Tag Archives: Backcountry Skiing

Flett Glacier Summer Skiing

I’m in the hunt for my first year of Turns All Year (getting 12 consecutive months with at least one day of skiing) and August/September are always tough. Fortunately, I may have found my new summer stash (a HUGE upgrade from the crowded, suncupped Muir Snowfield) – namely, the Flett Glacier in the Mowich Lake area of MRNP.

Our group of four arrived at Mowich Lake around 9am on a busy summer Sunday, loaded the skis on packs, and hiked the very pleasant 4.5 miles along the Spray Park trail (and off trail) to the toe of the Flett Glacier.

The glacier appeared to be more like a permanent snowfield, at least from the headwall straight down. To the right there were some crevasses on one of the lobes of the glacier. We didn’t bring glacier gear though.

After a pleasant skin up fairly smooth August snow, we evaluated conditions on the 45 degree headwall. There was some rockfall coming down from the cliffs on the left and right so pay attention to where you hang out and consider a helmet for the scramble to the top.

I stayed behind while the others braved a loose scree slope to traverse up to the headwall (looped around to the east, passing in front of Observation Rock before gaining the top of the face). There were some melted out rocks which everyone shredded around with some ease (but don’t fall right now…)

The view down into Spray Park above Cateye Lake was stunning. How have I never been in this corner of the park before?

The headwall skiers reported that the skiing lower down on the glacier was the most fun and I agree. These were good turns, period – not just “good for August.”

We happily lapped 1000′ of the lower glacier (to the foot of the headwall) again and snow conditions remained smooth and fast for us in the late afternoon. Then came 4.5 more miles of very pleasant ski carrying through Spray Park. Please be kind to the meadow!

 

The mountain sure looks pretty from this angle.

Thanks Brian for organizing a great trip!

Mount Adams ski descent

Mt. Adams

12,280′

6700′ gain

I’ve done Adams twice before and its outstanding south ski slopes have turned it into what I hope is an annual pilgrimage for me. Both times I chose to climb/ski it in a day instead of camping over – both of these are brutal due to the long drive from Seattle and the very large amount of gain. This time we elected to camp and I think it was a good variation.

David and I arrived at Cold Springs campground in the early afternoon on a Saturday and struggled to find parking, per usual. I think backcountry skiing has gotten more popular even in the short time I’ve been doing it myself. We lifted our heavy packs and started out walking on dry ground, for around an hour until we hit the around the mountain trail. We transitioned shortly after and started skinning up Suksdorf Ridge (the winter route, skiers right). We gained, gained gained elevation  and I could tell my conditioning wasn’t what it was last year – thankful that we were breaking up the climb into two days. However, my new Dynafit Denali touring skis and bindings were a huge weight improvement over my old set. It was especially apparent on such a long ascent.

After a few hours we made it to our campsite at around 9000′ on Suksdorf Ridge, among rocks overlooking the ‘lunch counter’ area. We could see the massive south slopes that we would ascend the following day. We also considered descending the Southwest Chutes route, but that would involve carrying over our overnight gear and the high snow level made the traverse back to the trailhead a bit of an unknown.

The campsite was gloriously scenic as the sun set that night.

St. Helens:

Continue reading Mount Adams ski descent

Earl Peak / Navaho Peak Ski Tour

Earl Peak – 7036′

Navaho Peak – 7223′

Map recreated from memory: Hillmap

David and I headed up Stafford Creek after seeing some encouraging trip reports in the more westerly reaches of the Teanaway earlier this month. We may have missed primetime by several weeks but there were still some great turns this late in the spring.

We pulled up to the Stafford TH at around 7:30 AM Saturday and headed uphill with skis on packs. We didn’t transition until after making camp after the summer trail crosses Stafford Creek at about the 4800′ level.

Earl Peak was on our agenda for the remainder of day 1. We crossed the western branch of the creek at the Trail 1369 crossing (5000′) and skinned along the western bank of the creek in a northerly direction, avoiding the steeper rocky bands on the left before hanging a sharp left into the obvious NNE facing bowl of Earl Peak.

Rather than skinning directly up below the summit, we gained the ridge at the second saddle point on the NE ridge via more moderate slopes then booted/scrambled the ridge to the summit.

Continue reading Earl Peak / Navaho Peak Ski Tour

Norse Peak Overnight Ski Tour

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!

Blewett Pass / Tronsen Meadow

Got a late start heading to Yodelin for some trees on this considerable avy day to find that the parking lot was completely full from Stevens overflow parking! Instead, we diverted to Blewett Pass which allowed for much more solitude, but we didn’t begin skinning until after noon so the tour was pretty limited. We made it as far as the NE/E flank of Diamond Head via some XC trails before meeting another pair of skiers on their way down from the DH/Windy Knob saddle area, reporting windscoured, rocky conditions. We called it a day and found some really nice pow in the low angle trees on the north facing rib off DH on the way back to the car. The glimpses of blue sky were a plus.


Looking across US 97:

Windy Knob from the NE flank of Diamond Head