|Not looking good, Frankie.|
Rain showers as we left the Mercer Island Park and Ride dampened our enthusiasm, but by North Bend it was bone dry. No snow at the trail head, but we were ready for a bit of a hike and went for it, headlamps glowing.
30 minutes and 500 feet later, it was light enough to see and we had reached the lower end of the avalanche chute exiting the South Bowl. I have never made it this far on the trail for a winter ski tour. Normally I'd follow an indistinct up route between the SW shoulder and main avie path, but it was bare of snow and the Cascade under-story put a stop to any thoughts of pushing through. We attempted to follow the avie path for another 250 feet before we agreed that there was no way we'd make the speed we needed to reach any decent skiing - we could see at least 500 feet above us and the view was dirty and snow-free.
What to do? If we drove home, we'd face the morning rush hour. So we bumped up to Alpental, climbed a quick 1500' on the Phantom Slide in firm crust conditions, and had an uneventful descent back to the car.
Lesson: Granite Mountain's south slopes are snow free to approximately 3000 feet elevation. Better off going to the pass, or to McClellan Butte.