Sunday, April 29, 2007

Last day at Alpental

I have been laid up with a three week cough that has turned into black lung death after a three-hour run last Sunday over South and Middle Tiger. I was feeling pretty ok on the run (no equivocating there!) but by that night, my compromised immune system gave up the ghost in the steely hands of the black lung death and skipped five days of running. So that sucked, but the health is returning and Nick and I went up to Alpental today for the last runs of the season. It was mash potatos on the bottom, frozen mashers on top so we lapped the bottom, jibbed some trees, hit a few kickers and called it good at one. Not too shabby for the season - up to 26 days and 7 on the pass, i.e. it paid for itself. And NORTH CASCADES IS OPEN - which means next weekend = Washington Pass. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fools - Chair Peak

Andrea, Jen, and I (and Emerson of course) headed up to Chair Peak today to attempt the traverse of the North Face, finishing with a ski across Snow Lake.

On the way up, light snow was falling on a crust that has been sitting in the Cascades for the past week or so. It was strange snow. At about 4000', I stuck a pole deep into it as is my habit on the skin up to get a sense of what kind of layers are beneath me. After punching through the surface crust, which was hard enough to support my weight, there were a few softer layers and through all, a mushy consolidated glob. It was as if the crust developed over a sunny afternoon corn and sealed the freshness in. I don't know what this kind of snowpack is capable of but there was no sign of recent slides and we traversed steep slopes with no trouble.

At the point where the tour becomes a steep bootpack through a narrow notch to gain the north face of Chair Peak, a fog had rolled in, making it difficult to navigate. As none of us had done the tour before, and ski to Snow Lake involves negotiating steep terrain littered with cliffs (i.e. you gotta know where to go), we saved the rest of the tour for a sunny day and skied down to Snow Lake via a more direct, and visible, route. Although the crust was hard, the 2-3 inches of graupel covering it made for a pleasant ski, as long as the crust was smooth. Not bad for April 1, and the snow shows no sign of letting up up there. Many days of spring skiing are in our future!