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[TR] Snoqualmie Pass - Patrol Race 4/2/2007

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Trip: Snoqualmie Pass - Patrol Race


Date: 4/2/2007


Trip Report:

Inspired by reading Lowell's account of the Patrol Race (http://www.alpenglow.org/skiing/patrol-race-2004/index.html), and a few encouraging e-mails from Lowell himself, I decided to ski the route, and invited my friend Greg to come along.


We headed up last Sunday, from the first lot for Snoqualmie West. The weather was light rain showers and low clouds, and since I forgot to change out the dead batteries in my camera before leaving the car, there aren't any pictures.


After shuttling a car to the end of the tour, we started skinning at 8:30am. Greg's familiarity with the cross-country trails solved any route finding problems to Windy Pass, which we gained at 10:05am. This was also the snowline, and the rain showers turned to light snow for the rest of the morning.


Our traverse across Tinkham basin was plagued by no visibility and climbing too high too fast - my fault - and we actually crossed the NE Ridge of Tinkham peak about 150' higher than we needed to. The low clouds kept us from having any view of the East Face of Tinkham Peak. This basin is full of old growth snow and would make an awesome tree-ski descent. Along the way we spotted two of the original Mountaineer Patrol Race markers, sturdy metal flags hammered into tree trunks about 3 meters over our heads. We descended down to Mirror Lake linking big Christie turns through the three inches+ of mash-potato snow. Mirror Lake is the edge of "civilization" and we followed snowmobile tracks out to logged hillsides and road beds to Twilight Lake and Yakima Pass, reaching lunch at 12:45pm.


The weather continued to improve, and a quick climb up to the Gravel Pit lead to almost 3 miles of down-hill skating on a logging road to Stirrup Creek. This was great, except that now we had 3 more miles of uphill road shuffling to gain Baldy Pass. Along the way we heard the buzz of snowmachines, and finally we were passed by a team of 5 and another couple on Stirrup Creek Road. The end was in sight (literally) at 3:40pm on Baldy Pass, and 30 minutes later we were at Lizard Lake. A brief final climb to the Stampede Pass weather station, past a family of three sledders, led to our last transition, and skins were packed away for good.


A short descent to a road, plus a little bit of uphill skating, and soon we found the top of the Meany Hut rope tow. By now the snow was deep, deep, slush, so we carefully turned our way down to Meany Hut, reached at 5:30pm. Three more miles of skate skiing across the flats led to the car we had parked at Crystal Camp Ground.


The Patrol Race: 21 miles / 33 kilometers (18 miles on route, plus 3 miles to return to the car). Approximately 5200' gained and lost. 9 hours on route, 9:45 car-to-car. We lost about an hour to an hour-half total in three or four route-finding mistakes.


Conclusion: Despite the sled-heads, the logging, and the roads, this was awesome! It was just really, really fun to be constantly on the move, with lots of short transitions between skiing and skinning. I definitely want to do this again, and maybe try to organize some-sort of online registration to recreate the original Race. Just a brainstorm, there.


Gear Notes:

This route is a perfect candidate for metal edged, waxless BC cross-country skis. Otherwise, do it with the lightest gear you can. You do cross several avalanche paths underneath Tinkham, so transceiver, probe, and shovel are recommended.


Approach Notes:

A second car is needed to park at Crystal Camp Ground. If you want to do this as an overnight tour, there is great camping at Windy Pass and Mirror Lake, but do not leave a car parked in the Snoqualmie West lot.

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"This basin is full of old growth snow and would make an awesome tree-ski descent."


sounds cool. any pics of this area?

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Glad things worked out so well for you Chris. Going places on skis--isn't it great? Next time try going when the Meany Lodge is operating. (I assume that they've shut down for the season.) The snowcat tow at the end of the day (and the lodge itself) really adds to the flavor of the trip.


I don't recall if I ever sent you this link, but here is a writeup about an organized trip that I led for the Mounties in February 2006:




Trips like this are a great way to meet other skiers who like to go places!

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I couldn't do it this year, but I'd love to do the Patrol Race. I haven't stayed at the Meany lodge since I was a teen, but it is a cool lodge and the snowcat ride (tow) out is pretty cool.


At least as long as nobody has it in for former mounties who would not rejoin. ;)

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