Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kendall Katwalk, NOT

Kendall Katwalk, October 12, 2009

Kendall Katwalk, October 12, 2009

Kendall Katwalk NOT – I’m not sure what happened to autumn but there were few traces of fall-like conditions on the trail today. Knowing that winter is not far off, though, I was prepared to hike in less-than-ideal conditions – one more trek into the high country before it is covered with snow. The weather report was more optimistic than reality – before I got to Snoqualmie Pass the skies were leaden and the sun looked like a hole poked through a gray blanket. I also noticed driving to the pass that the winds were kicking up so wondered if the inclement weather was coming in “early”.

There were 6-7 cars at the PCT trailhead; more than I expected on such an ominous day. I toyed with the idea of going up from Commonwealth Basin but decided to save that for the end of the hike; it makes a nice finish. I hoped for some fall color photography but the fall colors were almost non-existent; the vine maple leaves were dun and brittle, the leaves of alders were yellow but withered. I carried on, hoping there might be one more color show from the Katwalk.

Hoar frost poked up through the dirt near damp areas; exquisite forms shaped like rude diamonds but difficult to photograph. The first stretch of the trail is a good beginning to what’s ahead; a warm-up to loosen the muscles before steeper terrain. I also looked for mushrooms but didn’t see as many as I expected.

Just past the first major talus slope with a view of a moody Guye through a ragged screen of alders, I reached the turn-off for Commonwealth Basin and Red Pass. I continued on the PCT still hoping to get to the Katwalk before bad weather rolled in.

The stream crossing was a non-event; there was very little flow. A bit past the stream crossing the trail opens up as it climbs through a short, steep pitch through geriatric fireweed and some maple sporting shades of orange and red. That’s not all I saw; it was cold and the snow was falling horizontally driven by a strong, bitter wind. I almost turned around but I couldn’t resist the call to go higher.

Back in the woods there was shelter from the wind but it was cold. The snow was just starting to stick on the trail like a fine sprinkling of sugar but the forest was deep and peaceful. Then I began to run into hikers who had turned around short of the Katwalk due to the hostile conditions. One hiker had made it to the Katwalk but it was so cold his digital camera died. He said there were still a few parties going on up but I met most them coming down soon after running into him. One guy said, “This feels like the last hike of the season, snow’s coming!”

I at least wanted to get to the big talus slope near the base of Kendall Peak; and I did but did I linger? No. It was so windy and cold that I turned around. It was snowing hard enough that little could be seen and the wind was relentless.

Back at the junction with Commonwealth I decided to hike back to the trailhead via the old trail, rather than the senseless switchbacks on the PCT. The Old Commonwealth Basin Trail is shorter and in such conditions makes sense; besides, it’s pretty in there, even in ugly weather. The stream crossings were a non-event; I didn’t even need to rock crop (that could change any day given the impending forecast).

It was still snowing when I got back to the trailhead; I couldn’t get into the car fast enough to wrap my cold paws around a hot thermos of tea.

Stats: From trailhead to the talus field – 2,200 feet elevation gain; I didn’t keep track of the mileage.

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