Feb 22, 2020, Mt. Catherine (the dumb way)
Had always wanted to do this. Just maybe not quite as stupidly as we ended up doing it.
I mean, it just sits there right behind Hyak! Gotta do it. Esp. on a horrible weather day.
INTERNET notes that Mt. Catherine features "interesting" terrain, complicated route finding and doesn't necessarily offer much good actual skiing.
Curiosity and a start long before the Hyak lifts opened led us to the GRAND TOUR, skinning the XC track from HYAK ~6 miles around the south side of Catherine to the western edge of the Catherine ridgeline, whereupon in the drizzle/99% relative humidity we grunted a fresh skin track eastward up through 10-12" of gunk to the summit. Beautiful and stormy and rimey toward the top. And, surprise!, there's the well-worn skin track coming in from the east side up the ridge.
Followed some tracks straight off the summit into the small bowl trending NNW. Nifty terrain there and for the next maybe 700-800 vertical feet and if it hadn't been possibly the worst snow I've ever encountered in 50+ years of skiing, I can see how this section would be worth the tour.
Where things level out at the bottom of that first series of pitches, we saw tracks exiting eastward, skier's right...but looked like some shuffling and maybe some sidestepping. Should we follow those? No, let's contour left down this creek (MISTAKE NUMBER TWO).
Long story short, we hacked and shuffled our way down and across some flats and had to cross various creeks a few times, including doffing skis and jumping across or climbing down 10'-12' and back up (tho this did offer the opportunity for me to complete the obligatory, has-to-happen-at-least-once-on-every-trip-in-the-Cascasdes Fred Beckey Memorial Thrash, complete with pulling on tree branches while stemming overhanging open book of rotten snow).
Back up over Hyak on the lift, maybe 5 hours total. THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES, PEOPLE!
Moral of the story: Contour right back toward Hyak lift before you bench out after the good skiing at the top.