Tag Archives: stevens pass

Washington Inbounds

I’ve been awfully silent on here for a few months: I’ve been busy skiing, often sticking to in-bounds terrain at our fantastic resorts where a full blog post feels like a little bit of overkill – I’ll compile them all here instead. There have also been some good downhill and XC ski tours that will appear on here separately.

November 22: Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker is always a great choice for the early season because of the volume of snow they get Рit builds up the base super quickly. Becca and I had a solid day skiing on and off-piste on springlike snow under blue skies and open clouds. The best part of a blue sky day on Baker is the view of Mt. Shuksan, the mountainiest mountain of them all! Run of the day: Austin

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Early Dec: Mt. Baker repeat

This was supposed to be a snowy day but it got a little warmer than anticipated and fell sticky and drizzly instead and the visibility was pretty poor. We still had a pretty good time lapping Chair 8 and Chair 6 while the rest of Washington’s ski areas stayed closed. Run of the day: Oh Zone to Daytona

Also early Dec (12?): Crystal Mountain

Headed up to Crystal Mountain with a friend to take advantage of a free pass that would only be valid through the end of the year. It was my first time at Crystal so I explored the resort a bit but the visibility was pretty bad. Run of the day: Green Valley main bowl.

December 19: Crystal Mountain POWDER

Ohhh man was Crystal great. Knee deep powder was harvested in the hike-to Northway and Southback zones. The video captures it best:

We started in Northway with 3-4 runs in Morning Glory and the trees on the ridge skier’s right of Penny Dawg’s, then did a few runs in Green Valley before travelling over to the Southback to finish the day.

Run(s) of the day: Morning Glory Bowl to Brand X, Southback Traverse to Silver Basin headwall (The Beach)

January 9: Stevens Pass

Stevens was odd today. It was sunny on the West side but a cloud loomed over the pass from the east side and made the light flat all day. Parking and lift lines were a mad house but some of the groomed trails were okay. There was pretty hoar frost on the trees on the backside runs. Everything was pretty chunked up and crusty though off piste and it wasn’t the best day of skiing. Run of the day: Pegasus

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January 16: Crystal Mountain

Today greatly exceeded expectations! It was too warm in the parking lot but the temps were pretty decent up high and it was snowing big flakes which refreshed the off piste terrain a little bit. We had a mixed group today so I spent some time cruising groomers around Forest  Queen and some off piste in Green Valley and Campbell Basin which was actually really great. Run of the day: Campbell Basin and Powder Bowl.

February 20: Crystal Mountain POWDER

Best day of 2016 so far! About a foot of powder fell over the prior 48 hours and Southback had not opened in two days due to avalanche danger. The day opened in full sun as we did laps off Chair 6 while watching the Southback gate. It finally opened up in time for us to harvest the goods with a couple of laps off the Beach in Silver Basin (quickly becoming my favorite run in WA). Video turned out pretty great too.

Run of the day: Silver Basin (duh)

Feb 26-27: Whistler Blackcomb

I split a condo with some really solid skiers and boarders to enjoy a long weekend up at Whistler. I wrote about Whistler last year; it is crazy large and I’m always blown away by the amount and variety of terrain to choose from. I’m hoping to hit it with better snow conditions one of these times.

We divided our time pretty evenly with Blackcomb in the mornings and Whistler in the afternoons. Friday was cloudier but conditions had stayed fairly cold and the groomers skied well. There was some packed powder and conditions weren’t too icy for the most part. Run of the day: Spanky’s Ladder. Saturday started off with blue skies and about an inch of new snow to freshen things up. Runs of the day: Blackcomb Glacier, Harmony Ridge to Low Roll

 

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Where There’s Smoke…

This is it. I’m declaring Blog Bankruptcy. I’ve gotten so behind with summer travel and outings that I can’t possibly dig out of the hole. So here’s what I did this weekend. I may go back and cover selected trips from June-August, highlights of which included 2 weeks in Turkey and Romania, summer skiing at Mt. Rainier, and backpacking near Glacier Peak.

Mt. Howard and Mt. Mastiff

7063′ peak elevation

12ish miles

6000′ gain

7:40 car to car

DATELINE: Chelan, WA. After one of the driest springs and summers on record and with a minuscule snowpack, Washington is burning. Lake Chelan, the Methow Valley, and Mt. Adams are ablaze and the Okanogan Complex is the largest in the state’s history. With the North Cascades Highway closed due to fire, the options for getting in the high country are more limited than usual. Looking for a fun summer scramble, hiking pal Becca and I settled on a doubleheader near Stevens Pass, hopefully sparing us most of the smoke: Mt. Howard and Mt. Mastiff. Mt. Howard happens to be a 2000′ prominence peak, a nice bonus.

On the drive in we noticed a puzzling haze in Monroe – it couldn’t be smoke, could it? We were 100+ miles from the closest fire. As we continued along US 2 it became evident that the forecasted NW wind hadn’t materialized – Easterly wind was pushing the smoke our way. Despite the potential for disappointing views, the smoke wasn’t thick enough to irritate our lungs or eyes so we elected to do the trip as ash fell from the sky like a dusting of snow.

Howard-Mastiff Loop

Our plan was to do a loop route starting and ending from the Merritt Lake Trailhead, climbing Mt. Howard first before continuing on to Mastiff and descending off trail on Nason Ridge. Fully half this route is off trail, so decent routefinding and navigation skills are definitely required.

The Merritt Lake trail has nice efficient switchbacks through mostly shade. The Nason Ridge trail though needs some work – it’s brushy and loose in places but easy to follow. It continued through a looong traverse over to Crescent Lake including several hundred feet of elevation loss (beware to those doing the counterclockwise loop!) There are several little bowls that look like the S. face of Howard – make sure you’re in the right drainage (ie. not Royal Creek) before you head upward.

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake is big and shallow. It looked like elk bed down in the long grass nearby – comforting, as we had just been startled by some sort of large mammal in the woods and we were really hoping it wasn’t a bear. We filled up water and started up the South face of Mt. Howard (about 2000′ vertical) off trail. We took the talus field at the head of the lake (directly below the obvious cliff band) then brush bashed through some woody plants without too much hassle before reaching an upper talus field where we drifted right to get around the cliff. There are several gullies here – we picked the one we thought was easiest and it was easy but loose, dirty class 3. I wouldn’t want to have to descend this part if I could help it.

Above this crux band of 100′ or so it was easy cruising on talus and dirt climber’s trails to the summit. Continue reading Where There’s Smoke…