Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bryant Couloir

Snoqualmie Pass, WA
Bryant Couloir
January 26, 2008

We had high aspirations of doing the Chair Peak circumnavigation today. Similar to how we had high hopes of doing it about a year ago. And similar to a year ago, Kirsten stayed home because she was sick. And similar to a year ago, we bailed before making it over Bryant Col, this time because the forecasted storm was obviously approaching. The secret seems to be having Kirsten with us. We'll have to try that next time. We did make it up to Bryant Col this time, however, so I figure if for some reason I were to continue to try it without Kirsten, at the present rate of improvement, I will complete the circumnavigation in twenty more attempts. Those last 10 or so where we'd turn around more than halfway through the route would really suck though.
So this time, we skied the Bryant Couloir on our way down. We were really hoping the snow in the couloir would be protected from wind and sun effect, but alas for the most part it was wind slab and crust. Not a pleasant combination. In the constricted part of the gully, where it gets steep for a bit, we all side-slipped the whole thing in an effort not to break the crust, which was several inches thick here, and send it all sliding down the gully. Naturally, we were totally psyched about side-slipping Bryant Couloir. Not a lot of folks out there who have done that. After exiting the gully and reaching the lower slopes above Source Lake, we found better, nay, nice snow on the low-angled, lower-elevation slopes. Yet, this brief introduction to non-survival skiing was not enough to convince us to go back up for another lap, not anywhere in the basin. Nope, we went straight out, and even after stopping for barbecue at Rhodies, we still made it home by 1 o'clock, finding victory in a small thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Skyline Ridge, WA
Backcountry Skiing
January 20, 2008

The video [22 mb download]

We did a little tour of the Skyline Ridge area today. Kirsten and I had not skied this area before and we were pleasantly surprised to find a lot of fun slopes on the northwest side running down into the valley below Lichtenberg. We worked our way around the valley, skiing three different slopes before we ran out of time. Our goal was to get back to the highway by 2 o'clock to beat the traffic on the way back to town. It was tempting to keep skiing because the snow was pretty nice, but in the end the prospect of sitting in traffic seemed worse than cutting the day short. What that tells me, I don't know, but I'm sure there's a conclusion to be drawn there. :)

Other Links:
:: Marcus post on TAY

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mt Catherine + Yodelin

Mt Catherine & Yodelin
January 5 & 6, 2008

I See The Noodles, But I Cannot Get Them: a video

Only the first weekend of January, and already it has been an incredible winter. Incredible in terms of the quentity and quality of snow that has fallen in the past month, and incredible in terms of the number of people who have suffered because of that snowfall. I believe the fatality total has reach double digits in the Pacific Northwest, making it one of the worst winters recorded here. Naturally, we decided to exercise caution this weekend with another foot or two supposed to fall.

On Saturday, we went to Mt. Catherine -- a small peak at Snoqualmie Pass with a safe approach and nice, moderate-to-low-angled tree skiing. Andy tried to bring Tundra along, but they wouldn't allow him on the cross-country trails, so Andy had to put him back in the car for the day. Tundra wasn't too happy about that. We took the Hyak lift up to the top and skied down the other side to the x-country trails and skated around to the base of Catherine. We broke trail through several inches of new snow, putting in a track that gradually ascended while traversing to the west. We reached the steeper slopes flanking Catherine and dug some test pits finding that the snow on the northern slopes were pretty stable. The top 8 inches sloughed off easily, but not in a slab, and the rest of the pack would not budge off of the crust 3 feet down without considerable effort.

After climbing the rest of the way up to the summit ridge, we took two laps through the trees. The snow was nice & fluffy, although the slough ran pretty fast and heavy on steeper slopes, and required attention. It was already getting late in the afternoon when we finished our second lap, so we headed back to Hyak and skied out. The sudden transition to the hardpack in the resort was tough to get used to after all the soft snow in the backcountry, but we managed to slide our way out. I tried out my 2006 K2 Anti Pistes for the first time in the backcountry, and they were super fun in the snow, but they seem like they might be a bit too much ski for me in the backcountry. Might have to get those fancy new Anti Pistes that are over a pound lighter per ski!

On Sunday, we went to our old faithful, Yodelin at Stevens Pass. There were quite a few other skiers out, including Ema with a couple of her friends. Someone put in a great skin track on Saturday or early Sunday. Stability was very similar to Catherine, but without the top layer sloughing. We took two laps through the trees, where the occasionaly tree bomb under the new snow kept us on our toes, then hit the clearcut for one rando rally lap through 8 inches or so of nice unaffected new snow on a firm base. Went back up one more time for our exit out the front side, hitting the road shortly after 2 to beat the Stevens traffic. Snow depth was great all the way to the parking lot -- the switchback shortcuts were in great shape. Fantastic day out. Yodelin seems to take a lot of traffic pretty well -- despite all the people, we didn't cross many tracks. More importantly, Andy made amends with Tundra and is back in his good graces.