Jim Hill revisited - North Slope ski/split, January 2007

Please forgive the repetition, but it's been another a winter of chair lifts and the pillaging of lift-accessed backcountry for me...which explains the dearth of b/c reports so far. What can I say? Take the excellent snow conditions we've enjoyed this season, and mix in some expert 'slope management' not to mention a keen awareness for the finer lines, and you've clocked the equivalent vertical feet-per-day of say 10 Jim Hill's. I know, I know...what gluttons we are.

But alas, lest we become hopelessly lazy and succumb completely to the mechanized convieniences society affords us, there's always a time and place for a backcountry tour. It had been about a week since the last dump - slopes at the resorts were obviously shredded, but with daytime temps in Seattle below freezing all week long, the backcountry promised to deliver in droves. And so it came to be that Andy and I would finally stretch our legs for our first tour of the season.

We rendezvoused with Jerry, Susan and Eric at the HWY2 pullout. Apparently we weren't the only ones gunning for Jim Hill on this day - there were about 10 cars parked there by the time we started skinning. In addition to our party, I counted fifteen or more people out on Jim Hill's slopes! Eric Houtkooper was also making the alternate Lanham Creek approach to Jim Hill with about twenty others in tow (we never saw Eric or his posse). I think Jerry was exaggerating the exact count, but it neverthess looked to be a seriously busy day on an otherwise relatively tame north facing slope. The race was on!

Once in the upper-bowl, Andy and I decided to continue on via Jim Hill's northwest-side in order to gain the same summit saddle Jerry and I did on our previous trip. Much to our dismay, clouds had enveloped the summit ridge by the time we got there making it very difficult to make out where exactly we were. Where was the saddle? Were we even looking down into the North Bowl? We tried waiting it out for a bit, but eventually grew impatient and cold and without a map instead opted to descend the way we came up. We re-joined the ridge crest somewhere above where Jerry and company had dropped-in and prepared for an entirely too-short ride back down the bowl. We continued all the way down to where Henry Creek drains from the lower basin and called it a day. Unfortunately, I don't have any action photos of our descent, but suffice to say they would have looked very much identical to those captured in this video clip. Heck, I even used the same home-made split this time! For the 2004 "Jim Hill" movie in it's entirety, click here. Oh, and one final word to the wise - absolutely under no circumstances should you consider returning via the east-side of Henry Creek. Believe me, however bad the west-side approach is, the east-side return is far worse!

Mouse-over thumbnails below for a description and click to enlarge.


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