Big Four Avy Watching

Nealbob and the Mountain

Took an easy trip to the base of Big Four Mountain this weekend with ol’ friend and fellow blogger Nealbob from http://www.nealbobwalks.com/ to spy some spring avalanches careen down Big Four’s impossibly steep slopes.

ROAD CLOSED

With the current gate closure at Deer Creek, the hike began on the snow covered Mountain Loop Highway.

A little over a mile and a half of easy walking on snow was punctuated by the stark contrast of great mountain vistas and vile heaps of decomposing (dog?) feces along the path. 

In little time we arrived at the Ice Caves Picnic area parking lot before embarking on the pleasant woodland walking of the Ice Caves Trail. 

Path through the timber

Luckily there were no serious blow downs or other obstacles along the grade, but snow was continuous from the Stilliguamish River crossing onward. 

We arrived to discover we had the entire basin to ourselves. 

Throughout the morning, periodic rivulets of snow tumbled down until a real doozy broke loose around 10am. 

… and it was quite the show!

A light stream of powder soon became a torrent of white doom as it rained down into the broad avalanche fan for several minutes. The air echoed with the brilliant chaos that a few tons of cascading snow tends to create. 

Avalanche fans in the west basin

HEADIN’ OUT

Late morning steady drizzle signaled our time of departure. Just before the last glimpses of the avalanche basin were lost behind our steps however, another hefty heap of spring melt was liberated from the 6161-foot tall block of rock. The distant chorus of muffled impacts resounded through the conifers. 

Apparently the sound carried all the way to the trailhead as both a pair of hikers and a pair of Forest Rangers we passed on the way out asked if we’d been witness to the spectacle. 

“Yeah man, we were there…”

“Uh, what do you supposed snapped these trees?”

THE SHORT VERSION

  • Snow covering much of trail
  • Gate closed at Deer Creek, requires an extra 1.5mi+ walk to trailhead
  • Lots of dog poop
  • Approx 6.5mi RT
  • Extreme avalanche danger

Road closed to vehicles at Deer Creek, snow currently covering most of the road to trailhead. Much of the trail is also snow covered with the exception of bridges and boardwalks.

A hard packed footpath of snow exists most of the way to the avalanche zone. Traction devices advised. Waterproof footwear highly recommended. 

Travel into avalanche area NOT recommended.

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Avalanches kill. Keep a safe distance or don’t go at all.  
  • Please bag AND pack out your dog poop.
  • Road closure keeps the crowds down for the moment. Good time to take advantage of this very popular hike.

A WORD ABOUT THE ICE CAVES

Many lives have been tragically cut short due to the inherent natural hazards at the Ice Caves area. 

Avalanches, falling ice or other debris, collapsing ice caves and many other hazards exist at all times of the year, but are especially heightened during certain seasonal conditions.  

Know before you go. Stay safe, stay out of the avalanche area. 

      All in all about 6.5mi round trip

      *Disclaimer: The activities and actions described on this website are for entertainment purposes only. 

      HAPPY TRAILS!

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