Post subject: The sleeping Giant of the Central Cascades Mt Aix
Posted: Tue May 12, 2009 5:51 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 505
After countless days of snow showers with freezing levels hovering around 5000 feet we finally had a break in the weather. The forecast for Friday was partly sunny skies a welcome change from the nasty weather we had received all week. Now the dilemma was where to go, with all the new snow accumulation avalanches had become a real possibility so we (Amar, Dan and I) decided to stick to the high elevated playground known as Mt Rainier. We had two options for the day either the Muir area or the Tatoosh but after arriving we noticed that the Tatoosh was in the clouds while Rainier was in the sunshine, so it was an easy discussion. From the paradise parking lot all the way up to Muir it was constant sunshine with little to no winds, it was perfect climbing conditions.
Rainier with the line to the left of the Nisqually chute
Amar running up to Camp Muir
After resting at camp Muir for around a half hour and meeting up with Eli we skinned up to Cathedral gap planning on skiing down the Cowlitz glacier then over to the Muir snowfield and finish it off with a variation of the Nisqually chute. Skinning over to Cathedral Gap
We took in the view for a few minutes checking the climbing route up Ingraham direct (which had a few slabs) then prepared for our decent.
Looking East at Mt Aix and the Nelson Range
The Cowlitz glacier had everything from grabby mank to lightly Ice crusted powder which was carvableand fun. Dan and Eli dropping onto the Cowlitz Glacier
Amar sking with a serac in the background
Then we had to do a long traverse across the Paradise glacier all the way to the entrance to the Nisqually chute. A moment of Rest before the traverse
Looking down on the Paradise Glacier
Earlier in the day I had spotted a nice skiable face to the skiers left of the chute so we took this variation instead. Amar and Dan looking for the enterance
Dan looking down into the chute
Then dropping in
Amar going over the roller next to the Nisqually chute
The snow had softened quite a bit by the time we skied the face (there was no sluff or wet slides) but grabby by the time we entered Nisqually’s Moraine, so instead of skiing down to the bridge we decided to skin back up to the Alta Vista area and back to Paradise. Looking back up at our tracks
I love Washington
Mt Aix is the sleeping Giant of the Central Cascades relatively unknown but rivaled in size only by the massive Goat Rocks. Mt Aix is in what you would consider the middle of nowhere from Washington standards. The 90 mile summer drive is more then doubled when 410 closes down for winter leaving the area isolated and unused. From Crystal Mountain you can get a distant view of the massive alpine bowls of Aix and the Nelson Range that rise over 800 feet higher then the top of Crystal. Aix had become somewhat of an obsession for me over the years as I studied approaches and access issues of the mountain. Trying to get beta was all but impossible as trying to get any skiing info was dead end after dead end, The question kept coming up in my head “why isn’t anybody heading out to the Nelson Range”.
View of the Nelson range and Mt Aix from the top of the Silver King at Crystal Mountain. We skied the high point on the left side of the pic and the huge alpine bowl to its right
Thanks to Boot from Turns all year for the photo
The forecast was looking good with Mostly sunny skies on the Eastern side of the Cascades and according to the Forest service the road was plowed all the way to the Mt Aix trailhead Saturday was going to be the day. Friday night I met up with Ian and Scott at the North Bend Safeway and made the 190 mile drive all the way around the Eastern side of the cascades then back into the Central cascades and camped a few miles from the trail head. The next morning we woke up under the early morning sun, stuffed our sleeping bags into the car and drove up towards the trailhead. The forest Service was wrong the road was not plowed to the Aix trailhead it was only plowed to Bumping Lake there were two options 1. Abort or 2 go for it but to me number one was not an option. The slog fest up the road was an uneventful 4 and a half miles getting deeper into the Nelson range before finally hitting the Mt Aix trailhead. Once we reached the trail we lost it within the first 5 minutes and proceeded to bushwhack up the semi densely forested slopes. The bushwhacking proceeded for a couple of brutal hours until we decided to make a downhill traverse into the beginning of the alpine.
Our first real view of point 7495 during the bush whacking
Photo by Jeff
Finally breaking into alpine terrain
photo by Jeff Ian skinning with Rainier in the background
Photo by Jeff Once in alpine travel was so much faster and efficient as the terrain mellowed out and you could actually the best areas to put in a skin track. We skinned up to a low saddle and finally got our first view of Mt Aix and the huge alpine bowls that surrounded it.
Our first view of Mt Aix
Photo by Ian Looking South at Bismark peak, the goat rocks and Mt Adams
Photo by Ian The whole area was a corn skiing heaven with enough room to fit all of the Ski resorts in Washington in the three alpine bowls surrounding Mt Aix.
Only one of the three massive bowls (looking North)
Photo by Ian During the ridge scramble to the summit I had spotted a skiable line off the NW face of Mt Aix it was sketchy and looked like it was close to melting out but at the moment it was skiable.
Photo by Ian After nailing the summit and taking in some of the best views in Washington we switched our gear over to downhill mode and one by one rode down the NW face for well over 2000 vert of alpine skiing. Summit Group photo
Photo by Jeff Rainier
photo by Jeff Another one of the Massive alpine bowls (looking South)
Photo by Jeff I am officially stoked about this line
Photo by Ian Looking back up the face from halfway down
Photo by Ian Riding down into the basin
Photo by Jeff Once arriving in Rattlesnake basin we switched back over to skinning mode and returned back to Nelson ridge for our final decent back to the car.
Jeff skinning up rattlesnake basin
Photo by Ian Ian skinning to the low saddle
photo by Jeff Peak 7495 had caught my attention on the way up and was easily accessible with an additional 30 minute skin so Ian and I made the ascent while Jeff stayed behind and took in the views of bumping lake and Rainier.
Photo by Ian We noticed a small choking colouir that exited onto a huge alpine ramp “this was going to be the line”. Scoping the line
photo by Jeff I dropped in first not knowing how shallow the snowpack was and if I was going to hit a rock so I straight lined it and ripped down the massive Northern face.
Photo by Jeff
photo by Jeff
Photo by Jeff
photo by Jeff Looking back up at our tracks
Photo by Ian We met up with Jeff 2000 vert lower for the decent back down to the road and made the decision to follow the creek until it was impassable then boot pack the rest of the way. Luckily we were able to meet up with the trail and after countless switchbacks we were back to the road for the 4.5 mile slugfest back to the car. We made it back to the car around 8pm. As the first drops of rain started falling so we threw our gear into the car and made a quick getaway.
We dropped Jeff off at his car in Cle elum while Ian and I drove up the North fork of the Tenaway River to tackle our next beast Mt Stuart on Sunday. We made it to a camp ground around 11:00 p.m. and passed out until 5:30 a.m. and drove the additional 4 miles to the Beverly Creek trail head and started packing our gear. I started putting my skins on my split when all of a sudden SNAP and as soon as the trip began it was over.
It is very possible that the NW face of Aix has never been snowboarded before.
I have already spoken with the Prior rep and will receive a new splitboard once the factory opens again on June 9th but until then. If anyone has a splitboard or some ski boots they could loan me (size 29.5) until I get my new board it would save me the hassle of the brutal snowboarding method of transportation know as boot packing.