Mt. Catherine - 5052' Miles: 8.5 Gain: 2450' Maps: GT - #207 Snoqualmie Pass
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This would be my second trip to Mt. Catherine. The first was in February of 2006 (see trip report). The conditions for both trips were remarkably similar. A week or so of warm weather leading up to the trip, well consolidated snow and a good forecast. In 2006 we started at the Annette Lake trailhead, this time we would start at from Hyak.
From the parking lot we traced the northern edge of the ski area, crossing over the debris field from the January 7th avalanche (video) that damaged one of the ski lifts and crashed into houses nearby.   We planned to stay on the groomed XC ski trails for as long as possible. Boring, but fast and easy without the bother of snowshoes.  Turns out that the untracked snow off the ski trails sported an unbreakable crust and we were able to boot it all the way to the summit anyway.
After crossing beneath the power lines at about 3400' and following the trail for a bit as it dropped downhill we left it heading west toward Frog Lake. From the north side of the lake we made a rising traverse SSW to a 4000' saddle below Catherine's west ridge. From there, a straight and steep climb to the S, over hard snow and ice got us to the west ridge at about 4300'.
It is a pleasant walk up the rounded ridge with no real obstacles until just below the summit itself where a rock outcrop ends the ridge. Climbing directly up the rocky crest on patchy ice and frozen moss was a little dicey but quickly forgotten when we emerged from the trees and took in the view.
We took shelter in the trees lower on the east end of the summit ridge to have lunch.  An ocean of low clouds filled the valleys below stretching east as far as you could see.   Beautiful.
Our descent was pretty much the reverse of the ascent except that we followed the west ridge much lower before dropping off to the north and returning to the 4000' saddle. Much easier way to go.
Also at the summit, given good snow conditions (check NWAC for the avalanche forecast), traversing around the north side of the rocky outcrop and then climbing to the summit ridge avoids the unpleasant icy moss and rock scramble. Care should be taken though as Catherine is known for cornices at the summit. 
This is a very good winter destination with little avalanche danger and potentially great views.

Drive I-90 to exit 54 - Hyak.  We parked in the ski area parking lot (free parking and no permit needed).
 26  images in this album.
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