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!
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