Jeff, Becca and I headed up to the ridge east of the Crystal Mountain ski resort for some winter camping and skiing in the Norse Peak Wilderness. We toured up from the Upper C parking lot along the snowshoe track into Bullion Basin before ascending to the ridge on the W/SW aspect of the basin.
My relative inexperience showed as I found the kick turns on the steeper lower slopes of the basin to be surprisingly sketchy with the couple inches of light snow on top of the Thursday rain crust – the track kept sliding out and it would have been possible to take a long slide over some steep rollovers and trees. I ended up booting the middle 1/3 which was significantly more secure.
Once on the ridge, we made an surprisingly sheltered camp south of pt. 6654 and took a quick lap on the highpoint before it got dark. We awoke to beautiful blue skies and 3-4 inches of light snow that had fallen overnight!
After breakfast and coffee we ducked over into Cement Basin for some beautiful turns with enough new, light powder to smooth over the crust.
Rain runnels were evident up to the highest point on the ridge, building confidence that the weak layer problem had been successfully nuked on Thursday. We then toured north along the ridge, bagging the unnamed high point south of Scout Pass and continuing along to the moderate south ridge of Norse Peak. We stuck mostly to the west side of the ridge and were able to find plenty of clear spots in the trees to navigate without much trouble.
I spotted a party of two in Cement Basin in the early afternoon:
After a summit snack, the visibility began to diminish as clouds rolled in from the south. We skied our uptrack along the ridge but ducked west along the PCT after Scout Pass. We broke camp, then enjoyed creamy afternoon turns all the way down the main line on East Peak. This was especially satisfying after having spent several afternoons at Crystal admiring tracks on the open slopes.
Beautiful area, great weather, and I hope to spend more time in the future exploring farther out into the wilderness and MRNP!