Archive for: April, 2016

Cashmere Mountain, Questionmark Coilour

Cashmere Mountain, Questionmark Coilour

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

It was with variable spring weather in the forecast that Tim and I started game planning a Sunday tour. Originally looking at the goat rocks region, notice of a washed out road changed our plans. We started looking east and found decent weather as close by as Leavenworth. With icicle creek road bare and dry we opted for a tour off its flanks. Cashmere seemed to be a good option. We tied up the hiking boots and headed up toward Lake Victoria from FS 7605 (elev 2400′).

After getting out of the lowland brush, a sweet couloir off the north ridge of Cashmere mountain presented itself. It seemed complicated though. Aside from questions of whether the thing even got us off the rock face, Victoria Creek had started roaring with the snow melt and would possibly separate us from being able to get back to the trail.


Tim eyes up the couloir to the left, Johnny V scouts the trail


Another angle on the couloir

We kept booting until we hit a reasonable snowpack at 4700′ and tossed the hiking boots for the snowboard boots. Skinning was challenging at parts with a lot of melted out terrain. In hindsight, skinning would have started around 5000′. Scratch that, in hindsight we would have brought our downhill boards. We booted more that 75% of this thing.


Definitely patchy in places

Eventually we hit the creek crossing with substantial snow bridges. Not long after we arrived at the lake. A couple of our friends were snow shoeing with us with plans to chill at the lake eventually meetig us at the car. We had become confident enough in the couloir route so we headed left at the lake and on up. Straight up.

Snow conditions made skinning incredibly difficult so we booted up to a ridge. At this point we noticed the weather coming in from the west. Things would be questionable without visibility. We picked up the pace and topped out at 7100′ just as it started snowing. The sun was still shining though, and we could see the very broad entrance of a couloir. It seemed like it went, but it looked much broader than the one we were after.

With time running out, we boarded up and got ready for our decent. We started down a ridge and I went skiers right to see if I could find the coulior we were after. Nothing that direction. We then debated dropping into the large coulior. After a bit of discussion we realized this had to be it. After booting back up a little to the entrance it was go time. Once we dropped in it was apparent we were in the right place.

The snow was very firm once inside. Lot of chatter on the way down until we found some sun ripened corn. Super mixed conditions all the way down but what a blast. It was steep and adventurous. At one point there was a 30 foot cliff where the snow had separated from the rock forming a schrund. The gap was jumpable but not by much. The rest of the way down was fun, but that’s when the real fun started – find the exit!

Quick edit of the decent:

We traversed to Victoria creek which sounded rageful. Luckily for us there were plenty of downed trees that acted as sketchy bridges. The traverse to the trail was heavy with brush, lots of bushwhacking. With some hootin and hollerin we heard our friends Brandon and John in the distance. We found the “established” trail but they were still off to the left, buzzin through the brush. The trail can be hard to find at times. Eventually we all linked up giving Tim and I a chance to change out shoes. A rainbow appeared along with the drizzle of rain giving us the gamut of weather we often see in our lovely maritime ranges around this time of year. Great tour, would love to rip questionmark coulior again in the winter!

Bonus TR: RICO’S PIZZA

If you’ve ever driven westbound on highway 2 over Steven’s Pass toward Seattle you’ve seen the sign. You’ve seen the establishment, sticking out like a sore thumb. But you probably haven’t been inside. With so many friends aware of this place, having passed by hundreds of times, and not a single report of a visit to this legendary place, we had to engage our curiosity. Results – Very good pizza, definitely worth a visit.

Little Tahoma, Whitman Glacier from Paradise

Little Tahoma, Whitman Glacier from Paradise

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

With a forecast calling for an early preview of summer, Andrew, Elliott, and I decided to take advantage and ski Little Tahoma on Sunday. We made it to Paradise around 8:30, and were soon walking down to Fourth Crossing to start the tour. Unfortunately for us, I had been to Cowlitz Rocks once before and we had started at 4th crossing on that trip, so I opted to repeat that same route. It was only later that we realized how easy it would have been to skin up to Golden Gate and cross over to the Cowlitz there. Oh well, what’s an extra couple hundred feet of vert on top of the 7k+ we were planning on?

 

The skin up to Mazama Ridge was firm but easy, and we made great time up to Cowlitz Rocks, arriving around 10:15. After a quick transition we were skiing down the already very soft snow towards the toes of the Whitman. We contoured across the moraine at around 6300 ft and we easily found steep but straightforward gullies to ascend. Elliott was leading this section and made the decision that switchbacks were lame, so I got to use the highest risers on my bindings for more time than I have during the rest of the season combined. Around 12:00, we crested a small moraine and stood at the base of the expansive Whitman Glacier with a clear view of Little T and Big T.

The view from Cowlitz Rocks saddle. Cathedral rock in the foreground, Little T in the back.

The view of Cathedral Rocks during the crossing of the Cowlitz Glacier.

Looking up the Whitman Glacier. The route goes out of picture to the right and ascends the large snowfield on Little Tahoma.

The next 1500 ft section was one of the more enjoyable stretches of skinning I’ve ever had. Easy rolling terrain, incredible views, and a light breeze to keep you just cool enough made a great combination. Soon enough we were at the base of the steep headwall of the Whitman. We skinned as high as we could, up to about 10,600 ft, and then booted up to about 10,800 where we stashed our skis and some extra gear. Another 100 ft of booting led to a short rock step with one tricky move, although trying to avoid kicking rocks down on your partners makes even the simple moves tricky. One more short section of snow led to fun, albeit rotten, rock scrambling up the summit ridge. The first view over to the North side of the ridge will certainly get your attention – both for its beauty and exposure. Once on the ridge, a short (~25 feet) traverse got us to the true summit block a little before 4:00. While the scrambling up to the ridge and the traverse to the true summit are exhilarating, Andrew and I both felt comfortable climbing and down-climbing in ski boots.

Our last bit of skinning before switching to booting.

Andrew downclimbing the traverse to the summit block. Another party chose to rap down to the snowfield rather than downclimb. The timing was the same either way.

Andrew on the top.

All that was left was a short boot down to our skis, 4300 feet of incredible corn skiing, 900 ft of skinning back to the Cowlitz Rocks saddle, and a leg-piercing descent/traverse to Golden Gate by 6:30. This tour makes for a long day but the scenery and fun scrambling at the top are definitely worth the effort.

Andrew and Mt. Adams after the incredible corn skiing.

GPS link with cool map feature Andrew made:

https://powersa.cartodb.com/viz/fe564d02-05dc-11e6-88d2-0ea31932ec1d/public_map

 

Mount Baker, Easton Glacier Route

Mount Baker, Easton Glacier Route

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

A week of sun and 70 degree temperatures in the city will begin to induce touring withdrawal symptoms for even the heartiest of peakers. With raging monkeys clawing at our backs, we set our weekend sights for a fair-weather summit attempt of Washington’s 3rd highest mountain and stratovolcano, Mt. Baker (10,800′). The snowpack this year has been deeeep, and with summer weather forecasted for the mountain, conditions looked ‘absolutely splitter’ – to quote D.B. Kiker himself.

For Brian and I, this would be our first experience with glacier travel so a large part of the trip was educational. If you happened to be at Gasworks Park last Thursday, then yes, we were those kooks pretending to rescue each other out of imaginary crevasses in the grass.

We chose the Easton Glacier route, and Ranger reports indicated that the road was still snowed-in for about mile before the trailhead.

1:00 PM: Parked the car at 3000’ elevation, threw the splitboards into tour mode, and hit it. A large section of un-snowed dirt road about 100 yards around the first bend in the road forced us to portage the boards on our backs for a bit, but trailhead access was uneventful other than that ~ 1 hour.

Touring up the Road

** Touring the snow-covered road pre trailhead

We followed the well-defined sled trail about 1500 vertical feet from the trailhead up to the start of railroad grade, where the sled tracks broke-off into the valley above. 3:30PM

Garrett Railroad Grade

** Garrett starting up the valley – railroad grade on the left. With the snow from earlier in the week compacted and wet from the heat, the snowmobile tracks made for easy touring.

6:00PM: With daylight waning, we exited the north end of the valley, and set up camp at 6500’, just below the Easton Glacier. The night was clear and the views were spectacular.

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**Brian and David scoping out a campsite

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**Sunset view of the San Juans

Mountain_Night

**Night Mountain.  Roman Wall & Summit on left, Sherman Crater in middle

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**Turning in for the night

3:00 AM – Wake-up. Clear sky allowed the temperature to drop overnight and freeze snow. A leisurely morning of pacing for warmth, hugging warm coffee mugs, and packing camp leaves us ready to hit the trail at 6AM. Splitboard crampons required.

Rope-up

**Roping-up to start the day. We ascended through the saddle to the NW (top right), then pointed directly to the Sherman Crater.

The snow was very firm throughout the morning, but splitboard crampons made short work of the first 2200’. At 9000’ the grade steepened, necessitating a switch to boot crampons and board carry to the Sherman Crater.

approaching_crater

** Approaching the Sherman Crater. Roman Wall to left. If you look real close, you can see two people (dots) just to the edge of the shadow formed by the left crater.

This early in the season there was minimal crevase exposure. Throughout the ascent and descent we saw just 2-3 open crevasses that were small and easily avoidable. Worth noting that it’s important to remember the location of these for the snowboard descent, else you end up having to do a last second emergency ollie.

11:00 AM: We stopped for a quick lunch at the crater rim

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*David and Brian taking a breather

Garrett_Brian_Crater

**Brian and Garrett on the Sherman Crater lip

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**David contemplating the meaning of life

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** The Sherman Crater was smoking like a chimney

More_smoke

Revitalized, we cramponed our way to the summit by noon with boards on our backs. At this time of day the Roman Wall was very steep and icy – even a boot crampon ascent felt sketchy.

Obligatory summit pics:

Brian_Summit

Garrett_David_Sumit

Fearing that the bottom of the mountain would become a slushy mess, we strapped on our boards and rode down quickly after reaching the summit. In retrospect, we could’ve waited until ~1PM to descend – which would’ve made the roman wall a bit more enjoyable.

Phenomenal Corn skiing was to be had below the Sherman Glacier. Packed up camp quickly at 6500’, and snowboarded the remainder of the way out.

3:00 PM: Arrival back at the trailhead

Tatoosh, Unicorn Peak

Tatoosh, Unicorn Peak

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

At a certain point in early Spring, as the weather begins to warm and the sun makes more frequent appearances, us peakers find ourselves with a dilemma: should we keep ski touring or jump to the rock? But with the snow pack still deep and the sun shining strong for the last day of March – Andrew and I shot back – “why not both?”

Unicorn Peak would fit the criteria. The largest mountain in the Tatoosh Range is just a stone’s throw from Mount Rainier. It has great road access, good vertical for skiing, and a summit block that would help shake off the climbing rust.

We left Seattle at 6:30 AM and arrived at the parking lot (Narada Falls) at 9:00 AM and started our tour along Stevens Canyon Road. It is mostly flat as you pass some lakes on the left (Reflection, Louise) and the turnoffs for Castle and Pinnacle Peak on the right. After 2 miles on the road you will get your first view of the objective – Unicorn Peak.

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**Unicorn shrouded in the clouds**

After 3.5 miles on Stevens Canyon Road, we picked up the Snow Lake Trail. The Snow Lake Trail took us to… Snow Lake, at which point we observed significant wet-loose activity from the previous week’s warming trend. Be careful here as there are slide paths all  around the lake; I would caution against coming here with any major instability in the snow pack.

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**Wet loose slides above Snow Lake**

At this point the route becomes fairly straight-forward. We headed toward the gully above the lake, which spits out into a breathtaking ski bowl with 180 degrees of good skiing aspects. Shot on time, we then moved east toward the saddle between Unicorn and the unnamed summit to the southwest. The top of this is the steepest section of the tour; thankfully we had Andrew to lay it down.  Dude is a hoss.

IMG_0118

**Beast Mode Powers**

Once we topped out on the saddle, it was a ridge walk to the Unicorn summit block. At this point we got the rock gear out and made for the true summit. We took the direct 5.6 variation. It required 4 pieces of gear. There is various webbing tied to a tree at the top which you can use for an anchor. BEWARE: as I was cleaning the route, I stepped on a 2′ x 2′ boulder which completely gave way. The rock here is very porous. Actually it’s worse than that, it is disintegrating.

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**Andrew rappelling summit block**

We topped out at 2:00 PM, took some pics of Rainier behind our athletic, sculpted bodies, and rappelled down to the skis. We skied the line we came up on and it was gorgeous. Soft, carvable corned snow all the way back to Snow Lake where we put the skins back on and made haste for the car.

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**Andrew clicking in at the top**

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**Almost makes you want to ski…. almost**

All in all, a great day with great company, dilemmas be damned.