Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:43 pm Posts: 308 Location: Mill Creek, WA
March 13, 2010
North Cascade Heli
A day at North Cascade Heli (NCH) starts at 7:30 am in the heli barn with the signing of paperwork followed by a review of the days schedule. We we're then briefed on how to conduct ourselves in and around the heli followed but some quick avalanche transceiver training and searches. This is Scott of NCH, our guide for the day. He introduced us to the notion of the bump. A bump is an added ride up on the heli at an additional cost. It's hard to pass up the BUMP!
It was then time to get booted up and get our gear out to the heli. Before the engines are started the guides load up the gear and then everyone loads into the small back bench seat and secures their seats belts. After a couple on minutes of preflight checks and a couple button pushes the engines fire up and blades start turning. This is when it really hits you, "You're going heli boarding!"
All of the cameras start up in the back seat and the heli takes off quickly and make a dramatic turn toward the white capped mountains of the North Cascades. Very soon we are high in the mountains but still close enough to almost touch them. The pilot keeps close to the peaks and it feels like a rollercoaster as we roll over the ridges. It's an awesome feeling when you clear a peak and your vision opens to an incredible vista on the other side. This was one of the coolest things of riding in the heli and you're not going to get that experience any where else.
NCH has predefined drop-off locations and multiply groups going out for the day. the try and keep the tour groups in more remote locations without much heli noise from above. Here we're getting dropped off and hunkered down around a pack while Scott unloads the gear.
Our group is no farther than a foot from the heli while it blasts off and covers us in snow. You watch the heli fly away and then take in the view from 8K, it's amazing!
Scott wants the snowboarders to have a little better entry on to the ridge so we boot pack up in waist deep snow. The snow is all wind blown and fairly light but it's hard work push up those couple of feet.
When you're in the deep stuff it's a good idea to keep your poles out to push out of the deep stuff or help you get up if you fall. I was doing a lot of that.
Heli Boarding is all about the faceshots!
drownRat getting ready to drop in.
Floating on top was the key for the day and drownRat is doing a great job here of doing just that.
This was actually a heli tour day so after the first run we made our transitions and started hiking back up for another run. One of the best parts of having a guide on a heli tour is that he will break trail and with the waist deep snow, that was no easy chore. He really earned his money that day.
The long haul up! How much was that bump again?
The skinning was actually pretty good that day. No ice, just had to keep the feet moving and headed up hill.
We really hit an awesome weather day. The ski was clear enough to see Canada.
The obligatory group shot at the top.
The real machine for the day! That guy just powered thru that deep snow on a pair of the biggest skis I've ever seen.
The obligatory group shot back at the heli barn after a couple of complementary beers.
Although this was one of my hardest day out in the backcountry it was also the best. Being able to tour out there was simply amazing and the heli ride was beyond cool.