After a conference in Davos, i met up with Rok and headed down to Ticino to backcountry ski. Rok's TR and Photos!
Owen dragged me out for a half-day of touring near the Santa Fe Ski Basin. We booted up the runs and Raven's Ridge, and lunched on the very windy shoulder of Deception Peak. We enjoyed surprisingly good spring turns down to Nambe Lake, then survival-skiied down the drainage to the Winsor trail and back to the car for a six-hour loop. I got mild altitude sickness, mostly in the form of a splitting headache and some nausea on the way down. Great scenery and company, though! Photos!
Lee's TR: Sunday morning Kevin, Nick, Rok, Veronika and myself got a reasonably alpine start and departed Seattle for some backcountry skiing east of Stevens Pass. En route we decided to shoot for Jove peak and were the first people to hit the snowed over Smith Brook road that morning. Just before cutting off the road into the trees several other parties caught up to us who were also heading for Jove. Due to superior route finding and the all around burliness of Climbing Club members we soon found ourselves alone in the lead after a short ski down some surprisingly good snow. We then set about putting in a skin track toward the top of Jove through old growth trees and on top of an unforgiving death crust. Fortunately the snow conditions improved as we climbed, and we eventually came to a clearing of really nice powder about 400 feet below the summit.
With visibility very low and our agreed upon turn around time of 14:00 fast approaching we decided to skin up the side of the wide open and slightly sketchy looking slope to get some turns in shy of the summit. Before too long many of the parties we'd seen earlier in the day caught up with us while we de-skinned and offered compliments on the expertly crafted skin track. Although they continued on toward the summit, we made our descent from there, careful to stay close to our skin track and away from the wide open part of the slope that had all of our avy-senses tingling. As we descended the snow conditions continued to worsen, and before long it was purely survival skiing.
We all made it down to the basin intact and began the skin back up over the ridge that had brought us there. Another descent of mostly survival skiing on the other side put us back on the Smith Brook road, which by now had a well laid in skin track. After extricating one of our members from a non-life threatening but nonetheless painful encounter with a tree well we were able to effortlessly ski down the skin track back to Highway 2 and the car. We stopped for dinner in Skykomish at a surprisingly good restaurant whose name eludes me at the moment, but that I would definitely recommend to any hungry Clubbers driving Highway 2.Photos!
Nate, Rok and i headed to Rainier for some mid-week turns. Dust on crust up high, death crust below 7000 feet. Sunny day, and made it back to the car safely by sunset. Photos!
What a great first outing of the year! Nate picked up Rok and i and we drove up to Stevens Pass and skinnged up Skyline (a.k.a. Heather) Ridge. There was very little base but the powder was deep enough that we didn't hit any rocks or stumps! This was a good thing because i was using my new G3 Barons, which i inherited from my brother-in-law Owen. These skis were awesome in powder and were mighty crud-busters at the end of the day. I didn't notice the extra weight on the climbs, and trailbreaking through knee-deep powder was actualy possible because of the extra flotation! There is quite a big difference in surface area between by old K2 Chogoris (174 cm x 112/70/97 mm) and the new Barons (177 cm x 116/81/104 mm)... In any case, we enjoyed lots of short runs and even managed to find our own spot to have lunch away from the crowds! Photos!
Rok's TR: Kevin (Steffa), Nick, Ben and myself headed to Snoqualmie pass in search of some powder on the protected old-growth covered slopes of Kendall ridge. We headed out rather late hoping to avoid the tail-end of Saturday's storm. To our delight we found a fresh skin track that appeared to have been made by no more than four skiers - firm enough for trouble-free skinning, but also not a highway meaning that there weren't too many crowds ahead of us. The snow was, how should I put it, unf***ingbelievable! About a foot from Saturday and something similar from Thursday that had consolidated a bit by this point. We made it up to the ridge quickly, wanted to continue to the top of Kendall but changed our mind because this would have involved potentially crossing some open slopes - the plan was to stick to the trees given the large amounts of new snow and the rapid transformation that was obvious on all sun-exposed slopes (it's almost spring!). We dug an extensive pit that satisfied our safety concerns, de-skinned and frolicked in the knee deep powder down some glades into commonwealth basin. We returned to the ridge, did two more laps seeking some steeper trees down to Kendall Peak Lakes, then returned via our approach after basking in the sunset. The last run down to the highway was incredible! Amazing snow all the way down, open old-growth forest... a great end to a fabulous day in the backcountry! Photos!
Rok's TR: Nate, Cliff, Nick and myself headed to Van Trump Park. I don't know why, but I've been wanting to go there for a long time (I think burgdorfer has a juicy looking picture of it). We made it there super early and started skinning by 10:15 am. The snow was a depressing mix of rotten slush and crust. Given the snow and pre-existing bootpack we opted to carry our skis for the first while and started skinning a bit higher up. There are certainly a large number of interesting lines up there to be had, unfortunately a lot of the terrain is separated by deep gullies and drainages and we didn't have a very good map. It would be nice to get up there again with a slightly earlier start so that one could do a bit more exploration. The descent was mediocre on really heavy variable snow higher up and more depressing rot on crust lower down. Actually now that I think about it I really enjoyed the skiing through the trees even with the bad snow. We ended the day with some quality fish and chips... it was rad finally getting up there and I'll definitely go back but maybe I'll wait for some better snow conditions... Photos!
Rok and i joined a huge contingent of UW astronomers up to Whistler for the long weekend. Instead of skiing the resort the two of us ventured into the backcountry in search of nice lines and fresh pow.
We left the condo at 6:30 AM on Saturday and caught the first gondola up Whistler after getting breakfast in the village. The backcountry passes (basically a one-way lift ticket) are now a whopping $45 CAD a pop! After a short run and some skinning, we were on top of Flute Summit and at the boundary of Garibaldi Park, one of my favorite places in the entire world. From here we skied over the last of the Musical Bumps (namely Oboe), skinned up Cowboy Ridge and down to the Russet Lake Hut. We dropped our overnight gear at the hut and skinned up the west slope of Whirlwind Peak, scoring nice views of the Cheakamus Glacier to the south. The 30 cm of snow from Tuesday was still light and fluffy on all but south-facing aspects, which was a pleasant surprise. Technically, this route took us over a glacier , but the coverage was so good that we didn't even notice (unlike the big glaciers, which were the most crevassed i've seen them in many years). We skied back down to the hut in time to see a pretty sunset and to score some beta from a few passing skiers. The told us about a mellow line down Fissile, the mountain directly above the hut. We thought we has the hut to ourselves (incredible given the long weekend and the easy access) but a quartet of German snowshoers joined us at dusk.
We woke up at 6 AM and Rok broke a pole wrestling with his frozen Dynafit bindings. The combination of quarter moon and early morning light was too good to pass up so we skinned up the west side of Fissile. As the slope got steeper and more wind-scoured we had to don crampons and ice axes. We made it onto the ridge just in time for sunrise. The "mellow" route down Fissile is a North-facing gully which starts on the mountain's west shoulder. The first few turns are in view of the hut 500 m below, which feels pretty cool. After the initial exposure the gully becomes very protected, and we enjoyed knee-deep powder nearly a week after the last snow fall, eventually dropping down to the Overlord Glacier. We skinned back up to the hut, snacked, packed up, and enjoyed the sunshine. We skied over the Musical Bumps to get back to the village. This means more skinning but also more turns than the alternative (coasting down Fitzsimmons Creek). This was an awesome overnighter. Between the gondola, the hut and the lack of serious glacier travel, it was logistically simple but oh so good! The photos are here.
Ben picked up Rok and i for a backcountry day in the Alpental valley. Got three runs: one down a gulley on the side of Chair towards Source Lake, another down to Snow Lake, a finaly back down to Source Lake and out to the car. I took a couple photos of the bluebird skies.
Headed up to Taos with Owen and Joseph while the rest of the Haggards made tamales. The resort reminded me of good-ol' Alpental, with lots of challenging steeps and loads of strong skiiers. On New Year's Day Owen and i skinned up the Santa Fe Ski basin before first chair. Enjoyed a few runs before heading back into town.
Kevin, Rok and i made it our of Seattle and up to the North Cascades despite the inch of snow. The most dangerous part of the day was probably I-5: a dozen cars in the ditch, and a couple cars spun out right in front of us. Cascade River Road was perectly driveable until the turnoff for the Hidden Lake Peaks FS road, where we chained up. We left the car at 8:30 and trucked up the last mile or so of snowy road and up through the forest with no problem. Once out of the woods, we encountered the bitterly cold wind. We were wearing most of our layers even for the skin up the valley. As we skinned we were surprised by a few ptarmigan, who were sleeping in the snow !?! As we climbed we noticed a lot of wind-affected snow and on a number of occasions we broke off some big chunks of wind slab but none of it propagated. Nevertheless, we avoided the huge avalanche slope below Sibley Pass and went to climber's left, where we got into the sun and eventually reached the epic views of Eldorado that Kevin had promised. From this pass we made a few half-hearted attempt to get some turns in but the ubiquitous wind-slab and freezing winds damped our enthusiasm. As the sun was setting we found a wind-scoured (but avy-safe) slope to descend back to Sibley Creek. Down by the creek we heard more whoomfing and saw some fractures, but there were so many boulders that nothing very big came loose. That is until we skied across the only smooth bit of slope, which held just fine (despite whoomfing and cracking) for Kevin and i but came crashing down when Rok tried traversing across it. Fortunately he didn't travel very far and was merely shaken up. It was a pretty sobering experience and we were retroactively glad to have avoided bigger slopes! Made it back to the forest by dark and skied down the road back to the car by headlamp and starlight. A pretty good first trip of the year, with some epic views and even a few turns in the wind-protected powder stashes. Folks heading up there in the next few weeks should beware the wind-slab, though! My photos are here and Kevin's are here.
Chance picked up Rok, Daryl and i and drove down to the Narada Falls parking lot in Mount Rainier National Park. The car directly behind us turned out to be Pat, who had driven up from Portland with impecable timing. We sorted gear and set off up the ridge towards Reflection Lake and the Tatoosh Range beyond. The weather was drizzly and flurries so we set a conservative camp just below the shoulder of Castle Peak. The boys got a short run back down the hill before skinning back to camp to start melting snow. The weather was bad enough that we chose to cook in the vestibules of the two tents. The sleet that night encased the tents in a layer of ice, but we were all relatively comfortable. In the morning we slept in since the weather appeared to be only marginaly better than the previous day's (at least it was cold). After breaking camp Daryl and Chance set off for the cars, while Rok, Pat and i headed along the ridge towards the East, in search of good skiing. We found some steep terrain which we managed to negociate despite the tricky snow conditions (ice with patches of sugar snow). I think we all fell on the first pitch down, but things improved as we descended since the snow softened up a bit. Rok and i skiied some very fun steep and narrow chutes. We hiked out on the plowed road and met up with Chance and Daryl at the Paradise visitor center. My photos.
Rok and i got a 7:30 start from the upper Alpental parking lot with aspirations of skiing Kaleetan. Trail breaking through 1-2 feet of fresh snow was slow going but we made it to Source Lake around 9. From there we headed up the couloir on the side of Bryant. Rok broke trail most of the way up the couloir, since his fat split skis made short work of the deep snow, while my skinny skis made for miserable trail breaking (i later bought him a latte for his troubles). The snow at the bottom of the couloir was a bit heavy but it steadily improved as we climbed and the weather stayed overcast so we hoped that the snow would remain stable. Higher up the snow was light powder and the very top was a bit slabby and corniced. We heard a "whoomf" just before topping out, which was rather disconcerting, but didn't spoil our appetite. The ski down was uneventful and we both enjoyed some great turns despite the poor visibility. The snow had changed consistency dramatically in the few hours we were up there, turning into bona fide damp cascade concrete, despite the overcast skies. We caused a few minor slides (mostly when we face-planted), but nothing that got out of hand. Photos.
A very strong contingent of Climbing Club skiiers converged on the Elfin Lakes Hut in the SW corner of Garibaldi Park for a few days of backcountry skiing. Kris and Nathan broke trail, followed by Kevin, Clement, Rok, Aldo, Brian, Michelle, Ethan, Carla, Ian, Eric, Frank, Daryl, Matt, Kyle, Robert and myself. Some tof the faster skiiers enjoyed runs down the south-facing trees and gullies of Columnar Friday afternoon. Saturday morning saw the early risers set off to climb Garibaldi, but after reaching the top of Diamond Head they settled for getting turns in the nice snow. The late risers headed up the Gargoyles and skied down to the Gargoyle-Diamond Head saddle, where we met up with Brian and Nathan. (In the mean-time the rest of the early-risers were enjoying turns and generally getting turned around in the complex terrain SW of Diamond Head.) From the saddle, a bunch of folks headed back up the Gargoyles for a nice descent down the east-facing bowl back towards the hut, while the rest of us headed up Diamond Head in search of gullies with wind-protected snow. We found one and the visibility mercifully improved long enough for us to get to the bottom of the run. After a quick lunch we skinned up the north side of the Gargoyles and rejoined the skin track at the Gargoyles-Diamond Head saddle. Got to the top of the Gargoyles and skied down the East ridge through trees into the Ring Creek drainage. We met a large crew (over forty!) of brave souls heading out to the Garibaldi Neve in the deep snow and poor visibility. Back at the hut, we heard that our Vancouver friend Clemence had made it to the hut and was out getting some turns with Daryl and Carla. The skiers who had headed down the West face of Diamond Head eventually returned tired, hungry and in some cases severely blistered, but otherwise happy with their epic (they will have to fill us in on the details of their adventure). The Neve-bond BCMC skiers gave up on their objective and set up camp outside the hut, so the kitchen was rather crowded Saturday night. Sunday morning two crews set out, one to ski trees on the south side of Columnar, the other to ski the NE face of the same mountain. We were all back to the hut before noon and everyone made it back to the trailhead safely, with the exception of Robert, Matt and Kyle, who were staying an extra night or two at the hut. My photos are here, Clemence's friend Dan took some video of my descent of Columnar.
Daryl and i made use of a rental car and headed up to Snoqualmie Pass to explore the slopes beneath Kendall Peak. We skinned to the high point of the ridge, only to realize that skiing down from there was rather epic. Instead we boot packed back a ways and dropped into the Kendall Lakes basin via some excellent steep wooded slopes with loads of fresh snow. Photos
Daryl and i borrowed Eric's car and headed up to Paradise, since she had never seen Mt Rainier from close up. We skinned through clouds until the bottom of the Muir snowfield, where a rare break in the clouds lured us to deskin and head down. The clouds closed in on us almost immediatly, but we still enjoyed a few turns in the pea soup. Three Photos!
Kevin and Lindsay picked up Clemence and i and we headed up to Darrington in the hopes of skiing Bedal Peak. The drive in turned out to be more than we bargained for, involving 40 minutes of digging after we high-centered the Jetta. We eventually reached the turn-off for Mt Pugh, which we decided was an approrpiate objective given the condition of the road. We quickly made it to the trailhead but the snowpack at these elevations (2000 feet) was not enough to skin up so we thrashed along a trail riddled with windfall. After a couple hours of this we stopped for lunch and headed back to the car. On the way out we took many scenic detours to enjoy the views of Whitehorse towering above town. My few photos are here.
Clement and i met up with Kyle and Jonathan at the Snoqualmie West parking lot and set off up Commmonwealth Basin. The snowshoeing/skiing was straightforward until about half way up the SW face of Red Mountain at which point Clement and i switched to crampons and ices axes (the snowshoers were unperturbed). It looks like we were the first group to reach the top of Red that day; understandably, since the snow was still too hard for an enjoyable descent. Two more groups followed us up, inlcuding Brian and a contingent of the UWCC! After maybe an hour lunch break (none of us had watches), Kyle and Jon started down, followed a bit later by Clement and i on skis. The slope was super fun, sustained 40 degree slope for maybe the first half or more. Waiting for soft snow is definately critical here! Encouraged by the descent, Clement and i decided to climb up the 5700 foot peak due south of Red Mountain (part of Kendall Ridge?). We skinned up for a while util it got steep then boot packed (no crampons, though) up the never-ending gully. I got pretty tuckered out and stopped close to the summit but Clement made it right to the top. The ski down this slope was as steep as Red, but more technical, with a cliff band and some pocky rocks to avoid. Fortunately the snow was just about prefect so it was fun rather than terrifying! We stopped for mexican food in Issaquah and still made it to Seattle before dark: gotta love these longer days! My photos are here, Clement's are here, and the two videos of me he took are here and here.
After spending hours getting backcountry passes and trying to make our way out of the Whistler resort, Daryl and i finally skied off of Flute Mtn, over Oboe to Cowboy Ridge. We made camp here, rather than down in the Russet Lake basin, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset. Did a couple laps the next morning before breaking camp and heading back to Whistler. Photos!
Rok, Daryl and i skinned up at the Kaib Cabin and climbed from Odell Lake up to the Rosary Lakes. From there we navigated through the thick woods and heavy snow towards Maiden Peak. We operated by dead reckoning, which served us pretty well until we got tired of the endless slog up slopes too mellow to ski down (specially given the epic amounts of fresh snow). We stopped to dig a snow cave to enjoy our PB & J sandwiches away rom the blowing snow, then headed back down. We enjoyed a few turns on the steeper bits of the descent, and Rok pretty much mastered split skiing. Photos!
Summer, Jeff, Matt, Kyle, Daryl and i skinned up the Alpental valley and over the ridge to Snow Lake. We skied three laps on the north side of the ridge, in a fresh foot of powder that had fallen on Saturday. Jeff laid a very nice skin track up the slope, making for speedy ascents. When the sun started hiding behind peaks we took one last long run down the Source Lake basin. Photos!
Kevin, Gary and i explored the forest west of the Phantom Slide, on the south face of Mt Snoqualmie. The snow was surprisingly stable and the weather not nearly as bad as we'd expected. The descent through a week's worth of powder on a thick base was predictably awesome. I took some photos of the views.
Kevin and i headed up to Darrington for an exploratory jaunt up Bedal. Since the Avy conditions were supposed to be pretty bad above tree line we only expected to get some turns in in the glades. This we did, but only for 5 minutes and only after thrashing through the old growth for 4+ hours. Nevertheless, it was good to be back on the skis (or at least to have them strapped to my pack), the old growth was epic, and Kevin and i had good chats about life the universe and everything. Didn't take too many pictures, but my 4 photos are here.
Matt and Kyle headed up to Rainier Friday morning and i came along for the ride. Paradise was mostly in the clouds but we quickly climbed out of them and into the glorious sunshine. We slowly inched our way up to Camp Muir, which at over 10,000 feet is the highest i've been in Washington. We skied back down our up-track, enjoying turns in snow that ranged from pleasant corn to heavy slush. Around Panorama Point we got back into the clouds, but by carefully following the flagging (and a good deal of luck) we skied right back to the car without any skinning. My photos are here.
Nick and I wanted to do something exciting this weekend, and originally got really excited about going to Eldorado or something similar... however, our planning started at noon on saturday over coffee, so we opted for a less committing, but still adrenaline-pumping line. We've seen lots of trip reports and photos of this PNW classic, so we were stoked!
Our planning was pretty careful... we thought maybe too careful, but the avy reports were warning over and over about wet releases coming off south-facing slopes despite the cool temperatures. So, instead of going up the usual south side of snoqualmie, we opted for a scenic route around past snow lake. Neither of us had done many descents like this before, so we thought it was a good idea to go up the couloir in case there were any particularly hairy spots. The couloir is north-facing, so we expected some powdery goodness on top of a breakable rain crust...
The hike in was awesome, views of Chair etc... and dropping in to the basin below the north side of snoqualmie is quite majestic. We booted up the slot and were very excited to see that our estimates of what conditions we would encounter were pretty much dead-on. At the top, to our dissappointment, we met two more skiers who were just getting ready to descend... so we didn't end up getting first tracks. We were both fairly nervous about the descent, but it went without a hitch (I only had to excercise my self-arrest skills once...) -- our planks broke through the few inches of powder easily and sometimes scraped on the crust so it was a bit technical nevertheless, not to mention the frozen chunks of avy debris hiding underneath the luscious powder on a 45-degree slope (yikes).
We booted up half-way the slot again for a second run on the lower section that had slightly more consistent snow, and then debated whether we should return via our approach or descend the south side of the mountain... unknown territory and reports of cliffs above the lot convinced us to go via our approach route... which would have been fine had we not tried to cut a shortcut (what else would you do when you're dehydrated and tired...) which forced us to do the most extreme skiing of the day on rotten snow, and ended in some interesting backcountry techniques... On our way out we saw quite a few natural wet releases and were happy with our choice of return route, even if it took a bit longer.
We were both elated to have skied this classic line and treated ourselves to some yummy mexican food in Issaquah...!
Fifteen of us (Aldo, Ben, Dan, Daryl, Eric, Heather, Ian, Jonathan, Kris, Kyle, Matt, Michele, Nathan, Rok, and myself) met up at the 65th St Park & Ride early Saturday morning for a beginner-friendly backcountry ski tour. We drove up to Stevens Pass and skinned up for a bit before stopping to practise beacon searches and chat about avalanches. We had lunch on the ridge then enjoyed some runs in the slushy snow. Despite the numerous poor souls using rentals, everyone seemed to make out OK, although skinning in such soft snow is heinous. A few of us stopped for pizza on the way home.
Ethan, Nate, Rok, Daryl and i converged on Heather (aka Skyline) Ridge on a suny Saturday. We skinned past countless father-son pairs building snow caves, and cut a skin track on the steep wooded slope west of the ridge. We eventually popped up onto the high point of the ridge, only to realize that we would have to pick our way down the far side of the ridge to get to more friendly ski terrain. Had a snack at a reasonable dropping-in point above the large open slope facing Hwy 2. The snow was wet and heavy because of the potent sun rays. We did a couple laps on that slope before traversing south back to the radio tower and skiing back to the car. Stopped at the Sultan Bakery on the way home. Here are some photos i took.
Mike, Rok and i headed up to Darrington to try skiing Whitehorse. We spent a good deal of time off-route, never got to the summit and got zero turns in. Our 12 hours on the mountain were split between bushwhacking by headlight and walking on bullet snow. At least the views were good.
Jessica, Nate, Daryl and i drove up to the Mountaineers Baker Lodge early Sunday morning to meet up with Kevin and ski in the backcountry for a day. My photos are here. We spent Monday (MLK day) at the resort. Here is Jessica's TR:
Sunday January 14, 2007
"I have a dream"
As I slept in the car before dawn on the way to Mt. Baker, I was dreaming. I woke somewhere on 542 with sunrise clouds looking like flames rising out of dark peaks. Before 9 am we arrived at the Mountaineers parking area as scheduled to meet up with Kevin Steffa for our tour. After signing into the lodge we pushed off in the glorious sun. A few steps out, I broke the buckle on my skin. The lodge vice and a handy zip tie did the trick.
Deciding the difficulty of our destination was in large part due to the range of skiers in our group. My housemate Daryl and her friend Nate were newbies to the back country and had been making tele turns only a handful of times. Nick and Kevin were by all means competent. For me, the sun wasn't the only thing casting a shadow on our destination options.
The last time I was in this area was July where I sustained a serious shoulder injury near Table Mountain. I have been back on my skis since the accident a number of times this season. I'm strong, at least physically. However, I had hesitation about Artist Point and Table Mountain proper. Plus, both Kevin and I wanted to see some new views. So we decided to head for Herman's saddle.
The stability of the snow sang a sweet song. The styrofoamy squeak of steps and pole punches was the sure sign of consolidation. In addition, there was no wind. It was nothing but glorious. The tour was straightforward out from the Bagley Lakes flats, with only minor skinning difficulties for one member of our group due to skinny skins and lack of climbing wires on her rental gear. It was surprisingly hot in the sun. Occasionally we'd hear the loud scrape of a boarder hitting the dominant unbreakable crust beneath the 4 to 5 inches of shimmering powder. The saddle itself showed signs of wind sculpted snow revealing the ice at the surface.
From the saddle we soaked up the sun, lounging in the sweetness of this day and the stunning views of both Shuksan and Baker. Nick and Kevin opted for an additional climb above the ridge. I led Nate and Daryl on the descent. The snow was better than I had thought given the crust. Turns were smooth, quick, and sweet. We chased the sun and shadows back into the basin.
Returning to the lodge I ran into fellow TAY'er Dave_R and his family. They'd been at the resort Sunday and we swapped condition reports, as we headed to the lifts on Monday.
Monday morning sunrise promised blue bird all day!
I woke up this Tuesday morning and it was snowing.
I love snow days!
Mike, Brian, Rok and i met Brian's roomate Nick at he summit of Granite Mountain and proceeded to get some turns in. See the photos here.
Jason, Ethan, Kevin and i eventually made it to Red Heather Hut after an aborted attempt to reach the newly reconstructed Brew Hut and some tricky driving up the snowy/muddy.icy access roads. We saw only glimpses of mountains through the clouds and falling snow, but we enjoyed the deep "hero snow", as seen in these photos.
Sam rips up the fresh powder. --photo by Rok Roskar
Approaching Mt James Turner. --photo by Rok Roskar
After a particularly overwhelming two weeks of school, i got a solid 10 hrs of sleep and woke up at 6:00 to join Griff and Eric for a jaunt up Keechelus Ridge. We were joined by a couple dozen snowmobilers, who were loud and stinky and nearly ran us over on a few occasions. The way down was pretty sweet, though, and we enjoyed some well earned turns in the deep powder.
Getting ready to descend Sentinel Glacier. --photo by Rok Roskar
Rok, his splitboard, my cow hides and Atwell.
I somehow convinced 3 others (Sam, Clemence, Rok) to drive up to Garibaldi Park and try skiing over the Garibaldi Neve. This classic traverse is on most Vancouverites' checklist. Sam, Rok and i headed up to Vancouver Friday night in Sam's burly truck. We met up with Clemence, did some groceries and crashed on her floor. Woke up nice and late to avoid the early-morning Whistler traffic on the Sea-to-Sky. Set off from the Diamond Head parking lot around noon. The route up to Elfin Lakes Hut was super crowded due to the spectacular weather and, not surpisingly, we had to settle for floor space in the huge hut. Rok and i, having skinned up to the hut in pretty good time, headed up Columnar Peak to try out new gear (his splitboard, my helmet). We reached the summit at sunset and enjoyed some suprisingly juicy snow on the NE aspect. Made it back to the hut (just) before dark.
We woke up at 5:00 on Sunday and did our best to not wake up the 50-something other people in the hut as we ate breakfast and packed up. Sunrise saw us traversing the avalanche slopes underneath The Gargoyles. Crossing Ring Creek turned out to be a bit spicier than expected but by noon we were on the Garibaldi Glacier, just North of Opal Cone. The slog up the glacier was hot and heavy and we wondered when we were going to experience the frigid alpine weathers that had been forecast for the weekend. We reached the highpoint (about 7000 ft) below Mt Garibaldi in the early afternoon, and as some clouds were showing up, winds picking up and the temperature droppping, we decided to leave the summit for another day and simply ski down the Warren Glacier towards Glacier Pikes. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised at the good snow. We easily avoided crevasses and never came close to roping up. From Glacier Pikes we skied down Sentinel Glacier to Garibaldi Lake. From there it was a short jaunt up the lake to the Burton Hut, maintained by the Varsity Outdoors Club. Unlike the night before we were the only poeple in the (much smaller) hut. We enjoyed the peace and quiet and another delicious dinner.
Awake at 6:00, Rok, Sam and i headed up Guard Mountain shortly after sunrise. We skinned and kick-stepped up to a sweet-looking East-facing bowl and absorbed sick views of the surrounding glacier-draped mountains before skiing back down to the hut. Once again, the snow was way better than the rock-hard crust everyone had been expecting. After lunch, packing and cleaning up, we set off across the lake. By eschewing skins we made excellent time. From the NW corner of Garibaldi Lake we skied and hiked down the trail, past Rubble Creek parking lot, right down to Hwy 99. At this point we were in a bit of a jam, since Sam's truck was back at the Diamond Head parking lot. We had laid beautiful plans involving friends picking us up and taking us back to our car, but none of these panned out so we found ourselves hitchiking down the Sea-to-Sky in the dark with lots of gear. Incredibly, one brave soul named Charlie drove up in a big-ass van and offered to drive us all the way up to the truck! An our later we were at the truck, marveling at our good fortune and changing into luscious cotton. A huge dinner at the Howe Sound BrewPub has us in carb coma for the rest of the drive back to Seattle. Got back in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
The trip was everything it was hyped up to be. For those who go out for the sick mountain views, this is about as good as it gets.Casualties:
Nick, Robert and I headed out to Dickerman today (Sunday); I was on snowshoes and they went with telemark gear. The snow conditions were completely different from the previous day (see mineral butte trip report). There was minimal snow down low, and we had to hike up to ~3500' (the parking lot is at ~1500') before there was enough snow cover to use skis/snowshoes.
We took the switchbacking trail up to 4500' or so, then went through spectacular gladed terrain and gained a ridge which we followed to the summit. Unfortunately there were no views, but we did hear a HUGE avalanche on Big 4 (it went on for at least a minute).
On the way up we crossed about 5 avalanche slopes (every one of these had damaged trees, so they definitely avalanche sometimes). The snow was ~8 inches of slightly dense powder over an ice crust, and seemed safe. The summit had some huge cornices, and I dug a pit to check out the effects of wind on the snowpack. We were on the windward side of the summit ridge, and after digging a 3 foot pit and using my 8 foot probe at the bottom of the pit I still didn't hit ground! So there is a pretty good snowbase up there.
Several other groups followed our tracks up, forming a well-consolidated trail. This allowed me to do most of the descent without snowshoes, jogging on the packed snow in my boots. Nick and Robert skiied down to 4000 feet or so, hiking the remainder of the way to the car.-Mike Schmitt
Griff, Eric and i headed up to Rainier for some tele turns. Paradise was drizzly but we quickly skinned above the rain clouds and spent four hours feeling our way up the mountain in a total whiteout. The clouds broke a few times, giving us glimpses of the summit. Deciding we'd had enough of the soft snow and non-existent visibility, we turned back after a short snack in the lee of a boulder. The weather actually cleared up quite a bit as we descended and the sun was shining by the time we got back to the car. We got some sweet turns in, which made it all worth it.
Griff, Jasmine and i headed up to Mount Rainier National Park to take advantage of the snow that has been pilling up for the past couple weeks. The mountain was much less bare than last time i was there and the ascent was a proper snow slog. The weather, though overcast, managed to hold up until we got back to the parking lot. We got some sweet turns on the way down from Panorama Point.
Muir snowfield on a windy day.
Rok vs Rainier.
As a gift to Rok on his birthday, Amy let us borrow her car for a day. As a result, Andy, Rok and i left town early on Sunday to head up to Mt Rainier for some skiing/riding. The weather was impeccable though the wind got pretty strong up on Muir snowfield. The two snowboarders had a particularly hard time of it since their boards, strapped to their packs, extended far above their heads and caught the wind rather nicely. Although the tele skis were better for wind resistance (partly because they were on my feet and not on my back), i spent my fair share of the time on my ass. The snow up on the snowfield did not corn up due to the strong, cooling wind but the descent was still a blast, and we avoided hitting any rocks/trees exposed due to the freakishly low snow level.
The Western Regional Nuclear and Particle Physics Conference in Banff, Alberta provided a good excuse for some skiing. Started at Sunshine Village, which in hindsight was my favorite of the three local hills. Friday saw Dad and i skiing Lake Louise and the next day we hit Norquay, the local, diminutive slope. The slopes could all use a bit of extra snow, specialy for those of us on tele skis.
Wednesday brought us the season's first real dumping of snow, so Thursday saw Chance, Greg, Rok and i heading up to Steven's Pass to play in the snow instead of attending classes. The 17 inches of freshies were much appreciated!
Pointy Peaks in Cathedral Park
Against my better jugment, I cut off work to go explore Cathedral Provincial Park with some outdoorsily-challenged friends. I say against my better judgement because at the last minute it dawned on me that the trip would be a lot more "campy" than I had gotten used to with the VOC: we carried kilos of sushi instead of avalanche gear.
Monday saw us hiking up the 4x4 road above Lakeview Creek. After about 4 miles we encountered the first patches of snow and soon afterwards we had strapped on snowshoes and skis. By dusk we had only hiked 7 miles, due to obsenely heavy (and poorly packed) packs and general lack of fitness
Despite the numerous signs indicating that camps and fires would not be tolerated on or around the road, we pitched the tent write in the middle of the road and proceeded to build a roaring fire to warm up wet hikers. To be fair, the slope on either side of the road would have been a forbiding place to pitch the tent. Some campers, not used to sleeping on snow, got very cold overnight.
On Tuesday we left our packs at our makeshift camp and proceeded up the remainder of the 4x4 road to the lakes. From Quiniscoe Lake we were finally granted some views of some surrounding mountains. After a gourmet lunch, Robin and I trecked up towards Red Mountain while Gita and Kurt headed back to camp. Red Mountain turned out to be nearly devoid of snow (much to my chagrin, as I had hauled my skis all the way up) but the view were spectacular. The wind picked up and clouds closed in as we headed back down to camp. The clouds dropped a few inches of snow overnight. We were awoken by a snowmobiler trying to squeeze by our tent on his way up the road. After a brief moving operation, we were back to sleep for the remainder of the night.
Wednesday morning was wonderfully sunny as we headed back down the 4x4 track and out of the park. We still had enough food for another 3 days.
A group of skiers camped at the top of Ripsaw Glacier
Camped across from Overlord Glacier
A gorgeous Easter long weekend saw three of us (Scott, Al, myself) head up to Whistler to attempt the Spearhead Traverse. Although none of us had ever done this trip, we were certainly not alone in the moutains since over 50 skiers made their way up Blackcomb and into the backcountry that Friday morning.
The first day of skiing had us climbing and descending alot but the hardest descent and ascent were saved for last: dropping onto and climbing off of Tremor Glacier. We ended the day at the col between Tremor and Shudder Mountains. We spent the evening hiking up the former, and trying to ski Shudder Glacier (with more or less success). Within view of our tent were a couple dozen other camped skiers...
After a restful night in a cramped 2-person tent (50% too many people!), we warmed up by walking up Shudder Mountain before strapping on our skis and heading out. The sun really started getting to us arround noon so we took a well-earned break after negociating the steep descent onto Diavolo Glacier. In fact we even managed to fashion lawn chairs and parasols out of packs, poles, skis and jackets. Once the temperature had cooled down a bit we trucked up the trip's longest ascent to Benvolio Glacier where we happily pitched our tent. This time around we only had two neighbours and, not coincidently, they were Chris and Anna-Lisa, fellow VOC'ers. Needless to say we dug ourselves a nice kitchen and spent the evening eating and chatting in good company.
We woke up to yet another blindingly sunny day. After breaking camp we (all five of us, now) trecked up Overlord Mountain before skiing down his glacier. This proved to be a very long descent with variable snow conditions but easily avoidable crevasses. Towards the bottom of the glacier some gnarly-looking ice falls gave us some extra motivation to get the heck off the glacier and up to Russet Lake. After a pack-less run down Russet Creek and snow-less lunch outside of Russet Cabin, we headed out through Singing Pass and over the Musical Bumps. Whistler was mercifully devoid of skiiers to witness my falls as we made our way down the moutain. Stopped in Squamish for beer and food and also to watch the Habs and the 'Nucks win their respective games. Good times had by all with only a couple bruises, blisters, scrapes and sun-burns to show for it!
Atwell and Garibaldi in the Clouds
Man in Black --photo by Jade Kingsley
Since Jade was in town for the weekend, a quick over-nighter to Garibaldi Park seemed in order. The ski up to Elfin Lakes was fairly pleseant since the sun was beating down on us and the weekend rush had not yet begun. We arrived at the hut with a couple blisters and some sore feet due to imperfect rental equipment but proceeded to practise some basic avalanche transeiver searches. That evening many more skiers arrived at the hut, some of whom I knew from the VOC, and they were all heading over the Garibaldi Neve.
The next morning we started off behind the Neve-crossers in the hopes of following their trail most of the way up to Opal Cone. Jade's boots really started bothering her so she ended up walking with her skis strapped to her pack. This seemed like a viable option since the route was pretty well packed by previous skiers. When we entered avalanche terrain, however, Jade showed an uncharacteristicaly strong survival instinct and did not want to follow me down a recently avalanched slope. The fact that she was post-holing up to her waist did not reassure her, either. Knowing that we would have to return through this spot on the way down from Opal Cone, and suspecting that the sun would have softened up the slope by then, I decided to spare Jade the ordeal and instead skinned back up to her and we headed back to the hut.
After having lunch and attracting local Whiskey Jacks with granola, we set off towards the parking lot under clear skies. We even managed to link a few turns on the descent through Red Heather :-)
Sweet, Sweet Snow!! --photo by Jordan Tam
Going Blind in the Garibaldi Backcountry --photo by Max Grabmayr
(Version 1) Well we went, and it was Perfectly Awesome. We spent three nights at Sphinx; outside it was around -12C, but in our cozy little icebox of a hut with the catalytic heater on (Thanks for hauling it up, Nick) we were cozy enough to play cards for several hours each evening. Day one we went up Guard, Deception Pinnacles (several of them). Day two we did a long ski run down from the Bookworms in entirely acceptable powdery snow. Chris, Doris, Roberta all skied beautifully, as did Nick, Max, Johannes, Ashley, Kevin. I also got in a few turns. And Jordan is working on his technique. The summer trail was crusty and icy, alas, and some of us walked down the last 4 km.
About every 5 years you can expect to get weather this good, people this compatible, and sufficient keenness, and enough food. I can hardly wait.
(Version 2) After laundry and buying more food, three of us (Jordan, Doris, and myself) set off to Sphinx, accompanied by seven other keeners. We were a pretty high-powered group, including this year's President Roberta, last year's President Chris, Nick-a former president of McGill Outdoor Club, several serious skiers such as Kevin Kung, Johannes, Max, and Ashley (well, she goes downhill fast anyway). The weather was pretty near perfect, slightly cool for the trip in, and total blue for the next two days. We persuaded Nick to carry up a heater, and this made the long evenings in the Hut pleasant enough to play hours of whist, and kept the nighttime temperature above freezing, mostly. During the day we climbed Guard, Deception Pinnacles (several pinnacles, several times), and did a long ski traverse up to the Bookworms, across under Sphinx, and down a cool little valley beside the Pinnacles. Despite the sunshine, we had pretty fair powder snow, except the Summer Trail was ice and dirt. Roberta broke trail for three days straight. She is one tough lady. Evenings she played her penny whistle. For those who go out for scenery, it was as good as it gets.Roland Burton