Sunday, December 10, 2006

Skyline Ridge

With our touring legs under us from our pseudo-alpine-pseudo-Nordic debacle last weekend at Hyak, Andrea, and I and Andrea's co-clerk Jen headed up to Skyline (Heather) Ridge in Steven's Pass on Saturday to do a little recon mission for longer tours later in the season. One of the best parts about being new to the touring scene here is that there is so much to explore, one of the bummers is that we will probably be fumbling around in the dark in terms of route choice for most of this winter. But if our fumblings yield more results like this day's, it is going to be a great winter.

Skyline Ridge, or Heather Ridge depending who you ask, is a ridge tour that runs NW up the side of a mountain, with options for glade skiing on either side. The tour starts at 4000' and with the snow-level predicted at 4000' as well, it looked like Jen's intro to PNW skiing would involve crust and glop.

But it didn't. We skinned for about 1000' vertical feet through thick fog to what is locally referred to as "the Summit" and took our skins off as the snow started to fall.
It didn't stop through most of the day, creating a dust-on-crust scenario that quickly buried the crust in about 3-4 inches of thick fluffy.
The terrain was great, definitely classic Cascade tree-dodging with little pockets of open snow - not for the faint of heart or the slow of turn but we all had a really good time.
At one point the clouds broke and we were able to see a far ridge locally referred to as "the Point" (they don't seem to get to specific with local nomenclature), definitely a long day's march but featuring open glades that looked awesome. It is definitely on the project list.

Snowpack Observations
We did a shovel compression test on two aspects (W and SW) at around 4800' and did not have a failure even after ten hard blows from the shoulder. I observed about a meter of consolidated snow (perhaps wind blown) sitting on a very deep layer of more rotten large crystals (practically at ground level). We did observe some avalanche debris from the storm events two weeks ago but no signs of recent activity. Wind was moderate and did not appear to be moving significant amounts of snow in the areas. Looks like the snowpack is getting a really solid base!



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