Found very challenging travel conditions, both up and down, on an overnight trip to the Colchuck Lake area on 01/22-01/23. Our group's original goal was to attempt skiing the Colchuck glacier/peak - but opted to save that for a later trip based on available daylight hours and promise of a challenging descent ahead.
Below 4500', the snow was a thick, firm rain crust ranging from supportable to easily breakable on skis. Above 4500', we found more isothermal, spring-like snow and warmer temperatures that lead to glopping in the handful of areas that received sun. We observed surface hoar below 4500' on Eightmile road, and on more open, sun-exposed slopes.
Our group of 4 ascended from the closed gate on icicle creek road, mostly skinning the ~8 miles and 3500' to Colchuck. Melt freeze cycles and low elevation rain have created a thick, icy crust that made for tricky skinning at times. Hardened avalanche debris on forest road 7601 required ski crampons. Both bridges crossing mountaineer creek were snow covered and required careful footing and a good stance. Sticking to the summer trail made for the easiest route finding for our group. Even so, tight and many fallen trees, crusty + punchy snow, creek crossings, large holes, and up and down terrain made it difficult to pick the best mode of travel. On the descent we skied from the lake to the higher bridge at 4500' (with some short stints off-skis to navigate fallen trees/short uphills), transitioned to skins until the Stuart lake trailhead, and then skied down 7601, which was still a very icy breakable crust and quite hazardous in places.