Bearscout Peak, North Slopes

From Face Shots to Rain

Among the peaks near Snoqualmie Pass, Bearscout Peak is rather obscure. Ask most Snoqualmie skiers about Bearscout and they probably will look at you weirdly. But its north face is visible briefly around exit 45, deep up the Hansen Creek Valley. But for a few years, I have been intrigued by the steep tree shots on its north face.

Access is challenging for Bearscout Peak. The approach is shortest once Tinkham Road is drivable, but that typically means spring time and no powder at such a low elevation. This April has been amongst the coldest on record, so it seemed like there might be an opportunity.

After work, Logan, Silvia and I drove Tinkham Road from exit 47, turning up Hansen Creek Road like one would for the West Face of Humpback, a spring favorite. We made it to underneath the railroad tressel, or Palouse to Cascades Trail, at about 2000 feet before the road was completely covered in snow.

We started the skin up Hansen Creek Road under moody skies and dirty snow. Off-roaders have driven miles up this road through deep snow, leaving tire ruts that also doubled as skin tracks.

Some old growth survived all the logging around Hansen Creek.
The entrance to the west face of Humpback looks well filled in.

It started precipitating as we were beneath Humpback, but fortunately it was falling as snow – just barely. Visibility was dropping, but we got clean views of Bearscout Peak as we turned off onto an old decommissioned logging road.

Classic Snoquompton.
Scout Patrol Peak might be a decent ski.
Bearscout, with all of its tree shots.

After the road ran out, we stayed on the north side of the creek flowing out from Scout Lake for a bit. The skinning was surprisingly easy in open slopes. Around 3600 ft, we crossed the outlet of Scout Lake through some beautiful old growth. It was late April below 4000 ft, but the snowpack was deep like mid-winter!

Another beautiful PNW forest.

We slowly climbed through towering trees and increasingly deep powder towards the saddle west of Bearscout. At first, there was glopping from the dry snow, but eventually we got past that and it was just full-on winter.

The south side of Bearscout Peak is in the Cedar River Watershed, which supplies the drinking water from Seattle. A friend informed me that it is actually the only major unfiltered water source in the country! There are a ton of “No Trespassing” signs along the ridge. We made sure to keep a tight skin track along the ridge. They did a great job of placing the signs at the correct height, because they were barely visible above the snow.

Great looking tree skiing, but the sign indicates that it is “forbidden fruit”.

As we neared the summit, we broke into the open and got pounded by wind and sideways snow. This felt like the mid-winter storm skiing that I never really did this year. I always just waited until the day after the storm. The cold and wet reminded me why.

We stopped short of the summit and looked down a gully on the NW Face. We had spotted this gully on the way in and it looked like a good ski from above. After an assessment of stability, we decided to ski it. The top was deep, quality powder. The middle had some avy debris beneath, but then the bottom was once again quite good.

Logan enjoying this endless winter.

At the bottom, we joined up with our skin track and climbed back up to the summit. The increasing winds had changed the snowpack drastically in just one hour. As we were skinning up the summit ridge the second time, we remote triggered cracks in the snow on the southern aspects. We had to keep a tight track on the ridge to avoid any hazards.

Just past the summit, we found a safe entrance to a line on the NE Face leading down to Scout Lake. We cut a cornice and felt pretty good about stability on this aspect since there seemed to be no cohesion in the upper snow. We knew that there would be a lot of sluffing in this 40 degree gully, so we had to watch out for that. The terrain on Bearscout was surprisingly serious. It reminded me of Avalanche Mountain, but with steeper, longer runs.

As we worked our way down, the line funneled into a beautiful straight shot through the trees. The snow was great by any Cascade standards and we even got a few face shots as we zipped all the way down to Scout Lake.

Silvia plowing through the pow!
Silvia skiing down towards Scout Lake.
Logan with a great view of the hallway we skied down.

Down at the lake we celebrated and said goodbye to the powder, and hello to the WAP (wet-ass-powder) that we knew lay below. We were able to cross the outlet of Scout Lake and hold a downward traverse, rejoining our skintrack and easily getting back onto the roads without skinning. As we descended, the snow got stickier and heavier. By the time we reached the car, it was basically rain. We were all soaked.

Expectations were greatly exceeded on this adventure to Bearscout Peak. I love these backyard adventures because of the ability to squeeze them in during a long spring evening, and we did not even need headlamps! This might have been our last powder ski of the season. If so, it was a great way to go out!


  • This tour was about 8 miles and 4500 ft gain. We started at around 2000 ft on the Hansen Creek Road.
  • During some winters, you might be able to drive to this point mid-winter. But this winter, access to Bearscout was rather impractical because you would have had to park a few miles back at Exit 47.
  • There is some really good skiing back here. There are also dense new growth trees. Use satellite imagery to help avoid the dense new growth!

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