Climbing
Snow/glacier/ice route
Elevation Gain
2,900.00 ft (883.92 m)
Distance
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
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Mount Catherine is a great option for mountaineers in the Seattle area who are trying to get more comfortable with snow travel, bag nearby peaks and get some stellar views. This objective lies within extremely easy access from Seattle, and is a relatively straightforward climb once you've gotten through the cross-country trail network of the former Hyak Ski Area, now Snowqualmie East. In the height of winter, you'll need snowshoes or skis (as long as you're comfortable skiing somewhat steeper lines). Depending on snow conditions, you'll need to decide whether you'll need crampons/ice axes.

Despite the relative ease of climbing this peak, climbers need to be well-versed in decision-making in avalanche terrain and need to carry beacons/shovels/probes, as the north slopes of Mount Catherine are prime for avalanche slides when fresh snow or unstable conditions exist.

Note you'll need to climb Mount Catherine on a weekday, as Snowqualmie East is generally only open on weekends, limiting access for aspiring summiters. Before you head up, make sure you check the current ski area rules.

You'll park at the Hyak parking area (free - no permit needed!) , do a quick beacon-check with your partners, then head up the wide face of the resort. You can also swing around the climber's right of of the resort to skip some vert, though this will get a bit more confusing with route-finding as you climb through the closed ski resort. If you choose the Hyak face, you'll climb up 1,000' (try to stay climber's right, out of the way of backcountry skiers, and make sure you don't step on the uphill skin track). Once you top out the peak, you'll drop off the back, trending down and skier's right. This whole area is a part of the Summit Nordic Center, so please also be thoughtful about staying off groomed cross country ski tracks if using snowshoes.

You'll likely need a GPS to choose the proper way through the maze-like cross country trails, though if you have good visibility you should be able to see Mount Catherine easily. After crossing a bridge over Mill Creek, you'll leave the cross country trails and head southwest, typically staying near (but not stepping on) a backcountry skin track, which should be in unless you are out immediatly after a fresh snowfall. You'll tromp uphill, trending up and climber's right, as the slopes get steeper and steeper. At around 4,100 feet, you'll need to choose your line - there are several wide slopes you can head up, avoiding the cliffs above and around you. At the top of this steep section, you'll reach a small bowl feature. From here, you'll head up toward the summit ridge, following the path of least resistance. Climb the gently sloping summit ridge to the true summit, and enjoy the views of Snoqualmie Pass, the I-90 peaks, and Mount Rainier to your south. Be careful, there are steep cliffs off the south side!

From here, you'll plunge step/ski your way down, roughly following your path back down to the car. Note you do not have to summit the ski area peak again, you can swing around it to skier's left and return to your car that way.

 

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful mountain views on a rarely visited summit. Easy approach.

Cons

Best to have avalanche rescue training. Highway noise as you climb.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

2,550.00 ft (777.24 m)

Highest point

5,052.00 ft (1,539.85 m)

Features

Big vistas
Old-growth forest

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

North facing

Drinking water

Snowmelt

Location

Nearby Adventures

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

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