Preston first put the bug in my ear regarding The Swath about a month or so ago. According to him:
"The Swath is probably one of the most distinctive avalanche paths and obvious ski runs around these parts. You can't miss it when driving west on Hwy. 2 from Leavenworth as it cuts an unmistakable scar from a point high on Chiwaukum Ridge, falling 4,000 feet to the valley floor."
Funny really, since I had never heard of it before let alone taken note of the feature while driving by on Hwy 2. Surely I've glanced over in that direction once or twice over the years, and ironically probably even skinned right over the small summit en route to our first night's camp during the North Chiwaukum Tour Tod and I did back in December 2004.
Similar to Preston's experience earlier this winter, "with this years lack of low elevation snow pack, only the top 2,700 feet were in." But with cold dry powder of variable depth for most of the descent, The Swath is one of the more memorable tours of the season for me.
With a front parked offshore and due to push inland over the course of the day, the strong east wind we experienced up on Mount Baker should have come as no surprise. Blue morning skies rapidly gave way to high clouds and gusts that felt in excess of 60mph up on the Coleman Glacier. If that wasn't enough, technical difficulties with Agata's splitboard kept us confined to slopes in the vicinity of Grouse Creek where thankfully the pow was deep and refills free thanks to the wind.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Scaling a pale fish - White Salmon Glacier, Mar. 6
It was certainly a busy day on the northwest side of Shuksan Saturday March 6th. At last count, I noted a twosome gunning for the North Face, a solo hiker, a party of 4 who stopped just below the solo-called BYS Coulior access gully before turning back, a party of 5 (3 of which apparently skied the Hanging Glacier) half way up the White Salmon just as we were about to descend the clearcut, a party of 3 half way up the White Salmon as we approached the base of the glacier and finally a party of 2 that passed us on-route and continued on up Winnie's Slide and Hells Highway presumably to tag the summit. Oh, and just as we were about to descend, a party of 3 'boarders simply dragging their area boards by hand the entire way from the resort showed up as well...boy, we felt pretty lame after seeing that! So, let's see that's 2 + 1 + 4 + 5 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 20, not including Eric and me!
Looking back, from the lodge patio at the end of the day while sipping a beer, I was amazed at how tracked-out the glacier was...holy hell, the place got shredded!
A casual day-trip up to Camp Muir with an enjoyable descent starting from Anvil Rock, and ending up finally at the big road bend in Paradise Valley. A worthy alternative to the Muir Snowfield descent and possibly also the Nisqually Chutes, especially if you're bored of either of those lines.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Snowdays - Feb. 13, 14 & 18
Agata slashes the nose descending into Harmony Bowl.
In the words of a friend and fellow heli-crack addict, "The smell of Jet-A combined with the sound of rotor blades cutting through the cold winter air on a bluebird morning after a week of snow is better than just about anything I can think of." - TW
Good days at the local resorts have certainly been few and far in between this season. Normally a quick and reliable staple for the Seattle-based chair lift crowd, Alpental has arguably yielded but a single "powder day" back on January 26 - hardly a justification for a season's pass mind you. But it's still winter and there's pow to be had somewhere, so off to earn our turns we go. Back to the familiar environs of Crystal's East Peak with three excellent laps into Cement Basin where low expectations were met with face shots and smiles all around. We found somewhat heavier powder on the slopes around Table Mountain the following weekend but with increasing clouds and fog later in the afternoon, we felt better about having abandoned our more ambitious plans for the day...more on that some other time.