quickly melting snow patches traversing around the bowl above Miriam Lake (all done easily with trekking poles). They will be gone soon. We camped at small Lutz Lake (more like a pond, but still decent for filtering).
The next day we woke up to bluebird skies as we made our way toward the infamous Knife Edge. The basin below Elk Pass is mostly melted out with just a few patches of snow to head across as you drop into the basin. From there you cross a couple of snowfields as you traverse around the bowl but nothing that required us to bring out our microspikes and ice axes (which would be a theme on this trip...the ice axes made for great potty trowels but that's it for us on this trip). Right before you hit Elk Pass there is one sketchy snow slope to cross on the north side of an unnamed bump. This snow slope does require caution and may be something you'd want an ice axe on until it's melted out as it does not have much of a run out.
Heading up the Knife Edge was spectacular. I hiked this stretch into the Goat Rocks many years ago with my Dad and the airy nature of it following, at times, exactly on the top of the Cascade Crest is just a feat in trail building. There are few places like it for such a long stretch in Washington -- really impressive. I love to imagine people building this section of the PCT...
There are some places on the Knife Edge right now that have very narrow tread and require some cautious foot placements. In particular, after Elk Pass you traverse around the side of point 7210. This section has very narrow tread in spots along a sidehill traverse that has some problem spots, including a small rock slide / sloughing of the hillside into the trail...some tread work to widen the trail here would be ideal. I don't think that stock could make this crossing as it stands right now.
All of the snow has melted off the Knife Edge except the traverse before you hit Old Snowy that takes you on perennial snowfields and the remains of the Packwood Glacier. We did not take this route as we had heard that the higher PCT alternate (the stock route) was mostly melted out so we took that (if I don't have to cross snowfields with bad runouts, then I won't even if I have an ice axe with me). I will say that I saw people doing the traverse with trekking poles too. Just depends on your risk tolerance and comfort level...but I like to climb high so the alternate already appealed to me...plus we threw in a summit of Old Snowy on the way in. On the alternate there's only one or two short snow patches to cross and they're not a big deal to negotiate.
Dropping into the main Snowgrass Flat area there's the perennial snowfield below Old Snowy's shoulder that requires traversing. It's not super steep and has a good runout and a solid boot track across it. There are more smaller snow patches to cross and some across the trail as you drop further into the basin. While I have not been in the area this early in the summer before it felt like the melt was a couple weeks ahead of schedule of a typical year based on photos I've looked at in the past.
Cispus Basin has some snow still in it. The trail between the Snowgrass Flat trail junctions and Cispus Basin is almost entirely melted out -- just a couple patches here and there. The crossing of the Cispus River was fine. Didn't get my feet wet. The climb up to Cispus Pass had a few snowfields to cross but nothing major. All were melting quickly. The old cornice at Cispus Pass can be negotiated around by going to the edge of it and then down into rocks and a boot path back to the trail.
We met a number of thru-hikers on our trip. Some going north, others going south. Many had skipped up to Washington to bypass the deep snow sticking around in the Sierra, hoping it melts off before they get back there. We entered Snowgrass Flat on July 5th, so plenty of people out dayhiking up Old Snowy and enjoying the sunshine that day. This is clearly a popular dayhike these days on the weekends (or holiday weekends)!
Poppyflowers on Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section H - Bridge of the Gods to White Pass
thanks for the detailed report! hoping to do this summer 2020
Poppyflowers on Dec 12, 2019 09:11 AM