January 9 was the first Outing Club ski trip of the season. 25 of us rode the bus. There was only 10 inches of snow at Snoqualmie pass. So the resorts were all closed, and we had the place to ourselves. This was enough snow for cross-country skiing, tho we had to watch out for thin brown spots that could scratch our skis.
The snow was a heavy mix that one lady likened to wet cement. More snow dribbled down all day; round icy, rather wet flakes that clicked on my hat and shoulders. It was pretty fast snow, but our tracks compacted into icy ridges. I found that skiing in other peoples’ tracks led to having my skis veer off into the snow on one side or the other, a bothersome nuisance. Skiing on untouched snow wasn’t a lot better; a thin crust an inch down in the snow kept breaking, making me lurch from side to side. XC skiers put up with terrible snow, compared to the groomed runs that downhill resorts maintain. It just goes to prove how much more XC skiers must enjoy themselves.
I started east on the Iron Horse trail, an abandoned railroad right of way. It’s almost level, which for me makes it boring. When I came up to our guides Lance and Jean talking at the foot of a path thru the woods, I was ready for a change. Lance told me that it led to a higher trail, the “Common Connector,” from which the top of Mt. Catherine could be reached. Variety beckoned, and the snow is always better higher up. I took off my skis, wrapped my Velcro sling around them and trekked up thru woods to a snowy road. Standing there was Lance.
“How did you get ahead of me? I know you didn’t pass me.”
“Oh, I know some shortcuts,” he said mysteriously, and headed back down to check on another group.
The snow up here was a bit deeper. I skied to an intersection that I thought matched one on my little handout map, and took a steep right turn that looked like an obvious route to the summit. I trudged up a long hill, crossing under power lines. The way leveled out and I was able to ski again thru nice woods. There were no tracks up there, which should have alerted me; but I was too relieved to be away from the former railroad line to think about it.
A mile or so further, the road dead-ended, still in woods. I found a nice little stream nearby, but its course was too brushy to follow. I tried an opening in the trees; but it quickly petered out into a slanty maze of tree trunks. So I had a snack and skied back, performing my face plant for the day in private on my way down the hill I’d just climbed. (This maneuver involves traveling horizontally across the snow head-first and face-downward while one’s skis and poles trail behind to reduce one’s velocity. It’s the main way a lot of XC skiers stop.)
I took the woods path back down to the Iron Horse trail and emerged in the middle of Lance’s intermediate class. They wanted to know all about my adventure. When I reported to him, he said “Oh, I know where you were; Hidden Valley.” Not all the roads on the mountain are on the map.
I got back to the bus in time to eat my lunch before we started for home. We got on the freeway, drove west over the pass, and pulled off at the side of the Denny Creek exit. The bus had gotten a flat tire.
While we waited for a service truck from Les Schwab, Lance brought what was left of the hot refreshments inside the bus. Everyone was happy; there was nothing else to do, so we might as well be. Bus party time!