Highway 20, WA
Un-Cutthroat Pass and Birthday Tour
May 5 - 6, 2007
This weekend Marcus & Anastasia and Kirsten & I drove up to Washington Pass. The pass had just opened a little over a week ago so we were looking forward to some good early season conditions. We met up with Andy and Mica (and Tundra) at the pass late in the morning on Saturday and decided to try the Cutthroat Pass tour as an out-and-back from Rainy Pass. We skinned through firm snow and odd frozen chicken heads in the trees as we traversed below the flanks of Cutthroat Peak looking for the drainage to the pass. We couldn't get a good view up one of the prominent drainages we came to but decided to follow some other skiers tracks up it anyway.
That turned out to be a bit of a navigational mistake. We had a strange feeling about the tracks as we followed them further and further up the valley and then as they climbed up a ridge. Something about the way they kept side-stepping didn't seem right. Eventually we came to a high-point on the ridge where we could get clear views and we thought we were just around the corner from the pass. Cutthroat Peak seemed to be in the wrong place, however, so we took a bearing on it and discovered we had followed the other skiers to an uknown ridge spur off the west side of Cutthroat. Instead of back-tracking and trying to recover the route to Cutthroat Pass, we decided to cut our losses and get some skiing in. The south-facing slope down into the valley was good skiing on well-done corn. Once down into the valley we quickly skinned up to the top of a short slope on a north-facing aspect and found a thin layer of super nice unaffected old powder on a firm base.
We followed the drainage straight down to the road instead of traversing in order to shorten our time exposed to the frozen mank in the trees. From there we skinned back up the along the highway on top of the plowed snow wall. Back at camp, we grilled sausage sandwiches and had some beer, then after some deer shenanigans -- one young deer who wouldn't leave our campsite and another who interrupted our game of tag with Tundra -- and a visit from our camp neighbor, Jonathan (www.wildlight.org), we turned in.
Sunday we got up early and did the modified Birthday Tour. Much less of an adventure here. The only surprises were that the south-facing snow from Blue Lake Col was a lot better than we expected and the north-facing snow from the notch above the hairpin was way worse than we expected. The south slope hadn't been baked yet, so it was nicely corned-up. The north snow was sticky, gooey, glop. Felt like my skis were suction cups. The folks with the skinnier skis seemed to have an easier time, and Marcus utilized the power of speed to break through the shmoo-barrier. From there, it was back to Highway 20 and the road home, with a stop at Good Food in Marblemount along the way.