Archive for: March, 2018

Holy Diver

Holy Diver

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Having both been recently unencumbered by employment, Rory and I made plans for a weekday tour.   Monday’s forecast was for Sunshine and temperatures approaching 60F, so we brainstormed higher mileage tours that would avoid south facing, large and/or steep terrain in the afternoon.  The prior weekend was unseasonably warm as well, so we figured any good snow would be hidden on north aspects.

We settled on a loop in the Aplental backcountry with descents down a north aspect of Chair Peak and Holy Diver on the way out, and descents from Gem Lake and Snow Lake on the way back. For this route the larger more avalanche prone descents down Chair and Holy Diver are north facing and accomplished early in the day, before snow would be expected to be sliding around.  The route’s descents down from Gem and Snow Lakes are south facing and skied in the heat of the afternoon, but the terrain here is smaller and more manageable.  The ascents on this tour are favorable for a warm day as well – The south aspect ascents up Chair Peak and Mt. Roosevelt are accomplished early in the day, leaving shaded north facing ascents to Gem Lake and Snow Lake Divide for the afternoon.

GPX track for the day. 10 miles, 5400′

We hit the trail at 7:30 AM, just between dawn and sunrise.   Conditions for the tour up were hard pack, as to be expected with Sunday’s warm weather and refreezing overnight.  Travel got a little friendlier as the sun began to warm the snow/ice surface while ascending Snow Lake divide.

(L) Descent to snow lake from North Face of Chair Peak. (R) Rory scoping descent from midway bench.

The snow for our descent from Chair to Snow Lake was a bit firm and wind affected, however, the north aspect’s cooler temps and shade left a chalky edgeable surface with fresh snow scattered about.  Fun turns overall.

The ascent from Snow Lake to Holy Diver was steep, sunny and beginning to get warm. We topped out at 11AM and would have been in a tough spot any later in the day.

Booting to Holy Diver

 

Atop Holy Diver

Holy Diver held similar snow conditions to the north aspect of Chair Peak. Rory and I are typically snowboarders, but due to the mileage, amount of transitions and expected snow conditions, we opted to goon around on skis for the day.

Descending Holy Diver

After dropping holy diver we looped around towards lower wildcat lake and transitioned for our ascent and return southward through Gem and Snow Lakes.

We experienced a bit of loose wet activity on the afternoon’s south facing descents from Gem and Snow Lakes, but nothing unexpected or unmanageable.   We also noticed a small slide took out a corner of our uptrack to Holy Diver later in the day as things warmed, reinforcing our decision to tackle that bit early.  The bottom of Bryant Col. slid pretty big down to source lake as well.

Back to the truck at 2:30PM

Fantastic sunny day in the mountains, fist pumps and high fives all around.

Chair Peak Circumnavigation, Alpental Valley

Chair Peak Circumnavigation, Alpental Valley

Friday, March 9th, 2018

We went out in Alpental Valley on Saturday. For me, it was my first time out there on a splitboard. Our objective was to Circumnavigate Chair Peak.

We left from the upper parking lot at 8am and split up into the valley following the groomed track until it ended. At this point split left until we met up with the main skin track just below Source Lake.

The East Shoulder of Chair Peak was pretty crowded with groups skiing off every aspect, by the time we got up there around 10am. We dropped the north side down to Snow Lake making the best turns of the day.

The trail out the west side of the lake was set for us up to 4400ft where we bumped off of it passing the guys who had set it as they bailed off of Holy Diver due to warming conditions. After that we were on our own, breaking trail up to Melakwa Pass and then down the other side completing 3/4 of the pizza that is Chair Peak.

Finally the last sprint up to the top of Bryant Peak Couloir where we could look back down into Alpental Valley and at our last descent. The run back to the car could be made by the determined one footed snowboarder without a transition.

Warming temperatures couple with storm and snow and wind activity in the previous days caused a lot of loose wet slides on just about everywhere the sun hit. Early in the week some pretty big slides released leaving crowns upwards of 5ft on North East aspects and significant debris on our descents into Snow and Source Lakes.

Nevertheless the snow and the weather lined up very nicely for a time out in the valley

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