Last Updated: April 18, 2020


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In-area, lift-served b/c, cat and heli boarding

    Photo Albums:
    Dolomites (
40 Photos)
    Washington/Idaho (31 Photos)
    Whistler/Vancouver (39 Photos)

    Dolomites (Return To), Winter 03/04 (Vimeo or download - 17.8MB/9.32min)
    Dolomites "Fuori Pista", Winter 05/06 (Vimeo or download - 42.6MB/11.46min)

    Chugach heli-ski, April 2007 - report/photos (First trip to Alaska!)
    Dolomites, Winter 07/08 - report/photos (Low snow)
    Dolomites, Winter 09/10 - report/photos

Dolomites, Winter 09/10

Between the 12 hours stranded in Frankfurt on the way in and the two days stranded on the way back, you'll forgive my unembellished recount of the Italy trip this time around.  The stunning gross incompetence exhibited by the Frankfurt airport and Lufthansa airline staff to effectively manage the several hundred poor souls hopelessly stuck at the mercy of German inefficiency and non-hospitality is NOT something I'm liable to forget anytime soon. And why our board bag arrived three days late in Verona and seven days after we returned to Seattle still baffles me.  I suppose we should be happy we got the bag back at all.  In any case, I could easily dedicate this entire report to how awful the trip to and from Italy was this year, but I won't.  Suffice to say that I'll never set foot in that godforsaken shithole of an airport again!

While lowland snow was wreaking havoc with many of Northern Europe's major hubs, winter showed an entirely different face in the Eastern Alps.  The Dolomites experienced a very unusual warm spell, bringing rain, wet snow and high winds to the alpine.  Not only did this event smother the soaring limestone towers in a spectacular and rather Patagonia-esque blanket of rime ice, it also set off an impressive avalanche cycle the likes of which I've never seen before.  Combined with the high winds at altitude, I'm certain the uncharacteristic weather contributed to the large soft slab avalanche in Sass Pordoi's Val Lasties in which four of seven mountain rescue personnel perished.  While I personally question the judgment in staging a nighttime rescue attempt to locate two reportedly overdue snowshoers, the tragedy prompted the usual overreaction and effectively rendered the choice slopes in the vicinity of the Pordoi Pass tram off-limits to skiers for the rest of the time we were there.  Only to local extreme skiing legend Valeruz did the heightened precautions apparently not apply. Celebrity clearly has its advantages.

The tragedy dealt a rather large blow to the little village of Canazei and it was pretty somber place there for a few days. They pulled all the stops for the funeral - mayors, ski patrol, search and rescue, mountain guides and so forth.  All in full uniform or traditional dress, from all across the neighboring valleys they came to Canazei for the service.  Hard not to shed a tear seeing the greater community mourn like that.

Anyway, the riding in the Dolomites amounted to a little bit of everything - ice, dust on crust, waterskiing, mashed potatoes, wind-pack and thankfully also some pow.  Certainly not the epic snows of years past, but definitely far better than two years ago. Yes thank you, I needn’t be reminded of last season’s 40-year snow record.  In any case, we explored new lines at Porta Vescovo, Piz Boe and Cherz, poached an old favorite or two and made the requisite off-piste descents of Marmolada Glacier.  We logged a respectable 10-days back-to-back so I'm not complaining.  By the looks of it, it appears we didn't miss much at home during this period, so no regrets!

click here for photos.
(Wild weather!)
    Dolomites, Winter 11/12 - report/photos

Dolomites, Winter 11/12

Off to Italy again for our biennial holiday in the Dolomites. Thankfully no travel drama this time although high winds in Amsterdam did cause delays and threatened to make us miss the AMS - SEA connection on our return. Fortunately it wasn't anything a panicked sprint through the terminal couldn't fix and best of all, our bags made it as well!

As in years past, Agata and I again had to content ourselves with 10 days riding groomers comprised almost entirely of man-made snow. Suffice to say that we've had our fill of icy slopes and are looking forward to some deep days in 2012. Not that I'm complaining or anything-10 consecutive days out on the slopes regardless of who or what created it certainly beats most alternatives. And like it or not, the fact that the operator managed to get virtually all of the ~750 miles of runs skiable before Christmas, despite mother nature's lack of cooperation is nothing short of astounding.

In any case, we made the most of our situation and explored as much of the 'ski area' as we possibly could this time. We reconnoitered far and wide from a home base in Canazei and where lifts would not take us we drove. Spectacular scenery, perfect weather, abundant slope-side refugios both rustic and modern with excellent food and drink, and of course bulletproof snow - this is your typical ski holiday in the Dolomites (come in February/March for powder). The only difference now is that the Germans have been replaced by Poles, Russians and Czechs…Europe's nouveau riche as it were.

We wrapped up our stay a couple days early and did some sightseeing around nearby Lake Garda (Italy's largest) and Verona before boarding the plane in Venice. As always, it is a privilege to spend the holidays in the Dolomites with family, and once again I find myself scheming on how to go about relocating here. But anyway, about that La Nina…

click here for photos.
    Dolomites, Winter 13/14 - report/photos (11 days chasing Dolomiti pow)
    Dolomites, Feb/Mar 2016 - report/photos (1 week of groomers, 1 week of pow, 1 f'ked-up ankle)
    Dolomites & Stubai Valley, Winter 17/18 - report/photos (Our old faves plus something new)
    Dolomites, Winter 19/20 - report/photos (10 days on the slopes with cracked rib)
    North Cascades heli, March 2012 - report/photos (Day of days w/ WA's only heliski operator!)
    North Cascades heli, March 2013 - report photos (3 days of gluttony)
    North Cascades heli, March 2014 - report/photos (Cascade Nirvana!)
    North Cascades heli, March 2015 - report/photos (The winter that wasn't finally delivers some pow!)
    North Cascades heli, March 2016 - report/photos (One day in March with good friends)
    North Cascades heli, March 2017 - report/photos (1 of 2 with incoming weather)
    Powder Mountain heli, January 2011 - report/photos (Unexpected...bonus!)
    Whistler heli-boarding, March 2009 - report/photos (What took us so long?)
    Whistler heli-boarding, February 2010 - report/photos (The encore)
    Whistler heli-boarding, March 2011 - report/photos (The hattrick)
    Whistler heli-boarding, December 2015 - report/photos (New Years eve day!)
    Whistler heli-boarding, January 2017 - report/photos (Mt. Curry zone)

    Random blog posts & miscellaneous photos:
    A ski season to remember, May 2007 - report/photos

A ski season to remember, May 2007

Yes indeed! I can't remember the last time we enjoyed so many back-to-back pow days. And by that I mean good quality pow, low temps and sunny weekend days immediately following a dump. That just doesn't happen here very often. Heck, the preceding winter was well above average in terms of 'shredability.’ But, two seasons in a row?! Fingers crossed for a hat trick!

Anyway, all this went down while the resorts were still enjoyable and not too terribly crowded. Those good 'ol days are now LONG gone thanks to the Seattle boom among other things. But,'s nice to reflect on what was. Right time, right place.

click here for photos.

    My (lift served) season thus far, January 2008 - report/photos
    March Update, March 2008 - report/photos
    The good, the bad and the ugly, April 2008 - report/photos
    Paralyzed by snow, December 2009 - report/photos
    Season Finale, May 2009 - report/photos
    So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, April 2010 - report/photos
    Snowdays, February 2010 - report/photos
    El Nino pow @ W/B, January 2010 - report/photos
    Stevens Pass (ski area), May 2010 - report/photos
    Working Stiff Pow, May 2011 - report/photos
    Ode To La Niña, April 2012 - report/photos
    End of Days, Nov/Dec 2012 - report/photos
    It's back ON!, February 2013 - report/photos
    And that's a wrap, March 2013 - report/photos
    In Conclusion..., March 2014 - report/photos
    The Winter of My Discontent, March 2015 - report/photos
    April Showers, April 2015 - report/photos
    Year-End Pow, November/December 2015 - report/photos
    Made Possible by Cortisone, Jan-Mar 2016 - report/photos
    Winter '16/17 - report/photos
    Winter '18/19 - report/photos
    Winter '19/20 - photos

Backcountry - videos (by location)

    Baker Backcountry:
    Mount Ann, Feb. 17 2005 (
Vimeo or download - 19.7MB/5.25min)
    Coleman Pinnacle, Feb. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 17.4MB/4.48min)

    Crystal Backcountry:
    Bullion Basin/Union Ck, Dec. 2003 (Vimeo or download - 9.79MB/2.40min)
    Bullion Point, Feb. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 10.6MB/2.53min)
    Crystal b/c^3, Jan. 11/13 2005 (Vimeo or download - 14.1MB/3.50min)

    Enchantments and surroundings:
    Cannon Mountain, Mar. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 9.46MB/2.35min)
    Cashmere Mountain, Mar. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 19MB/5.11min)

    North Cascades:
    Green Mountain, Dec - Jan '04/'05 (Vimeo or download - 25.8MB/7.09min)

    Snoqualmie Pass/I90:
    Granite West, December 2003 (Vimeo or download - 5.81MB/2.51min)
    Red Mountain, Jan. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 5.94MB/3.07min)

    Stevens Pass/Highway 2:
    Arrowhead Mountain, Feb. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 5.63MB/2.57min)
    Jim Hill, Feb. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 5.7MB/3min)

    Washington Pass/Highway 20:
    Silver Star Glacier, Apr. 2004 (Vimeo or download - 15.9MB/4.20min)

Backcountry - reports and photos (by location)

    Baker Backcountry:
    Mount Ann, February 2009 -
report/photos (Finally some pow!)
    Mount Baker, June 2003 - report/photos (After climbing North Ridge)
    Coleman Glacier, June 2012 - report/photos (Whiteout)
    Heliotrope Ridge, March 2010 - report/photos (Good snow, crazy wind)
    Ptarmigan Ridge, December 2007 - report/photos

Ptarmigan Ridge, December 2007

Hopeful that the mini-typhoon that blasted through the region earlier in the week didn't wash our entire snow pack into Puget Sound, Scott and I endured the three-hour drive to the Mt. Baker ski area for a day of touring around Ptarmigan Ridge. We would not be disappointed, and our determination was rewarded with 8 - 12 inches of the lightest champagne imaginable over a very firm base.

With temps in the 20's most of the day combined with a cloudless sky and sublime vistas typical of the Baker backcountry, it's days like these that rekindle my passion for backcountry snowboarding. We managed a couple nice sustained ~1000ft descents from our stopping point on Ptarmigan Ridge somewhere between Pt. 5626 and Coleman Pinnacle, and another mostly lower-angled descent down to the low basin just southeast of Table Mountain.

From there, we followed a skin track that we hoped would deliver us to the saddle high on Table Mountain which Scott and I were familiar with from previous tours in the area. Alas, the skin track instead headed towards Herman Saddle and steep, unconsolidated sugar snow over the aforementioned crust dissuaded us from attempting to traverse back over to our intended crossover point on Table Mountain. At this point, our return to the upper-lot turned into a race against the dying sun as we traversed above (Scott) and over (Sergio) Iceberg Lake, and made the final exhausting grunt back up to Herman Saddle. A quick descent on mostly tracked out, re-freezing slopes saw us to Bagley Lakes Basin, reaching the car shortly before full dark.

click here for photos.
(With "Pot'teryx")
    Table Mountain, February 2010 - report/photos (Heavy pow and fog)
    Watson's Traverse, May 2013 - report/photos (Coleman-Demming up, Park down)
    White Salmon Glacier, March 2010 - report/photos

White Salmon Glacier, March 2010

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 so-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!

click here for photos.
(Great snow, great day!)

    Canadian Rockies:
    Wapta Traverse, March 2006 - report/photos (Classic hut-to-hut ski traverse in Canadian Rockies)

    Crystal Backcountry:
    Crystal - Cayuse Pass loop, November 2009 - report/photos (Tired 70-lb dog carried out in backpack)
    Crystal - Cement Basin, December 2007 - report/photos

Crystal - Cement Basin, December 2007

I rendezvoused with fellow TAY splitters Eric (aka Snoslut), John (IAOFM), and skier Scott in Cement Basin for a day of blower pow and some unexpected blue skies in the morning. A warm-up run down the south-facing slope we had just ascended and three long descents into Cement Basin proper rounded out an excellent day of backcountry riding. Now only if it wasn't for that damn core shot suffered on the final descent back to the Bullion Basin highway. Someone got a tad bit greedy! Anyway, I'll let the pics do the rest of the talking...

click here for photos.
(Great snow, great day!)
    Crystal - Cement Basin, January 2010 - report/photos (She delivers once again!)
    Crystal - East Peak, December 2009 - report/photos (Mega POW!)
    Crystal - Southback, May 2009 - report/photos (Silver Basin extravaganza)
    Crystal - Union Creek/Bullion Basin, November 2009 - report/photos (With Agata)

    Enchantments and surroundings:
    Colchuk Glacier, May 2002 - report/photos

Colchuk Glacier, May 2002

Agata, Scott and I spent a soggy weekend at Colchuk Lake, hoping the weather would improve enough to permit a short climb on Witches Tower followed by ski/snowboard descents from both Aasgard Pass and Colchuk Glacier. The weather never improved and so our ambitious plans were quashed, save for one desperate push up to Colchuk Col by yours truly for a partial whiteout descent of the glacier. The descent to the lake involved everything from powder, to hard-packed and finally corn. We salvaged what was left of the weekend by climbing rock in Icicle Canyon.

click here for photos.
(A soggy weekend!)

    Goat Rocks:
    Curtis Gilbert Tour, Nov. 2004 - report/photos (Early season Goat Rocks tour)

    North Cascades:
    Bedal Peak, April 2006 - report/photos

Bedal Peak, April 2006

I originally intended not to post this TR, but I can't seem to help myself. In any case, though the ski descent proved to be a disappointment, the beautiful weather and views of peaks still firmly in the grip of Winter proved worthy of sharing. Not to mislead anyone - I'm sure the ski descent of Bedal's North Slope (as we'd intended) would be a fine outing. Certainly Paul Klenke's March '06 post on revealed the obvious ski-descent potential of the North Slope. As a matter of fact, Paul's vivid photos are what first lured me to attempt the peak.

Anyway, my powers of persuasion must be good, for I managed to convince Eric Houtkooper Jerry S. and Cosmo (Jerry's dog) into joining me. Approaching from north on the MLH, we took a left onto FR-4096 (not shown on the USGS map). Based on Paul's information, we stopped a few hundred yards before the second switchback where a boot path cuts left into the woods (c. 2,100 ft near Merry Brook). The path was promptly lost, after which an annoying ascending thrash-traverse was endured before encountering small boulder slopes in the forest and the first patches of snow. Turning uphill, we booted up the snowy forest to reach a minor ridge crest overlooking Nels Lake (which we never saw). Donning our skis here, we continued up along the ridge eventually reaching a small, but aesthetic basin with steep cliffs ringing its left side. Dropping left a bit off of the ridge, I continued into the basin and on up towards its apex. A short, but steep headwall of powder snow overlying frozen avalanche debris proved most annoying and exhausting to surmount, but we soon found ourselves at a saddle, high on Bedal's craggy Northwest Ridge. From the saddle, steep, exposed snow led right around a corner with a short but unappealing snow gully with rock constriction seemingly providing the only exit onto the North Slope above. was supposed to be much easier than this. Something wasn't quite right...

Stymied by the unexpected problem and with only one ice axe between the three of us, we were effectively stuffed. Also, without a leash to secure Cosmo, there was also no way to carry him or keep him from falling down towards Bedal Creek Valley should he lose his footing. Sure, all these factors weighed on me...and add to that the fact that we were clearly off-route and I had lost my motivation to continue. BBQ and beers were calling.

Traversing back left onto the ridge we followed earlier, we continued down through icy forest and descended a large clearing for several hundred feet before running out of snow. Soon finding the trail, we were able to follow it most of the way back to the Subi. So, where did we go wrong? Best guess is that we followed that forested ridge a bit too long and should have traversed left above Nels Lake much sooner.

click here for photos.
(Off route)
    Glacier Peak, Spring 1998 - report/photos (Sitkum Glacier)
    Hidden Lake Peaks, March 2005 - report/photos

Hidden Lake Peaks, March 2005

With Jerry reporting good snow conditions the week prior, Andy, Eric, Jerry and I set out on a futile search for some good two-week old powder on Hidden Lake Peak's East Slopes. Instead of powder, we enjoyed a nice breakable crust and flat light on what was to be the money descent of the tour. We did, however locate a short powder slope upon descent from the lookout. And speaking of the lookout - we would encounter local ski 'celebrities' Phil, Sky, Jason and Josh taking a nap inside. I think they had big plans to ski something gnarly in the Triad area the following day.

Needless to say, there's no shortage of ski terrain here and in the right conditions one could easily spend a couple days lapping various slopes to their heart's delight. The lookout makes for an obvious place to stay for the night, despite the obvious fact that it sits on the summit rather than convieniently down in one of the basins. I'd much rather finish my day with a ride down to the hut rather than a skin back up to it. Beggars can't be choosers as they say.

click here for photos.
(Lots of potential)
    Klawatti Icecap Traverse, April 2004 - report/photos (Eldorado to Tricouni Peak)
    North Twin Sister, April 2002 - report/photos

North Twin Sister, April 2002

For most of the winter I tried lobbying my climbing partners to agree to an early season ascent of North Twin Sister. Finally by mid April my persistence paid off and we now had a relatively large 8-person team. With the prospect of improving weather for the weekend, we assembled at Aaron's residence on Lake Whatcom and prepared for an early start that following morning.

After a tasty BBQ, numerous beers and limited sleep, we embarked for the trailhead. Finding the trailhead/road can be confusing, so I suggest informing yourself accordingly prior to any North Twin outing. All I know is that we drove through the town of Acme and at some point turned off (right) onto a dusty gravel road. We continued down that road (ignoring the immediate left turn) for several miles. At the next intersection we again took the right (down sloping) spur and drove a short distance to where the road is gated. It is probably best not to cross the bridge and continue driving due to the high probability of the gate being locked upon your return.

Definitely bring a bike for the approach on this one. I neglected to do so and was left to fend for myself with Aaron's old road bike. It was no simple task biking up the logging road and I basically resorted to walking the bike up most of the way. Everyone else seemed to think this was the funniest thing they had seen in a long time. I wasn't amused. We ended up biking for about a couple miles before reaching snow. After stashing our bikes, Jerry and I donned our AT gear and began skinning up the road while the others followed on snow shoes. We encountered two "obvious" spurs on our right as we made our way up the logging road. We turned onto the 2nd spur and endured a long trudge on the snow-covered road, frequently taking our skis off to pass through sections where the snow had melted out. Eventually the annoying alder patches, dirt and stream crossings gave way to an unobstructed track that switchbacked through a clear-cut. We took in our first good view of North Twin at a clearing and debated the conditions on both the West Ridge and North Slope routes.

We took a left at the only intersection and followed the road to a prominent ridge that's clearly an extension of the West Ridge proper. We turned off the road at this point and began ascending the ridge. We passed though some trees at the end of the clearcut and ascended the narrowing ridge just below the rocky West Ridge. The route appeared steep and exposed, but knowing that it's mostly a class 3 scramble with some short bits of class 4 was comforting. Besides, Aaron claims to have taken his dog up the route before. Eager to get some turns in the enticing looking snow to the left, Jerry skied down below the ridge into the basin and began ascending the North Slope. I decided to follow Jerry's lead. I eventually I joined Jerry on the summit ridge and debated the merits of pushing for the summit proper which appeared to be a short distance above us. My legs were cramping and without snowshoes I didn't have any interest in postholing the last bit to the summit. Screw it...let's ski!

Still a novice skier, I had some difficulty making it down the relatively steep slope in powder. I would attempt to turn and, in so doing, end up speeding uncontrollably down the hill until able to run out my speed by traversing across the slope. I fumbled my way down the slope, improving my technique with each turn until I was launched forward by an unusually heavy/sticky patch of snow. I lost a ski, broke a binding and found myself in a daze. Fortunately, nothing serious happened and I was able ski most of the way back down to the road and back to where we had stashed our bikes. Bill was gracious enough to ride the road bike back down and left me with a mountain bike. A fun climb with unique views and a great place to learn how to ski!

click here for photos.
(North Slope on skis)
    Mount Pilchuck, June 2011 - report/photos (Afternoon tour)
    Ruth Mountain, February 2003 - report/photos

Ruth Mountain, February 2003

I was in need of some good quality snow, better than that encountered on my recent descent from The Castle. I was to be pleasantly surprized. The snow was probably the best that I've ridden this season, and that home-made splitboard of mine really does work well. Like the previous outing on The Castle, Paul and I also welcomed the idea of visiting a corner of the Cascades where we had not yet ventured. For Jerry, on the other hand, this would be his fourth trip to Ruth Mountain. Thankfully, the weather proved to be remarkably sunny and calm and the views promised to be nothing short of spectacular. Be sure to bring lots of film, batteries, or a high capacity memory card when climbing Ruth Mountain!

We were able to drive within less than half a mile from the Hannegan Pass trailhead in a VW Golf--a testament to the unusual absence of snow in the lower elevations, courtesy of El Nino. Paul started out the approach on AT gear he had borrowed from me, while Jerry after some struggling with his Silvretta bindings, managed to damage them beyond repair and had to then resort to using snowshoes (which he never ended up wearing). Later, Paul generously offered the skis to Jerry as the absence of snow on the trail, particularly in the trees, made for tedious travel.

Jerry and I would take our skis on and off countless times to pass through bare spots in the trail. I eventually just carried mine by hand until I couldn't hold them any longer. We finally reached the open glades below Hannegan Pass where travel on skis was finally possible. At the pass, Paul took the snowshoes that Jerry had been carrying on his pack up until this point and decided that he would not continue with us to the summit of Ruth Mountain. The snow had become quite deep and travel without skis would be strenuous and time consuming. Instead, Paul opted to climb up to neighboring Hannegan Peak while Jerry and I began skinning up the steep slope above Hannegan Pass towards Ruth Mountain.

Jerry and I reached a saddle to the left of a craggy hump in the ridge extending from the Ruth Glacier. A short, sun-bathed descent took us to another saddle directly below the North Face of Ruth Mountain. Jerry shot ahead of me and made short work of the ascent of Ruth Glacier. Flailing some distance behind, I finally reached the a notch below the summit, put on my jacket and assembled my splitboard for the descent. I was snapping off photos at the notch, when Jerry skied back down to where I was and encouraged me to make the final steps to the summit. How could I refuse? Together, we postholed up the summit ridge to the true summit a short distance beyond.

The ride back down from the notch to the saddle was magic. After a short traverse back to the lower saddle, Jerry and I were rewarded with another nice descent to Hannegan Pass. Jerry and I re-joined Paul back at Hannegan Pass and together we hiked the remaining four or five miles back to the trailhead. We easily found our way back to the car by moonlight, spirits refreshed by wicked good turns and first-class summit views. I'll be back for sure.

click here for photos.
(Perfect timing)
    Mount Watson, November 2005 - report/photos

Mount Watson, November 2005

With a pronounced temperature inversion, leaving the low-lands cold and foggy while the mountains basked in sunshine and 10k-ft freezing levels, Andy, Tod, James, Paul and myself embarked on a futile mission to bag and ski/board down from the summit of Bacon Peak. In the end, the short November days and a nasty ice-crust on all slope aspects except those directly exposed to the full intensity of the sun, left us high and dry of our objective and searching for ways to salvage the trip. While Paul the peak-bagger went and tagged the summit of East Watson via the West Route (steep snow to 50 degrees), Andy and James scoped the sunny south slopes of Watson for yo-yo possibilities. Tod and I, on the otherhand, still processing the reality of not making Bacon on this trip, simply picked our noses and watched Paul's ascent from a rock outcrop on the glacier below the slabby north side of the Watson Massif...that is until we discovered the goods that Andy and James sniffed out!

Anyway - a tip regarding the approach: rather than follow the standard summer trailhead, it is much easier to continue on the logging road as it curves to the left, reaching a large clearing. Continue past the clearing a short distance, and look for a large, open, gladed slope at right (there will likely be snowmobile tracks). Skin up this slope to it's top, and descend a narrow forested gully-like feature to a small basin west of Anderson Butte. From the small basin we continued southeast through a small saddle and stayed right, eventually gaining a timbered ridge leading us toward upper-Anderson Lakes. We continued upwards from Anderson Lakes and made camp at a small lake at 5,300 ft.

While Bacon was a bust, skiing/boarding the mush on south-facing slopes of Watson was a hoot. We enjoyed three laps on this slope, with liberal applications of Zardoz© enabling a continued enjoyable and not-so-sticky descent well into the basin below. Ok, now THAT was worth it!

At the end of the day, we enjoyed one final descent back down to Anderson Lakes proper and skinned and skied back down to James' truck. Yes, knowing how to snow-plow down fast logging roads with the skin-less splitboard halfs is an aquired skill, with myself crossing the finish-line in dead last. Phew!

click here for photos.
(Intended to ski Bacon Peak)

    California, Oregon and Southwest WA Cascades:
    Mount Adams, July 2010 - report/photos (Southwest Chutes)
    Mount Hood, March 2002 - report/photos (Palmer Glacier)
    Lassen Peak, June 2010 - report/photos (North Face)
    Middle Sister, June 2008 - report/photos

Middle Sister, June 2008

It's been several years since Aaron and I last saw each other, let alone climbed together. A lot has changed since our Mt. Buckner climb back in 2002, but at my suggestion to climb and ski the Three Sisters, Aaron was still his usual self - always up for a challenge, no matter how ambitious. With an invitation to stay at his house in Bend, I loaded up the car and left Seattle at noon on an overcast Friday. An interminable drive south to Portland, then along hwy26 through Gresham and Government Camp finally reaching hwy97 for the final leg to Bend, saw me at Aaron and Amy's doorstep a fair bit later than I had hoped (97 via I90 appears to be the better way to go).

We caught up on old times for a bit before us both driving over towards the Mt. Bachelor ski area to drop a car (the highway was still unplowed and gated shortly after the ski area). With an approach via Pole Creek, our itinerary for the next few days called for bagging the Ugly (North) and Middle Sister the first day, then camping in the large basin between the Middle and the Big (South) Sisters and finishing up on the South and reaching the car parked near Mt. Bachelor on the following day. I would also have to drive back home on this day. After some careful scrutiny of the mileage and time we had available, however we opted to omit the more technical North Sister and thereby save ourselves from having to schlep the requisite technical gear up and over the remaining peaks.

Well, it was a good plan, despite the fact that we really needed an additional day to realistically pull it off. I also wasn't too hot on making the 5+-hour drive back home thoroughly trashed, dehydrated and sleepy. In the end, a combination of exhaustion (courtesy of the long drive the day before), laborious travel in deep snow, heavy packs (we carried our skis for much of the way onto the Hayden Glacier), and the overbearing heat did us in. I took one look from the summit of the Middle, beyond the South towards Mt. Bachelor near where we stashed the car waaaaay off in the distance, and decided then and there that there was absolutely no way I was going to make it that far the next day, and then drive back to Seattle to boot.

An unexpectedly nice and long ski/snowboard descent off of the southwest/south slopes of the Middle saw us to a picturesque basin where we intended to make camp. It was shortly before 3pm and we debated briefly whether or not we had time to still tag the South and make it back to camp. "With fresh legs and firm snow perhaps", we concluded, but neither of us felt particularly exited about having to down-climb the Prouty Glacier hourglass or North Ridge in the dark and in the state we were in. We of course could just 'run up' the peak first thing in the morning, but I was feeling decidedly weak that weekend and didn't want to add that on top of the drive for the next day. Then Aaron suggested, There's still time to get dinner and beer. And with that, we packed up our gear and high-tailed back towards the lower moraine of the Hayden Glacier, eventually picking up the Chambers Lakes Trail for a longer than expected slog back to the Pole Creek Trailhead.

I slept like I hadn't slept in weeks that night. Late the next morning, Aaron and retrieved the car left near Mt. Bachelor the previous day, and then proceeded north to Terrebone to check out Smith Rock State Park. Aaron gave me a brief tour and we managed a couple routes before fatigue from the day before and the heat sapped our motivation for any further physical activity. With plans for future climbs together, we parted ways and I got to the tedious task of driving back home.

One down, two to go...and to those of you who seek steeper, more aggressive ski lines, might I suggest the Thayer Glacier Headwall on the North Sister or the Diller Glacier Headwall on the Middle Sister? If it wasn't for the overnight gear I needlessly carried around that day, I'd probably have dropped-in on the latter myself.

click here for photos.
(Up North Ridge, down South Side)
    Mount Saint Helens, May 2001 - report/photos (Monitor Ridge)
    Mount Shasta, June 2010 - report/photos (Avalanche Gulch)
    South Sister, June 2010 - report/photos (South Side)

    Rainier (Mount):
    "Cow-Qually" to bridge, May 2011 -
report/photos (~7000-ft descent!)
    "Cow-Qually" (no bridge), May 2015 - report/photos (BIG slough slides!)
    Fuhrer Finger, May 2009 - report/photos (Ripper corn!)
    Gibraltar Chute, June 2011 - report/photos (Via DC!)
    Interglacier, June 2008 - report/photos

Interglacier, June 2008

"Juneuary" they're calling this unseasonably wintry weather we're having this late spring. Indeed, it must be extremely rare to find over a foot of fresh powder snow on the Interglacier in June. Sure, one could always snowmobile into Glacier Basin in the winter and establish camp for the weekend and hopefully find the Interglacier in stable conditions, but to nail such conditions right after the White River Road has opened is remarkable. Perhaps what's more remarkable was the weather we encountered on this fine day. With only Mt. Baker, Little Tahoma and presumably Mount Adams to the south also poking above the sea of clouds, the forecast was actually accurate for a change; it was indeed cloudy and rainy below the cloud deck. We here in the PNW are very fortunate to have a mountain like Mt. Rainier to play on, as it affords us the opportunity to get up above the weather. And what a burly mountain it is…

Speaking of, I noticed an interesting phenomenon - it almost seems as if the Emmons Glacier itself is significant enough to create its own microclimate. While thick cloud cover hung over the entire Puget Sound Basin and Cascade Range, and surrounded Mount Rainier on all sides to about the 7000-ft level, a portion of the valley draining the Emmons was free of clouds oddly enough. It's almost as if an unseen current was flowing down the glacier and pushed the clouds back a couple miles from the glacier's toe. Whatever the cause, this effect gave us the illusion that it was a sunny day above 5500-ft, until of course we got high enough to see the clouds everywhere else. It was probably the only 'sucker hole' in Western Washington that day!

Anyway, Eric, Rob, Preston and I were the first on the Interglacier that morning, passing several parties that had camped at Glacier Basin the night before. It became increasingly gusty the higher we toured up the glacier, but we topped out on Steamboat Prow in good time. We reveled in our good luck with the weather and snow conditions, at times being downright goofy (was it the altitude ~9600ft?), before gearing up for a descent we knew would be, um…dare I say epic? Well, it could certainly be considered Epic for June 7.

Wind-scoured slopes near the top quickly gave way to nice wind-deposited powder for most of the 3600-ft descent, save for the final pitch into Glacier Basin itself, which had already started to glop-up. I was briefly tempted to skin back up for another lap, but instead opted to end it on a celebratory note and make it back to the beer sooner rather than later. A massive lenticular 'hat' engulfed Rainier's summit as were hiking out. I took one last look back before entering the forest and tipped my hat back at the mountain. Thank you Sir Rainier! Till we meet again...

click here for photos.
("Juneuary" pow!)
    Little Tahoma, June 2008 - report/photos

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!

click here for photos.
(Turned-around on Whitman Glacier)
    Little Tahoma, June 2011 - report/photos (Climb in sun, ride in fog)
    Mazama Ridge, February 2005 - report/photos

Mazama Ridge, February 2005

Eric Hoffman, Eric Houtkooper, Jim (last name?), Agata and I teamed up for a short tour up Edith Creek and Mazama Ridge. It was my first time touring somewhere other than the Muir Snowfield on Mount Rainier and it was good having both Erics along to show me around. The snow conditions were great, but I found the runs a bit tame and somewhat short for my taste.

Good times were had nonetheless and the views towards the Tatoosh Range and of course The Mountain were stellar. Agata got some more touring experience under her belt, I got to see a side of the mountain I'd not visited before and we all got fresh turns in. No complaints!

click here for photos.
(Paradise area touring)
    Muir Snowfield, February 2002 - report/photos

Muir Snowfield, February 2002

I met Scott, Alison and Ryan at the Houghton (Kirkland) Park 'N Ride and together we set off for Mt. Rainier. Upon reaching Paradise, a stiff 40mph wind was blowing. We were not to be deterred and headed for Panorama Point, myself on skins (first time w/ split) and Scott, Alison and Ryan on snowshoes. The wind was fiercest at the top of Panorama Point and the slope quickly turned to wind-blown ice. Traversing the slope with the wide splitboard skis was becoming impossible and I had to borrow Scott's crampons at the most inopportune moment. I eventually reached the Muir Snowfield and put the skis back on. We gained about another thousand feet before the wind stopped blowing. Ryan, was way ahead of us at this point.

We continued on for some distance before Scott, Alison and I stopped at around 9,000 ft; it was nearing 4:00pm and the remaining 1,400 ft to Camp Muir appeared to be more ice than powder. Ryan pressed on and we decided to wait for him to return before starting our descent. The ride down involved mostly 3 - 4 inches of dry powder over wind-blown crust...with the occasional hidden band of ice strategicaly located so as to inflict maximum pain. Soon we were back in the wind-zone, and the powder gave way to glistening slopes of ice. We traversed carefully back over to Panorama Point and made a few nice turns in the wind-deposited powder in the lower bowl. All in all, the splitboard performed quite well and I was impressed with the way it rode.

click here for photos.
(High winds at Panorama Point)
    Muir Snowfield, November 2007 - report/photos ("Muir on Saturday")
    Nisqually Chutes, December 2004 - report/photos

Nisqually Chutes, December 2004

With minimal snow coverage in all areas except the high slopes of the Cascade Volcanoes, the time seemed ripe for yet another tour up the Muir Snowfield. This time, however, we weren't settling for something as tired (for us) as a ski down from Camp Muir. Oh no...we had something far more grandiose in mind! That's right, we'd ski the Nisqually Chutes instead! Yeehaww!

With much effort I was able to skin up that notorious Pan. Pt. slope for a change, though booting or snowshoeing still seems to be the more efficient mode of transport. In the end, I was left to enjoy (endure?) the chutes on my own. Johnny, Rob and Scott opted out on account of the steepness, ice and not-so-corny corn. Can't say I blame those...uhh...wussies...heh heh. What I had hoped was buttery corn ended up being about an inch of corn over ice...on a 40 degree-ish slope no less. Too late to turn back. Enjoy the ride! Deliberate jump turns saw me safely down the steeper upper-portion. It was difficult maintaining my heelside edge on the ice and several slip-outs and subsequent ass-plants were the order of the day. Definitely not one of my finest performances! I followed pre-existing tracks down along the left edge of the obvious lateral moraine and followed a short skin track back up to the flats below Panorama Point. Anyway, now having boarded 'the chutes' I think this tour is better left for the Spring when one can ski creamed corn all the way down to the bridge...though, adequate snow coverage down that low seems to be in short supply these days. Ain't Global Warming a bitch!

click here for photos.
    Nisqually Chutes, June 2008 - report/photos (with Scott)
    Nisqually Chutes, April 2010 - report/photos (with Agata)
    Paradise Glacier, February 2010 - report/photos (With Eric)
    Tatoosh freshiez, November 2003 - report/photos

Tatoosh freshiez, November 2003

After the survival skiing/boarding we endured the previous weekend on Mount Baker's Heliotrope Ridge, we hoped for better snow conditions in the Tatoosh Range. We would not be disappointed. Agata and I were joined by Jerry and Susan, and while Andy was also with us on the drive to the trailhead, we failed to realize that dogs are not allowed within the National Park (or at least anywhere other than the parking area) and so he had to hang back and baby sit his dog for the day while the rest of us played in the snow.

From where we parked, we followed a skin track into the trees, whereupon we encountered a bomb-proof ice crust covered with dry and unconsolidated powder = no traction whatsoever. Much flailing eventually saw us to Stevens Canyon Road. The short skin from to the Pinnacle Lakes Trailhead took us no time and before we knew it, we were skining up beneath Castle Saddle. Following our up-tracks, we skied down from the saddle. Some exposed rocks near the saddle and poor visibility made for careful going. We then traversed right for a nice run down into a powder-filled bowl. Not bad for November..not bad at all!

click hered for photos.
(No dogs allowed!)
    Turtle Snowfield, May 2012 - report/photos (Race against the weather)
    Van Trump Park, December 2005 - report/photos

Van Trump Park, December 2005

After another round of winter storms following the previous spell of high pressure, we found ourselves once again faced with more stagant air warnings thanks to the inversion. While the aforementioned storms deposited feet of fresh up high (with a few inches accumulating down as low as sea level), making for some sick pow riding - paticularly at Crystal Mountain, the week of sun and wind had had it's way with the freshiez. Determined to make the most of this rare window of nice December weather, Andy, Scott, Jerry, Eric (aka Snowslut), Rob and I decided to explore Mount Rainier's Van Trump Park in search of south-facing mush, corn...or dare I even say it, powder!

A skin issue slowed me down considerably while still in the trees, and gloppy snow made for laborious travel once out in the open (I had hoped to reach 8000 or 9000 feet). I descended boarder's right from the 7000-ft knob into a drainage and found nice week-old powder on sheltered north-facing slopes. A short bit of boot packing saw me back to our skin track and the remaining ride back down through Van Trump Park proper. It was a race against the setting sun and crusting snow on the way out, but we rode the mank most of the way back to the cars with only short stretches of bootpacking and lumberjacking and with all of us sporting a strong finish for that final turn above the parking lot!

click here for photos.
(Skin issues)
    Wilson Glacier, April 2009 - report/photos (Fuhrer Finger attempt)

    Snoqualmie Pass/I90:
    Bryant Coulior, May 2010 - report/photo (Sloppy!)
    Mount Catherine, April 2003 - report/photos

Mount Catherine, April 2003

So, once again, Paul and I hatched plans for a ski/board tour up some peak in the Snoqualmie Pass area. We finally settled on climbing Lundin Peak after I failed to convince him to do Red Mountain instead (Paul rarely repeats climbs). Time permitting, however, Paul did agree to climb and ski Red Mountain after descending from the summit of Lundin Peak.

Anyway, Scott finally decided to grace us with his presence on this particular outing. After meeting and shuttling gear into my car at the Issaquah Park-n-Ride, the three of us were on our way up to The Pass. The poor visibility and pounding snowfall up at The Pass did little to motivate us to get out of the car. After some confusion in locating a public toilet and hesitation with where to park, we finally got all our gear together and began walking towards Alpental. No more than maybe ten yards from the car, I turned around and looking at Paul and Scott asked if they still felt like climbing Lundin Peak. A somewhat unenthusiastic "yeah" was the answer. Given the conditions, I knew we wouldn't reach the summit and though avalanche conditions were reportedly moderate, I didn't feel too comfortable hiking though the Commonwealth Basin en route to Lundin Peak with all the new snow that had accumulated. As an alternative, I suggested skiing/boarding Mount Catherine. Both Paul and Scott seemed interested. Armed with an objective we were all comfortable with, we piled back into my car and drove over to the Mount Hyak Ski Area.

With only some vague idea of where to park and begin the ascent to the base of Mount Catherine, we motored around the chalet community until we found a spot where we could park. I had no guarantees that my car would be there where I left it upon our return, but I conveniently parked directly off the main Hyak ski run (now closed for the season) about 300ft up from where the lifts start. Paul started trudging up the ski run on foot and with skis on his back (I forgot to bring skins for him) while Scott and I ascended the run on skis. Visibility was limited and it was flurrying; and yet, it wasn't exactly cold. We were thoroughly sweat-soaked by the time we reached the top of the ski run. We stopped for a rest there and had a bite to eat.

We skied an access road down the back-side of the Mount Hyak ski area and weaved through re-growth beneath an ancient and now unused (?) chair lift until we reached a stream crossing. After the creek we gained a logging road which turns out to be part of a network of roads popular among cross-country skiers. We turned right and followed the road for a few hunded yards before veering left up a sparsely timbered slope. We reached the shelter of the forest and stopped for another, longer break. The snow in the trees on this side of Mount Catherine was steeper and firmer and we decided to boot it from this point on. We alternated leads through the forest, kicking steps through increasingly deeper, drier, more sugary snow over terrain that started out quite gentle and steepened considerably near the summit ridge. I dropped in first from the summit and intentionally swung wide across the inital slope, cutting back hard and aiming for the trees, to avoid the large, dry slough that had released. This happened twice to me, but was no cause for concern. The snow conditions weren't particularly life threatening and I knew that once in the trees proper, the snow would stay put. Glades, gullies, tight lines between trees; Mount Catherine has some really fun and protected terrain that makes it a wise choice when avi conditions are too risky elsewhere.

On our return, we stayed on the road, crossed the stream by the bridge and made it back up to the Hyak ski area in no time at all. The freshiez that had accumulated on the ski run leading back down to where we had parked was an unexpected but pleasant grand finale to an already very enjoyable day of backcountry skiing/boarding. Best of all, my car was still there where I left it!

click here for photos.
(In lieu of Lundin Peak)
    Chair Peak, May 2009 - report/photos (North Slope only)
    Chair Peak circumnavigation, May 2010 - report/photos (Solo)
    Mount Daniel, June 2013 - report/photos (Lynch Glacier touring)
    Granite West, February 2006 - 1 photo (Quick and dirty)
    Humpback Mountain, April 2006 - report/photos

Humpback Mountain, April 2006

Going off of a tip from Eric, who had done this tour a week or two prior, I decided to explore Humpback Mountain's West Slope. Plainly visible from I-90, the West Slope reportedly delivered over 1500ft of easily accessed skiable vertical, requiring only a casual four hours round-trip. A perfect 'dawn-patrol' outing, or in my case, a quick fix before catching the Mariners - Angels game later that afternoon, it's suprising that this tour doesn't get more attention than it does.

After parking the car, I booted up the road for about a quarter mile before continuing on skis. Continue past two switchbacks (staying on main road). At the third switchback/fork, take the left fork and continue upwards on a spur road - it leads to a clearing directly beneath the West Slope. I ascended the West Slope directly to the summit. Returning from the summit, I enjoyed sun-ripened corn all the way down the West Slope and then down the snow-covered logging road, stopping within sight of my car. Definitely recommended!

click here for photos.
    Kendall Peak touring, February 2013 - report/photos (Left Twin and more!)
    Silver Peak - West Face/North Slope, Feb. 2008 - report/photos

Silver Peak - West Face/North Slope, Feb. 23

"My goddam toes are going to be beat to a pulp after this garbage" I bitched to Andy. Why I didn't listen to my own advice and bring a pair of crampons I don't know. Above me, Andy was making steady, toe-friendly progress cramponing up the frozen West Face. What was I doing here? The tips of my well-worn modified PMBs were barely breaking the surface after repeated kicks, my feeble aluminum axe good for little more than balance. I needed to escape to softer snow.

Across the valley, the east slopes of Humpback Mountain were literally baking in the late morning sun. For sure there was soft snow to be found there; dangerously soft snow as evidenced by the numerous slide paths we had traversed over while skinning up the valley earlier in the morning. I would have happily traded that soft, and potentially unstable snow for deliverance from the pain and suffering. I kicked a couple more steps, grimaced and stopped for another rest. Glancing down into the crater-like Lake Annette, my eyes were drawn up towards the long ridge extending northward from Abiel Peak. Somewhere along that ridge was the summit of Humpback Mountain; the very summit from which I first spied today's enterprise - West Face of Silver Peak.

Ducking into a thin ribbon of trees near the left edge of the West Face, my prayers were finally answered with boot to knee-deep powder. It was an exhausting work, but I finally reached Andy waiting for me on the north shoulder of Silver Peak. We dropped our gear and scrambled the ridge to tag the summit. From its southern vantage point, Silver offers a unique perspective on the Snoqualmie Pass area peaks - similar, but better than the view from Humpback in my opinion.

The snow on the north side of Silver seemed far more amenable to skiing than the West Face we had just ascended. Dare I say it even looked powdery...two-week old powder to be exact? The West Face would offer a longer, steeper descent, but would it ever corn-up in time? As if to help with our decision, the solo party ahead of us suddenly appeared from behind the summit rocks and began to ski, or should I say scrape, back down the face. The sound alone was painful to hear.

After a quick, and ultimately ill-advised decision, based solely on distant visual inspection, we figured we'd easily be able to loop back to our starting point from somewhere below Olallie Meadow. Having recently abandoned his knuckle-dragging ways, Andy dropped-in first. I followed shortly thereafter, and together we leap-frogged the upper-bowl, rollers, trees and eventually the low angle meadow crisscrossed by skate skiing tracks. We encountered a few inches of light pow over a firm, but smooth base up high, corn and a finally a light crust with occasional pockets of dust. Andy wasn't too hot about the crusty snow near the bottom, but all in all I found it to be an enjoyably casual descent.

Following a skate track to where it crosses a power line swath, which we hoped would guide us back towards the Lake Annette Trailhead, I was taken aback by how far away we still were from where we wanted to be. Re-growth choked the swath below us and I knew we had at least one steep-sided and potentially troublesome creek to cross. I called up to a party of snowshoers taking photos overlooking I-90 and the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley from where the swath crosses the skate track and asked if they minded giving us a ride back to where we were parked. They agreed and together we made our way along the track back to the hilltop above The Summit's Silver Fir chair. We finished the day by skiing a Silver Fir piste and then waited a few minutes for our ride to arrive. Thanks!

Back at the car, we had just finished changing into dry clothes and were moments away from driving off, when suddenly a party of two on snowshoes hiking out from Lake Annette flagged us down. One of the guys produced a shovel handle from his pack and asked if it was ours. Indeed, I had apparently lost my shovel handle somewhere below the West Face! This was great news, good karma...a good day made even better! Almost good enough to forget about my throbbing toes.

click here for photos.
(Up West Face, down North Slope)
    Snoqualmie Mountain (Slot Couloir), May 2002 - report/photos

Snoqualmie Mountain (Slot Couloir), May 2002

I had been mulling over a snowboard descent of the Slot Couloir (referred to by some as the Enigma Gully) on Snoqualmie Mountain all winter long. For some reason or another those plans never materialized and when I finally found myself with a sunny Saturday in early May to burn I knew what I had to do. Scott was planning a ski trip on St. Helens and Andy had other plans, so it looked like it would be a solo excursion. Somewhat apprehensive about dropping the Couloir solo, I told myself that I would climb Snoqualmie, take a look at the Couloir and depending on how I felt about the whole affair, make the executive decision. The slopes leading down the Southeast Face to the Alpental parking area would offer sufficient entertainment should I decide to pass on the Couloir.

I parked across the street from the Sahale Ski Club and snowshoed along side the kiddie ski-lift. I passed below Guye Peak on the right towards Commonwealth Basin and turned left uphill and proceeded up an obvious gully which lead to a bench above Guye Peak on it's western-facing side. I made a short descent to the base of Snoqualmie Mountain's East Ridge and snowshoed through steep and deep snow until the grade mellowed. I looked back over the corniced ridge and had sweeping views of the entire Snoqualmie Pass area.

I descended from the summit and began poking around for the entrance to the Slot Couloir. When I finally located it, it didn't appear as radical as I had envisioned it in my mind. There was maybe a short section of 50 degree wind-blown snow up top while the remainder of the Couloir averaged about 40 degrees. I dropped in and made a few cautious turns to check for snow stability. Verdict: stable. The snow had begun to corn up and so the turns were quite enjoyable. I noticed a few small glide cracks that spanned the Couloir, but nothing major. The snow on the avalanche fan below the Couloir was unfortunately still rock hard and I traversed hard to my left towards the sun-filled basin and hopefully softer snow. Once in the basin, I converted back to snowshoe mode and made my way up to a small col next to Snoqualmie Mountain. The massive cornices looming above were being beaten on by the intense sunshine and so I made haste getting out of the basin. Once at the col, the board went back under my feet and I had more enjoyable turns back down to the Alpental parking area. I bummed a ride back to my car and called it a day after only five hours car-to-car. Can't wait to go back and get the Crooked Couloir next!

Click here for photos.
("Enigma Gully")
    Snoqualmie Mountain (Crooked Coulior/S. Face), Mar. 2003 - report/photos

Snoqualmie Mountain (Crooked Coulior/S. Face), Mar. 2003

I had to work late on Friday and I didn't want to wake up too early Saturday morning. Paul also welcomed the prospect of a few extra hours of sleep. So back up to Snoqualmie Pass we went. Our objective - a tour up to Snoqualmie Mountain's East Snow Dome, with a ski/board descent down the Crooked Couloir.

We parked at the lower Alpental parking lot, crossed the street, and began skinning clumsily up towards Cave Ridge. The snow conditions down low were such that it was easier to boot it up rather than use our skis. Paul kicked steps through the surface crust while I cautiously followed his tracks with my boarding boots on. After lots of sweating and slipping (for me), we finally reached the ridge crest. Stopping briefly for a snack in the basin below Snoqualmie's South Face, we looked forward to finally have our skis back on our feet for the remaining ascent to the East Snow Dome (referred to hereafter as ESD). Snow conditions on the ridge once again forced us to take our skis off. Paul and I would carry our skis for the remainder of our climb to the ESD summit. So much for an easy tour. This was grunt work!

Some more step kicking along the corniced summit ridge brought us to the Crooked Couloir's entrance. While I stayed behind to assess snow stability in the couloir, Paul traversed the southern slopes of Snoqualmie Mountain for a quick jaunt to the true summit. After Paul returned to where I was, I informed him of my intentions to drop into the bowl. I wanted to ride down part-way, in order to get some sense of the snow coverage in the lower half of the couloir. Neither of us were particularly interested in committing ourselves to a rappel over bare cliffs should snow coverage be inadequate.

I dropped in and to my dismay learned that what appeared to be soft powder was in fact a solid and unbreakable ice crust. I rode down to the lip, visible at bottom of the bowl, and stopped for a look down the couloir. I found many trees still protruding from the little bit of patchy snow deposited in the lower couloir. It wasn't worth the effort and expressed this sentiment by yelling " f'ing sucks" back up to Paul. I unstrapped my bindings and booted it back up to the ridge where Paul was awaiting details of my verdict.

We roughly followed our line of ascent (staying south of the ridge) on our ski/board back down to Cave Ridge. The few sun-exposed slopes that hadn't yet already sloughed off offered up some enjoyable turns in spring-like corn. The shady slopes, however, yielded the usual breakable-crust-over-mush that has sadly become the backcountry norm this season. In Paul's words..."This is the worst f'ing snow I've ever skied!!". Actually, it really wasn't all THAT bad...well, on a board anyway. We kept our snow-sliding implements on our feet for the clumsy tree-choked descent from Cave Ridge. I'll be back one day for the Crooked!

Click here for photos.
(Not enough snow!)
    Snoqualmie Mountain (Slot & Phantom), Apr. 2008 - report/photos (All time pow!)
    Snoqualmie Mountain (Slot & Phantom), Feb. 2008 - report/photos

Snoqualmie Mountain (Slot & Phantom), Feb. 2008

After a bout of rain and high freezing levels and then a good dose of sunshine, I was overjoyed at having sniffed-out some unexpected pow on shaded north-aspects in the Alpy b/c on Sunday, Feb. 17. Well, at least up high - the lower slopes sported that skied-out, re-frozen Sno-Crummy mank we've all come to hate. Nevertheless, I felt optimistic about the snow conditions on the north side of Snoqualmie Mountain and recruited Eli and Eric Henry into joining me on a President's Day ski/split descent of the Slot Couloir. I had last ridden this line back in 2002, and felt a return visit was overdue. Besides, with all the pass closures, courtesy of the record snow that has fallen primarily in the Stevens-Snoqualmie convergence zone during the past month, I do not see the point in driving any further for turns just yet.

Anyway, parking at the small parking pullout across from the Sessel Chair, Eli, Eric and I scampered up the snow bank and proceeded to skin towards the falls area beneath the Phantom Descent slope. We entered steep forest left of the falls and booted-up before re-skinning just above the falls. Following a still somewhat frozen skin track up the Phantom (ski crampons really helped) we navigated our way towards the Slot's entrance in good time and stopped for a bite and to assess the conditions.

Steep, bulletproof ice was the word, confirmed after observing both Eli and Eric nervously sidesliped down towards where the couloir doglegs to the left. Citing these less than ideal conditions, I passed and decided to simply ride back down to the saddle above the Phantom where my partners would again rendezvous with me on their way back from Snoqualmie's north basin. At the saddle, I met a party who had skied the Slot just before Eli and Eric; they were grinning from ear-to-ear, despite the icy snow conditions. Like me, however the party behind us decided to pass as well…YMMV I guess.

I lounged in the sun for a half-hour or so before being joined again by Eli and Eric. They confirmed what I had suspected - the rest of the descent was almost as icy and wind packed as it was up top, with the best turns being on the sunny apron below. By now the sun had turned the snow on the Phantom to perfect corn and we each savored the soft spring conditions, proceeding directly down the snow-choked falls for an easier-than-expected finish.

Click here for photos.
(Ice and corn on same day)
    Snow/Source Lake touring, April 2008 - report/photos

Snow/Source Lake touring, April 2008

"We should have gotten an earlier start, eh?" "Yeh, it's only 9am and only going to get hotter" was Eric Henry's reply after witnessing a sluff slide spontaneously release down the lower flanks of Bryant Coulior. We were only halfway up Chair Peak Basin, when our ambitious plans to ski the North Slope of Chair Peak were dashed in the name of playing it safe. Ok, now for plan 'b'.

We traversed over to the saddle on the Snow Lake Divide, and finding good powder snow there, made a fun but short descent to Snow Lake. Soon we were skinning up the edge of the frozen lake, ogling at familiar peaks blanketed in such obscene quantities of snow, that they looked completely unfamiliar to me. The feeling of isolation and remoteness here belies Snow Lake's relative proximity to Alpental, which itself is barely an hour's drive from Seattle. A veritable winter playground indeed!

Nearing the far side of the lake, Eric spotted a party of four perched on a bench beneath Mount Roosevelt. Moments later, we would see them exiting a hidden gully as they skied down to the lake. We chatted briefly and determined that they had in fact skied the North Slope of Chair Peak a few hours earlier. They reported having triggered a moderately sized wind slab somewhere high up on the slope, but managed to ski out of it without loss of life or limb. Hmm... We wished each other well and parted ways, with the foursome returning along Snow Lake back towards the divide.

With the mystery of the North Slope exit ramp through cliff bands above Snow Lake now revealed (we noticed a few other, less obvious options as well), Eric and I decided to skin up the route some distance to 'check it out'. We made it about halfway between the lake and Chair's North Face before heavy powder overlying lighter sugar snow, and continuous sluffing all around suggested to us that we may be in over our heads. We wasted no time in ripping our skins off and proceeded to ski/ride back down to the lake. After a lunch break, Eric and I retraced our skin track back across the lake and in search of shaded, north-facing powder. We skinned up to a minor point on Snoqualmie Mountain's West Ridge, overlooking the South Fork Snoqualmie River with Alpental ski area just beyond. We enjoyed another nice, albeit somewhat short descent, stopping somewhere above the lake. I wanted to wrap up the day with a final run down from Pineapple Pass, and so we skinned back up to the divide saddle and skied back down to Source Lake. An interminable slog through heavy mashed potatoes saw us to Great Scott Bowl, where the inviting slope beneath the pass beckoned me to hurry up before the snow began to refreeze in the growing late-afternoon shadows.

As promised, nice turns down from Pineapple Pass into Great Scott Bowl were had, that is until the final bumped-out, sticky porridge shot through the trees. What a workout it is to ride through that stuff! Made it back to the upper-lot shortly thereafter to witness a tailgate party atmosphere of beers, bbq's and bong-tokes in full swing!

Click here for photos.
(Sluff slides!)

    Stevens Pass/Highway 2:
    Big Chiwaukum, Feb. 2005 - report/photos

Big Chiwaukum, Feb. 2005

Determined to ski Big Chiwaukum's West Slope, I duped myself (and Eric) into thinking there'd be enough snow out there this winter for a nice long descent from the summit. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, Eric and I actually hiked overnight gear several miles up the trail before making camp for the night and continuing on the following morning. We found the approach a bit long for relatively little skiing.

Though we managed to ski some enjoyable hoar frost powder on low-angle slopes beneath Big Chiwaukum, the steeper lines for which this tour is apparently known for lacked adequate coverage to be skied. Looking back, I'm not sure that I even converted my split into 'ride mode' and just farted around on skis the entire time instead.

Click here for photos.
(West-side touring)
    Jim Hill, January 2007 - report/photos

Jim Hill, 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!

Click here for photos.
    Jove Peak, March 2006 - report/photos

Jove Peak, March 2006

It's been a winter of chair lifts and exploration of lift-accessed backcountry for me...which explains the dearth of b/c reports this season. What can I say? With conditions quite unlike what we've endured for the previous two or three seasons, and with Larry Shick's unrelenting barrage of "Powder Alerts", I find myself inexplicably drawn to those wallet-draining slopes in the "north/southback". Play now, pay later...yeah!

Um...anyway, after having discussed doing this tour for what seems like months, Jerry, Eric, Jay, myself and Jerry's dog, Cosmo finally got it together and dragged ourselves up Jove's snowy slopes. The forecast called for mostly cloudy skies, and though it certainly seemed that way on the drive over Stevens Pass, we were treated to partly cloudy skies with a good dose of blue poking through for most of the day. Without clouds to obscure the sun's rays, she definitely burns hot this time of year...Spring is fast approaching!

With serious sun exposure on the South Slope and potential wet slab action, we elected to ski/board dry powder on the protected Northwest Slope. We could see tracks, presumably from the day before, descending the minor rib on the left-side of the South Slope...they looked nice! Our north-side descent brought us to Lake Janus, where we skinned-up again and proceeded to make our way around the toe of Union Peak's North Ridge. Continuing up a drainage south of Union Peak, we reached Union Gap and then descended back into upper Smith Brook basin. When doing this, I'd suggest staying in trees at skier's right to avoid traversing a large south-facing avalanche slope. I felt/heard a wet slab settle as I tried skinning across that slope (a 160-pound Eric ski-cut the slope above me without consequences), and immediately turned around and tip-toed back to the relative security of the treed slope from where I came. A quick, icy 'ski' saw us back to HWY2 and the cars (~8hrs round-trip). All-in-all, a fun loop-tour with interesting terrain, nice vistas and great snow...and a welcome change from those annoying lift lines!

Click here for photos.
(Fun loop tour)
    Lichtenberg Mountain, May 2010 - report/photos (Poor visibility)
    Moonlight Bowl, April 2007 - report/photos

Moonlight Bowl, April 2007

Seeking some redemption for our mediocre attempt at skiing Kaleetan Peak earlier this year (horrible snow conditions and deteriorating weather conspired against us), Brian Merkley and I decided to explore the slopes around Stevens Pass. With the recent onslaught of bluebird powder-day reports and photos of descents in Moonlight Bowl on Turns-All-Year, I simply had to check the area out for myself.

Parking at the standard Skyline Ridge parking area (across from ski area), Brian and I donned our skis and made short work of the 'trail' to Skyline Lake. Oops, too far! Traversing right from the lake, we gained a shallow saddle overlooking Nason Creek Valley with Lichtenberg Mountain beyond. Although descent options directly beneath the saddle and on nearby slopes are available, we proceeded right (northeast) towards the fabled Moonlight Bowl overlooking Hwy 2. A short skin along an aesthetic ridge top soon saw us to the ideal drop-in spot. Rock-paper-scissors...ok, Sergio goes first!

We made a couple laps in Moonlight Bowl before calling it a day. Returning to the car, we followed a narrow road of sorts below the slope we skied and followed it back to the parking area. With short and easy access, Moonlight Bowl is definitely a worthwhile alternative to the over-priced and under-whelming ski area at the pass proper! Moonlight Bowl's 1000ft+ slopes makes for a quick-and-dirty powder fix (in powder conditions that is).

Click here for photos.
(Skyline Ridge classic)
    Stevens Pass (ski area), May 2010 - report/photos (Snowmobiles..cough, cough)
    The Swath, March 2010 - report/photos

The Swath, March 2010

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 east 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 snowpack, only the top 2,700 feet were in." But with cold dry powder of variable depth for most of the descent, The Swath was one of the more memorable tours of the season for me. An added bonus is being able to skin up a logging road from the valley floor right into the gut of the feature. On return, we simply turned onto the logging road without stopping and continued skiing/riding back down to within a half-mile of where we parked the car.

So basically a 2,700-ft+ north facing "road shot"...what's not to love?

Click here for photos.
(A rare gem!)
    Mount Townsend, February 2009 - report/photos (Long approach)
    North Chiwaukum Tour, Dec. 2004 - report/photos (Whiteout, no summit)

    Washington Pass/Highway 20:
    Blue Lakes Col/Copper Creek, Nov. 2007 - report/photos (T-giving day ski/split)
    Frisco Mountain Tour, May 2003 - report/photos

Frisco Mountain Tour, May 2003

Mike Palmer, Kathy Lynch, Dave Zulinke, Paul Gurian, and Adam (missed his last name) all got together to enjoy some late season freshiez deep in the North Cascades. Our objective: a ski tour that Mike had previously reconnoitered involving a circumnavigation of the high ridge that rises above Lake Ann and Rainy Lake and links Frisco Mountain to Heather Pass. The choice descent on this tour is the run down into the Maple Creek Drainage.

From a saddle north of Frisco Mountain, we descended into a large basin with dreamy, wide open slopes. We had some difficulty negotiating the cliffs lower down in the basin, however. Adam and I were able to traverse left into a broad gully. The others had to make do with short but tight chutes right of the main cliff band at center. We rendezvoused on the avalanche slopes beneath the cliffs and prepared for our climb back up the ridge. Looking back at our route, it was obvious that the best and safest line ran skier's left of where we were, eventually funnelling into the broad gully that gave us safe passage through the cliffy area.

As we skinned back up to the ridge above Lake Ann, it again started to snow. While I fumbled to put my board back together, the others skied ahead to a low point on the ridge. We again traversed slopes south of Lake Ann, eventually joining our previous tracks as they led us down into the trees and eventually the road. When I finally reached the road, I was about a half-mile south from where we had parked and started skinning. I was beat and that can of Fosters went down really fast. The great turns, fun terrain, and awesome scenery all make this one of the better tours of the season. Gotta love the unexpected late May freshiez!

Click here for photos.
(Loop tour between Frisco & Maple Pass )
    Mount Hardy - "OpenFly Coulior", May 2008 - report/photos

Mount Hardy - "OpenFly Coulior", May 2008

With hwy20 having opened not two days prior, the race was on to harvest what was left of the pow, before the masses and/or freeze/thaw rendered the slopes a bumped-out crud fest. What to do, what to do? Let's see, Silverstar, Birthday Tour, Maple and Rainy Passes - been there, done that…aha, but wait! Phil Fortier had posted a couple trip reports a few years back of ski descents on Mt. Hardy's north side: NE Coulior and "Open Fly Coulior". These features seemed intriguing enough to lure Tod and me to go have a look for ourselves.

Starting from the plowed pullout near the Easy Pass Trailhead, Tod and I crossed the road and maintained a steady ascending traverse bearing to the southeast, with only one steep stream crossing worth noting before turning up a broad timbered rib. Before long, the rib eased back and gave way to mostly open slopes beneath the 7600ft western sub-summit of Hardy, referred to as "Nancy Drew" in Phil's report. We continued up to a gentle saddle just left of "Nancy Drew" to scope out what would be our return route back up from Swamp Creek Valley. It seemed simple enough – a wide-open bowl, with an hourglass section lower down leading to an apron above the valley floor.

From the saddle, we contoured across the small south-facing bowl aiming for a minor ridge dividing "Nancy Drew" from Hardy's main summit. When the going got too steep for skinning, we strapped our skis to our packs and booted up the ridge to a small notch right at the peak's summit. A quick reconnaissance by Tod indicated that the entrance to Phil's "Open Fly Coulior" was just off to the right. A short down-climb soon saw us the top of the coulior where we were relieved to learn that it wasn't necessary to rappel into.

Tod dropped in the 40 degree-ish coulior first. We encountered maybe three-to-four inches of powder over a frozen and unpredictably lumpy base. Occasionally we'd get a good slash turn, but more often than not the thin coating of powder concealed knee-jarring, re-frozen avalanche debris hidden underneath. Triggered by our turns above, a sluff chute was constantly running down the gut of the coulior – a flowing river we'd frequently have to cross in search of a mercifully forgiving patch of powder. The aesthetic slot coulior narrowed briefly to about 10 feet before opening-up for the remaining descent to the valley floor. The powder gave way to sticky glop near the bottom, with monitor-sized avalanche chunks choking the exit to the apron below. Below this, a smooth lower-angled corn slope finally offered up some of the best turns of the day. All told, I think we spent no more than ten minutes ‘leap-frogging' down the coulior – you decide if the payoff justifies the near $4/gallon gas price tag just to drive here in the first place.

After a brief lunch break (it was already 3 pm), we skinned-up and began traversing (skier's) right towards the previously noted hourglass below our return saddle. The slope angle through the hourglass was fairly steep and also choked with avalanche debris, making for an exhausting and time-consuming two-steps-forward, one-step-back grunt to reach the bowl above. We eventually regained the saddle without further difficulty and rested briefly as the snow showers continued to intensify. To return, we rode smooth corn roughly along our initial up-track on Hardy's south-facing slopes, before dropping into alternating gladed and/or forested terrain. Eventually the forest became too dense to reasonably link turns, so we sideslipped between trees and branches for a good portion of the descent before eventually resorting to booting. We reached the road about ten minutes afterwards, and had only about a half-mile of walking in the rain to return to where we parked at the Easy Pass pullout.

Looking over my shoulder, I was hopeful that Phil and Dave would happen to be driving by and return the favor of shuttling us to the car. After all, we saved them a good 3 or 4 miles of road slogging back in 2004, when they were returning from their initial Mt. Hardy ski descent! Next time fellas, right?

Click here for photos.
(Aesthetic coulior, crap snow)
    Heather/Maple Pass, Nov. 2007 - report/photos (Short tour, great pow)
    Sally Portman's Birthday Tour - Washington Pass, May 2003 - report/photos

Sally Portman's Birthday Tour - Washington Pass, May 2003

Scott, Jerry and I were in need of some turns. Now that the North Cascades Highway has opened completely, the time was ripe to explore the slopes around Washington Pass. After yet another night of not enough sleep, Jerry and I rendezvoused at Scott's house in preparation for the 2.5 to 3 hour drive over to the Blue Lake Trailhead at Washington Pass. The snow was firm and crusty that morning on the ascent from the trailhead, but the sun would change all that in a few short hours. On our way up, we encountered a couple North Cascades Heli (NCH) employees carrying large flagged wooden posts. We soon learned these were helicopter landing markers and that winter/spring operations for NCH had come to an end.

From Copper Pass near the end of the tour, we skied/boarded all the way down to the Hairpin Turn and Scott bummed a ride back up to the trailhead to retrieve his car. A nice easy tour, covering some fun terrain. Recommend checking it out immediately after the highway opens.

Click here for photos.
(Washington Pass classic)

    Whistler-Blackcomb and surroundings:
    Decker Glacier, April 2009 - report/photos (End-of-season pow)
    Mount Garibaldi, June 2002 - report/photos (Lost my skis)
    Spearhead Traverse, April 2004 - report/photos (Classic ski traverse near Whistler)
    Spearhead Glacier, January 2019 - report/photos (Plus Spearhead summit)

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