I know there is some weather moving in this week, so the trail conditions may change drastically, but as of Tuesday, Pilchuck still had slick sheets of ice covering the trail pretty much from the scree field at the 1-mile marker all the way up to the summit. Traction devices and poles are highly encouraged for that stretch as you will mostly be trekking up an ice staircase for the second half of the hike.
Other than the trail being overcast and icy, it was still a great hike. The weather was wonderful, the temperatures were perfect and it was a relatively quiet day for Pilchuck in regards to foot traffic.
We set out at the trailhead about 2pm, utilizing a relatively slow ice-cautious pace that had us up at the summit just before 4:30pm. The shutters were down on the lookout, which somehow became an invitation for kids to climb onto the roof of the building to take selfies. Shaking my head at this behavior made me feel really old, but that doesn’t change the fact that there could be a whole Jeopardy category dedicated to the poor decisions in play there.
After a long lunch at the summit, we headed back down at 5pm. Even with poles and traction devices, making the descent in the icy conditions can turn into a series of trust exercises with your hiking partner, so bring a trusty (or sturdy) hiking partner if you can, and if not, perhaps stock up on clothing items that are snow/ice friendly.
We made it back to the car right at 7pm, rounding out a nice five-hour hike. A lot of slow stepping and a long lunch at the summit bloated our hike time, but I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m a serviceable ice skater, and I certainly don’t get any better at it when you add inclines, rocks, distracting scenery, good conversation and the occasional friendly dog who wants to sniff your hands because they smell like cheetos. So, take your time out there. It’s mildly treacherous at the moment.
Recommended reading for the trail: Lookouts - Firewatchers of the Cascades
Soundtrack for the trail: Dirty Paws
Original post on WTA