April Fools - Chair Peak
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!