Huge crowd of 100 or so Alpentalics showed up for yesterday’s 2nd Annual Alpental Summer Solstice Ski (& Snowboard) Tour. Yup, we’re still skiing and riding in the Washington Cascades! First day of summer was a nice one: warm & sunny. Everyone met at 5pm (lot was half full), then skinned or hiked up to the summit for the barbecue and party. Most stayed until around 9:30pm to watch the amazing sunset. I was back at the car a bit after 10 – no head lamp needed. Gotta love the PNW! We’ll have a video from the event up shortly. In the meantime, here are some pix to hold you over (breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier) .
Little bummed that I couldn’t make the 2012 Summer Solstice party at our beloved Alpental tonight (Sting did along with a couple of other Snow Troopers… Something like 100+ snow riders!!! – video coming very soon), however I get to bring in Summer with a couple of good bros up in Northern Idaho tomorrow. So in the mean time as Sting and the gang just finished up their Alpental party, I want to share this video from another round at Silver Peak. This past June 14th, Sting, Jon Knitter and myself headed back up to Silver Peak where access is way beyond the first switch back after Cold Creek’s TH. We had a fantastic day up on the micro MASSIVE playground, considering the day prior we couldn’t see past 50 yards, most of the day.
Below is a short video of the super fun day…
Jon having fun off the Cirque.
After our recent outing on Silver Peak w/ Andrew, Bo and Qwinn they had mentioned wanting to do a good sized traverse North from Snoqualmie Pass, WA. However, with our lovely Spring weather this year they were forced to change it up for day tours. The video below is from this past friday the 15th where the guys chose Camp Muir as their target for some “Fail Safe” rotten corn snow riding on Mt. Rainier.
We’re sad to hear that fellow skier, Keith Hardy, 34, of Seattle was killed on Friday at Mt. Baker. He was reported to have just summited the volcano with friends and they were skiing down when he accidentally skied off a cliff at the Coleman Headwall around 9000′. The others were able to stop in time. Based on the latest reports, his body has not yet been recovered due to weather. It’s been a rough week in the Pacific NW: one experienced climber, Mark Cartier, 56, of Portland, died this past Thursday after he fell off of the Hogsback ridge above Crater Rock on Mt. Hood. That same day, four climbers Yoshiaki Kato, 64, Masako Suda, 50, Michiko Suzuki, 56, Tamao Suzuki, 63, perished in an avalanche on Mt. McKinley. According to the National Park Service, they were descending a popular route early morning when a 200ft wide slide began from 11,800ft and slid 800ft, piling roughly three to four feet of snow and debris on the glacier. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of Keith, Mark, Yoshiaki, Masako, Michiko and Tamao.
June 13th, 2012: our small crew made up of Andrew Eckels, Bo Valencia, Qwinn Gundersen, Sting and myself met just after the Mill Creek bridge (and right before the Roaring Ridge turn off) where a large band of snow still remains but our mini awd rv (van) managed to just get through. We figure a group of skiers in a low clearance car could shovel through the snow band in less time than it took us to reach the snow line 2 miles up the road. We were able to drive about 3/8 of a mile before continuous snow and skins on a bit before the Mt. Catherine TH. Started the hike with a nice mist coming down and stayed in the thick of it all day. Once we climbed up to the top of the NE Bowl (just before the NW bowl), we couldn’t even see halfway up the NW Cirque so decided to ski off the Lower Dome. The Spring snow was excellent so we did a couple more laps hitting some of our favorites runs which all had fine visibility because of the trees and rocks. Super steep fun day, including the go home route under the NE Ridge, which is loaded with a bunch of short, sweet, steep shots (vs. returning to Windy Pass via the alternate long green dot down Huckleberry). The 13th was some of the best lower elevation skiing I have done this Spring in the Cascades! Get it while you can & live to ski another day!
Video of the day below
UPDATE: Here’s how Alpental looked from the base lodge end of day today – more has melted this week but still skinnable from where the snow starts at the base to the summit. However, booting will be tricky: the snow bridges are getting really thin towards the bottom.
Below photos were taken this week, Tues., June 12th at Alpental. The last storm wiped out some patches on the lower part of the mountain but don’t let that deter you because you’re still skins on just 10 steps or so from the lodge and able to skin all the way to the summit – no problem. Snow’s still skiing amazingly well especially above chair 1 – nice cream of corn. Below chair 1, you run into big sun cups and dirty, sticky snow. But heck, it’s mid-June and the mountain’s still buried in snow -you can ski and ride off the summit in all directions. What more can you ask for? Enjoy –And big congrats to Class of 2012!
As most of you know, the NW was just recently blasted with a big JUNEuary snow storm. By the time it was over, thigh deep powder was reported in the Cascade’s higher zones and even 18″ of POW in Northern Idaho! Speaking of N.Idaho, I found myself there earlier this week,(for other reasons than skiing) where the South facing slopes in the Selkirk foothills were completely bare up at Schweitzer and one of the easiest skis around still required a good walk carrying your skis over the dirt to catch the closest 300-400 feet of good steep skiing up off of the South Ridge(not very much vert in this zone, but by far some of the best steeps on the hill). Since I just happened to be in Idaho as the last storm raged through, I though a trip back up to Schweitzer would be fun stop before my journey back to the Cascades.
Video of the June 7th ski day. Video thumbnail below is looking towards the Great Escape from the South Ridge.
The 18″ of snow I was calling out in the beginning of this post, I actually witnessed as 12 to 13 inches around 11 AM Thursday the 7th. By this time the sun had been baking it down all morning, leading me to believe somewhere close to 18″ of snow had fallen on top of the hill and around 8″ at the base on top of dirt. As I skinned up from the base I noticed the triple chair (Lakeview chair) was spinning at mach speed with ski/board tracks to match right under it (lucky dogs). No just kidding, I was in this trip for a walk with my boy Trooper dog, so we headed for the South Ridge. Once in view of the Ridge, we notice a group of riders coming down off the nice skiers’ right 300′ steeply pitched ridge. The last rider in the group kicked off a wet sluff which petered out as it hit the trees (caught part in the video above). Even though I wasn’t seeing anything that slid past the 400 feet, one should be aware of getting swept into a tree (the wet slides move fairly slow on these pitches but are still very powerful). I did a short quick lap off of the South Ridge, then climbed back up and hit skiers’ left of the tree stand to the skiers’ left of Kmac . Wanting to get a nice steep ski in and keep Trooper safe at the same time, I chose this area. Even though the wet sluffs and slides can almost seem to creep down the slope as you are laying out fast GS turns, they seem to be a lot faster to our 4 legged friends. Looks like there should be a couple more weeks of good skiing further North in the Selkirks where you can find a lot of 2000+ foot consistent shots that hit into the 40 degree zone (and even steeper!). Schweitzer might not be the BIG/STEEP skiers mountain, but it sure is a top notch cruiser resort and an intermediate skiers’ dream (up there with Sun Valley and one of our favorite all season rec areas, Mt. Bachelor). So all you hardcore moms and dads wanting a great family hill, this is a good one in the NW! Also, I spent some time on a topo map to help locate and save you some time hunting for the steepest most continuous vert with no ease in the relief… THE WINNER IS, Kohli’s Big Timber which yields apx 1,000′, find it on the Schweitzer “outback bowl” map just skiers’ left of Lakeside Chutes. With a glance at the “Schweitzer” ski map you might think the steepest most consistent run on the Mountain might be under the Great Escape chair but the map is a little misleading on the black diamond rating because only the top few hundred feet are advanced but the lower half is all intermediate. The second guess after the Great Escape might be the Lakeside Chutes, but I actually scaled this run in many places down the main fall line and found measurements of 35 degrees in the steepest sections but the run eased up to high twenties in others (I also got a chuckle looking at the Schweitzer “interactive” trail map, where is claims this run to have “mandatory” drop zones… My definition of (myself not wanting to “drop”) a mandatory drop zone is when I am boot packing back up a steep ass face for 30 minutes in waste deep pow and cursing the bad ass I followed into the wicked no exit cliff zone! No need to worry about getting into a mandatory drop zone at Schweitzer, however, you might get into a mandatory 20 second side step. Schweitzer does have an open backcountry policy so if you want to take a little 20 minute walk from the t-bar (during the season of course), head for Big Blue’s North face and work the super sweet ridge line that leads to Keokee lake.
First day on the ground in Northern Idaho.
NW Avalanche Center (NWAC) has issued a special avalanche statement for today through Mon., June 11th due to “Increased avalanche danger at higher elevations in the Washington Cascades, Mt Hood area and Olympics this weekend above 6-7000 feet and especially on the volcanoes”. This comes after our WA and OR mountains received 1-4 feet of snow above 6,000ft this past week. NWAC received reports of avalanche conditions at Snoqualmie and Chinook Passes and on Mt Rainier, climbing guides on Thursday experiencing “knee to thigh deep snow on lee slopes at the 10-11,000 foot level and most summit attempts turning around due to slab avalanche and post holing conditions”. Be sure to check the statement before heading out this weekend and live to ski another day.
Planning a backcountry trip? U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched US Topo – a new generation of digital topographic maps that offer the same look as their traditional print topo maps. They can be downloaded and printed for free in their entirety or in sections at the USGS Store together with optional, free Windows and Mac compatible tools that enable basic, on-screen geographic analysis (for example, display ground coordinates in a variety of reference systems, measure ground distances, etc). If you need help working through the site, try going to the User Guide for help. US Topo maps are available in traditional 7.5 minute quadrangles (1:24,000-scale), in PDF format with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF®) and key layers of geographic data (orthoimagery, roads, geographic names, contours, hydrographic features). The most recent 2012 US Topos include boundaries and woodland. However, the original USGS topographic map series (1945-1992) included several feature classes that are not yet shown on US Topos. Examples include railroads, recreational trails, pipelines, power lines, green timber tint, survey markers, and many types of buildings. Since there are no national data sources for such features suitable for general-purpose, 1:24,000-scale maps, USGS is working with other agencies to develop the data. Over time, as these data become available and are included in The National Map, that content will be added to the US Topos. UGSG highlights the following features that differentiate US Topo maps from their former map versions:
- Made from nationally consistent data that are quality assured to high standards
- Downloadable free from the USGS Store
- Free downloadable user tools
- Selectable reference systems: Latitude-Longitude, UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator), MGRS (Military Grid Reference System)
- Interactive capabilities with Google Maps®
- A planned 3-year revision cycle, facilitating incorporation of additional data layers
The USGS Store also offers free downloads of older and historical maps.
Still shopping for that something special to gift or do on Father’s Day? How about some lift served skiing and riding? That’s right, Crystal Mtn. has officially announced that they will stay open all weekends in June. It is the ONLY resort with a gondola running for skiing and riding and mountain top dining. With more snow continuing to fall (it’s been dumping there), Crystal Mountain should have no problem maintaining or even adding to their current 70″ snow base. If you love to ski or snowboard, add Crystal Mtn. to your Father’s Day list this year .