4th of July Pass via Thunder Creek

I was missing the North Cascades and also wanted to do a little recon for future adventures, so I decided to head up Thunder Creek towards 4th of July Pass. I did some research (satellite imagery, slope angles, weather, and NWAC forecast) and decided Monday was a good day to go. Unfortunately, “party cloudy” ended up more like “mostly cloudy/overcast” – but hey, it didn’t rain or snow, and I could see all of the peaks around me, so I’m not really complaining. However, I will use the flat grey light as an excuse for my less than stellar pics.

Road conditions: Hwy 20 was clear and dry! Yippeee! Colonial Creek Campground is still unplowed, with at least a couple feet of snow in the parking lot. That said, the plows have cleared a spot on the opposite side of the road (the Thunder Knob trailhead) so there is plenty of room for parking.

4thofJulyPass-2376
Pretty sunrise as I drove across the Skagit
20170320_074523
Obligatory photo from Diablo Overlook (the parking lot is not yet plowed)

Trail conditions
Thunder Creek: There is a well-packed snowshoe trench through the Colonial Creek parking lot and campground to the Thunder Creek trailhead. Thunder Creek trail itself is also pretty packed down up until the bridge across Thunder Creek. In the morning I was able to get all the way to the bridge in just trail runners. The bridge across Thunder Creek is easily passable, but has a bunch of snow on it. Just don’t lose your balance. 🙂 On the other side of the bridge, things are much less-travelled. Once you cross Thunder Creek, route-finding/nav skills are required.

20170320_083209
Thunder Creek trail before the bridge
20170320_155727
Views of Thunder Creek from the Thunder Creek trail
20170320_090249
Bridge across Thunder Creek. Snow on bridge was approx 1-2 ft deep.

4th of July Pass: The climb up 4th of July Pass gets down to business pretty quickly, which was a good way to warm up on a chilly morning. I put snowshoes on at the base of the climb, only to take them off at 1800 ft! There is a cliffy area that clearly gets a good amount of sun, so I was walking on…. BARE TRAIL for approx 1/4 mile! Very exciting. But by approx 2000 ft the trail was snow-covered again. At approx 3000 ft the route starts to traverse some steep slopes, at which point I put on microspikes instead (see Gear for more details).

 

4thofJulyPass-2384
Views from the rocky outcropping at approx 1800 ft. Davis Peak on the left, McMillan Spires peaking out in the background

After a long slog uphill in the snow, I finally reached a clearing in the trees – 4th of July Pass. I even spotted and excavated the wooden sign marking the pass, which was buried under snow. The views from the pass weren’t quite as astounding as WTA claims, but it was still so lovely just to be out there – there wasn’t precip falling on my head, I could see big wild mountains, and life was good. I am very grateful to live in a place that has so many lowland options during the winter… But nothing is quite like the North Cascades.

4thofJulyPass-2387
Snowfield group from 4th of July Pass
20170320_124602
Buried sign at Fourth of July Pass

Gear: Trekking poles, snowshoes, microspikes. The trekking poles were handy from start to finish. In the morning, I didn’t need any traction or flotation until around 3000 ft on the 4th of July Pass trail, at which point I put on microspikes. The spikes were useful not so much because the trail climbs steeply, but more because the route traverses multiple steep slopes. The traction helped ensure I didn’t go side slipping down the hill. The slopes were all heavily treed, so you can’t really take a long fall, but the landing probably wouldn’t be comfortable.
I put the snowshoes on as I descended. The warm temps had softened things up considerably and without the snowshoes I was doing a lot of postholing. I wore them all the way back to the car (except for the section of bare trail at 1800 ft).

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s