Last Monday was winter solstice, a.k.a. the shortest day of the year. I decided I would make the most of it by spending every minute of daylight outside. Mondays are my long run day, so it was perfect. Except last Monday there was a winter storm warning in effect, which was not so perfect.
Considering the weather forecast, I headed for the Mount Tahoma trails. I figured this would be a reasonably conservative place to wander around, because the trails are groomed regularly, there’s minimal avalanche danger, and there are huts every 3-5 miles. It was a great way to spend the day outside towing my pulk around in some nasty weather, yet still have bail-out/warm-up options if things got really bad. (You have to make a reservation if you want to stay in the huts overnight, but they are open to the public with no reservation required from 7 am to 7 pm.)
I started off at the lower sno-park just before 8 am and began the uphill slog to Snow Bowl hut. It was snowing heavily but relatively warm, with temps in the high 20s/low 30s. The trails had just been groomed the night before, but overnight it dumped 12+ inches of snow so I was breaking trail for most of the morning. Eventually I crossed paths with a group headed back to their car, and I happily jumped in their tracks for the rest of the journey up to Snow Bowl. However, by the time I reached the ridgeline to Snow Bowl, the howling wind had completely obliterated the tracks they’d made just an hour before. The wind had also created deep snow drifts that left me floundering around up to my waist in some places.
It was actually pretty comical. I turned the corner, saw Snow Bowl hut, and cheered out loud! Woohoo! Almost there! Then I took my next step and instantly sank up to my waist in a massive drift. It literally took me 30 minutes to go the last 1/4 mile along the ridge. I could see people in the window of the hut, watching me with binoculars. I waved and smiled so they knew I was OK.
When I finally reached Snow Bowl, the couple that was staying there greeted me with a smile and an offer of a warm drink. I gratefully filled up my thermos with hot cocoa, chatted with them for a few minutes, and then headed back out in the storm.
After Snow Bowl, the next stop was High Hut. I ran into the groomer as I was descending from Snow Bowl, and learned that the trail to High Hut had been groomed within the last couple hours. I was excited that I’d no longer be breaking trail. However, it was snowing so hard that by the time I reached the upper part of the High Hut trail, the corduroy was already covered. Luckily the new snow was light and fluffy and only a few inches deep, so it wasn’t too bad.
The wind along the ridge to High Hut was even worse than at Snow Bowl. It was a good reminder that I need to pack ski goggles in my pulk so that I can actually open my eyes when conditions are like that. There was another couple at High Hut, but I was eager to keep moving so I stuck my head in the doorway, said hello, and then headed down.
On the way down to the car I ran into Callista and her teenage daughter, who were on their way up to High Hut. (Great to see you guys!) I made it back to my car just as it was getting dark. A happy winter solstice for sure!