Sherpa Glacier Couloir
April 26 - 27, 2008
Viva La Nina! This weekend brought yet another unusual snow-yielding storm. Kirsten, Andy, Mica, Marcus, Anastasia, Tundra and I headed up to ski the Kendall Chutes. We skinned up to the base of Kendall Stump, then up through Kendall Peak Lakes. It was cloudy and the light was flat, but the chutes looked like they were in good shape. The left side of Main Vein had already been skied. Kirsten, Marcus, Mica and Anastasia took that one, and Andy and I found a narrow funnel between two ribs. Between the bad lighting and the crust underneath the nine inches of new snow, it was a little tricky on the steep upper parts, trying to manage the slough and see what's below you. When the slope steepness lessened things were better and we took a nice run down to the bottom. We skinned back up, then cut over to the base of The Twins and took another run back down. The sun was out and visibility was better, so we were able to open up our speed a little more and face shots became plentiful.
At the bottom of the second run, we ran into a group of TAY-ers, John, Pico, Swooz, Clem, Silas, and Bill S. They described the route they took to the chutes via the Commonwealth and offered to let us ski out with them and drop us off at our car, which was very generous! We climbed back up to the ridge and dropped down into the Commonwealth. After the fast ski out the luge track, we popped out on Alpental Road and met them over at the Summit West parking lot. It was a much nicer descent back to the car than going out via Kendall Stump. Thanks guys!
Some late spring storms hit the Cascades dropping a bunch of snow at low elevations courtesy of La Nina last week, and we wanted to take advantage of it, so we headed up to Snoqualmie Mtn on Saturday. We had originally discussed a long tour of the north side of Snoqualmie and to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, but the skinning up the middle portion of the mountain was so slow and tiring that we quietly changed our plans for something a little less committing.
The snow in that portion was just a few inches of unconsolidated new snow sitting on top of a firm crust. On certain aspects, the snow wouldn't stick to the crust, but our ski edges couldn't grab into the crust. We should have had our ski crampons! We remarked at the misfortune, because last spring we carried them around with us everywhere and never used them. This year we stopped bringing them because of the aforementioned fact, and now I'm sure we'll start carrying them everywhere again. At one point we tried to take the skis off and just boot up, but that crust that was so firm that our edges wouldn't bight into it, wasn't firm enough to keep our boots from punching through. Pretty much the perfect combination to make things as difficult as they can be.
When we reached the entrance to the Slot Couloir, Kirsten, Andy, and I joined another threesome while Pete, Becky, Ross, and Bob headed up to the Crooked Couloir. The entrance to the Slot was steep, but there was so much snow in it, that it was pretty straightforward compared to what I've heard about it in normal snow years. We leapfrogged down with the other threesome, wooping our way getting face shots in the reasonably light April powder! We skied all the way down into Thunder Basin and waited for the other crew to come down the Crooked.
After they arrived with tales of snorkeling through powder, we decided that it was only noon so we may as well go back up the Crooked and try and get more. We considered going out the normal exit, then climbing back up the south side of Snoqualmie on our morning skin track, but we were worried the nasty crust would slow us down too much. It took us two and a half hours to get up to the top of the Crooked, alternating between skinning and booting as conditions demanded. Near the top we noticed the snow was getting warmer and displaying slab-like characteristics. Andy and I noticed some whoomping, and Pete observed a shooting crack. The warmer snow combined with poor visibility made the ski down not quite as nice as the morning run, but it was still great skiing powder in these two great runs in our backyard that we had never skied before.
On the way out, up to the exit col, we had the last challenge of the day -- a wickedly persistent set of switchbacks where it got steep at the top. Those of us who didn't switch to booting really fine-tuned our kickturns! Did I say that was the last challenge? Of course there was the ski down back through the nasty crust we skinned up in the morning. The new snow still had that tendency to slide off of it, and we saw evidence of sloughs other skiers had kicked off that wiped some slopes clean. All in all the ski out wasn't too bad though, and really, it would take something much worse to ruin our 6,000 foot day.