Little Tahoma, June 2008
The weather prognosis for the day wasn't particularly encouraging - isolated showers were forecast for the mountains with another front due to arrive later that night. But, I've been suckered by the forecast and overblown spring avalanche warnings one too many times this season, and I wasn't about to wake up late to another unexpectedly sunny day with nothing but a hangover to nurse. And so, with hopes of getting above the weather, a trip to climb and ski/board Little Tahoma was born. Joining me on this test of lowered expectations were Eli, John and Eric (AKA Snowslut of TAY fame).
The numbers are a bit on the high-end for a casual day-trip - 18 miles round-trip and over 7000ft of gain, but I had it on good authority that the climb would go quickly. Based on Eric Hoffman's 5.5-hrs car-to-summit time and the longer days, we figured we needn't get that early of a start and so left the Fryingpan Creek trailhead at the embarrassingly late hour of 8:30. As it turns out, we probably should have allotted about two or three additional hours in order to tag the summit. Anyway, either Eric ran the trail, lied about the time or continuous post holing with skis on our backs slowed our approach considerably. I'm going with option #3. Nevertheless, I thought our pace was respectable and breaks were few and short. Still, it took us over 6 hours to reach the 9000-ft notch above the Whitman Glacier, thankfully under mostly bluebird skies. John and I ditched the skis here and made a go for the summit, but alas boot-top to knee deep wallowing across the Whitman Glacier drained us of energy and motivation, not to mention our most important resource - daylight.
With our snail's pace and about 2000 feet of climbing left to go, the decision to abort and return to our comrades waiting for us at the notch was wise and timely. Fast approaching weather had begun to move in and would engulf us moments later. We returned to the flats below Whitman Crest in total whiteout and proceeded to ski/ride back down the glacier following our up-track. Once below the gathering clouds, better visibility and excellent corn snow made for a really enjoyable descent into the basin below Meany Crest, stopping where Fryingpan Creek crosses the valley. A tedious deproach through forest saw us back to the cars well before dark, where aching toes and parched lips were attended to post haste. With an additional 1 - 2 feet of fresh snow forecast for the higher elevations by the end of the week, I'd say this route will remain in good skiing shape for a while longer!
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