Post subject: A Taste of the Washington Backcountry
Posted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 1:34 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 505
Over the past 6 months I have been doing some backcountry snowboarding all varieties of mountains within the Cascades. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I have had a endless supply of objectives to choose from. Last season I rode around 200 days (95% of which was done in Washington) with a focus of riding different volcanos in the Cascade Range. In total I rode 25 separate volcanos from Mt Baker in the North Cascades to Lassen Peak in Northern California. What I learned from climbing the volcanos last season has givien me the knowledge and experience to attempt the mountains of the Washington Cascades.
I organized some of the hilights in regional order, so this is not chronological. Enjoy.
The 410 Corridior
I've called the Crystal Mountain area home during the winter months for the past 8 years. With the largest amount of skiable terrain and the highest elevation of any Washington ski resort, it faired well despite the high freezing levels this year. Many days were spent riding the true backcountry while other days were spent riding in areas like Crystal's Southback. For example I was able to tie the current record of lapping the high point of Crystal (the King) a total of 14 times in one day. The record was initially set by a skier sometime in the 90s, according to local lore.
A large-scale Crystal Mountain Traverse had been a goal of mine for some time. I had invisioned pulling off a 3-day traverse all in one go, tagging all the hilights of the backcountry along the way in a south to north direction. For one reason or another weather windows of three days were hard to come by this year, so I often used those for other trips. Instead, I pulled off each part of the traverse in separate piecemeal parts, in three single day trips. Along the way I managed to ride Naches, Yakima, Deadwood, Smoka, Sourghdough, 3 Way, Dog leg, Pickhandle, Bullions, East, Lake Basin, Norse and Goat Peaks with multiple other lines along the ways. In total it was over 25 miles and a Elevation gain of around 23,000 verticial feet. Thanks are due to those that made the journey with me, including Drew Tabke, Jason Hummel (many of his photos are used in this TR), and Scott McAlister.
Mt Rainier National Park
Mt Rainier National Park has always been a very important part of my life with its close proximity to both Seattle and Crystal Mountain, and its endless terrain possibilities. Where else nearby can you get an 11,000' ski run?! Long after all the snow has melted most everywhere else nearby, you can still ride on the glaciers on Rainier. Whether it’s the east side or the south side there is something up there for everyone. A really good resource, managed by a friend of mine, Amar Andalakar, regarding the ski runs available on Rainier and nearby is http://www.skimountaineer.com.
Flett Glacier In March, I decided to make a midwinter up one of my favorite summer hikes. I skinned up the Mowich lake road to Knapsack pass, up to Mt Pleasant and over to Spray Park where I rode of the Flett Glacier Headwall only to retrace my steps (20 miles and 8000' vert).
Nisqually Glacier Though I have hiked to Camp Muir a number of times, I prefer the sustained fall line of the Nisqually Glacier. I repeated this route once a month during winter, with trips in January, February, March and April. (about 8 miles and 6,400 vert decent in a single trip to the Nisqually Bridge)
Castle Mountain In late November when we got our early season storm, I ventured with two friends, skierDan Howell and Scott "Stugie" Stugelmeyer, into the Tatoosh, for a powder-filled descent of Castle Mountain near Paradise. (maybe 4.5 miles and 2,200 vert)
Van Trump Park In early December, we were surprised by a few days of sunshine. In hopes of getting some powder high on the mountain, Joe Bell and I ventured into Van Trump Park and were surprised to find corn conditions.(7 miles and 5,400 feet)
Snoqualmie Pass Corridor
Realizing I haden't done any trips within this area Jason Hummel and I did a grand traverse crossing over 30 miles of gnarly terrain. Throughout the adventure we crossed 18 different lakes, 6 different glaciers and 5 of the largest peaks in the area (Daniel, Hinman, Summit Chief, Overcoat and Chikamen,)
The Highway 2 Corridior
After moving from Greenwater to Seattle, I was looking at scoping out new terrain in other places. I was fortunate to have a friend in Goldbar area who was willing to show me around the Stevens Pass/ Icicle Creek areas.
Kyes Peak In late April after the ski resorts had closed, I was invited by Scott McAlister, another splitboarder, to attempt a summit of Kyes Peak in the Monte Cristos. We navigated through cliffs and crevasses to ride the Pride Glacier Headwall, a truly memorable route-finding experience (about 14 miles and 5000 vert).
Stevens area, Including Heather Ridge, Litchenburg, Union and Jove.
In late April the weather was less than optimial, so Scott and I ventured into the Stevens Pass slackcountry where we would be able to navigate through the low lying forest and hopefully ride some powder along the way (17 miles and 9,000 vert).
In the beginning of May there was still powder to be found, but the forecast looked horrible on both the western and eastern side of the cascade crest. With that in mind we decided to ride on the backside of Stevens Pass in hopes that the converging fronts would break down just above us (5 miles and 5,000 vert).
Jason Hummel and I had big plans in December with a potential ski of the Big Chiwaukum, but with a early season snowpack the terrain wasn’t filled in yet. Instead of riding the Big Chiwaukum we settled for the middle Chiwaukum before basking in the warm sun (12 miles and 7,000 vert).
Chiwaukums with the Big Chiwakum By late April I had become fixated on the Chiwaukums and patiently waited for a optimial forecast. It came in the form of sunny skies. Scott McAlister and I left the trailhead at 2 a.m. and skinned up the White Pine trail head in the dark. By noon we had already rode the Big Chiwaukum and were on our way back to the car, after riding two additional lines (14 miles and 12,000 vert).
Mt. Stuart (Sherpa Glacier Couloir) The idea was to pull off Mt Stuart via the Sherpa Glacier Couloir after a storm front had delivered two feet of fresh snow. What was originally blue skies quickly deteriated to white out conditions amd forced us to settle for the couloir itself. The riding wasn't bad for May conditions (12 miles and 5000 vert).
Cannon Mountain Still tired from attempting Kyes Peak, both Scott and I decided to do a direct climb of Cannon Mountain. Scott was interested in a north facing couloir but upon arrivial we found conditions to be firm and avi scoured. We retreated via a mellow ridge of burnt forest (6 miles and 4,500 vert).
Seven Fingered Jack Ale Capone and I had plans of riding the north face of Maude but upon arriving found that it was hidden among the clouds. Instead we rode a asthetic line off the SW face of Seven Fingered Jack.
The highpoint of the Chelan mountains and one of the most desolate peaks out there. With no beta other a old map Dan and I followed the Entiat River out to its source and slayed a sick line.
The Highway 20 Corridor
The Highway 20 corridor has become one of my favorite places in all the cascades with glaciers and rocky peaks as far as the eye can see. While from the car it is a beautiful sight a view from the alpine will leave you breathless. I have been fortunate enough to focus a bit on the Cascade Pass area which was more then enough to keep me busy for the past few months.
Spire Peak Col
We had attempted to head out to Dome Peak but upon arriving we found avi conditions to be far too sketched so we rode down Spire Peak instead with every turn causing massive wetslides.
Sahale Sahale is at the crown of Cascade Pass, one of the most scenic areas in the region. I was looking forward to the endless views and riding potential around the area. I did a quick solo of this peak taking advantage of semi corn conditions (12 miles and 5000 vert).
CJ col Like everyone else who skis this line, both Scott Stugelmeyer and I had no intentions of going up it. With a perfect view of the line we became fixated on it and decided to climb to the steep crux. Four hours later we were standing at the low col preparing to drop into one of the steeper lines I have rode in the cascades (5 miles and 4,000 vert).
Mt. Buckner Mt Buckner is one of the most respected mountains in the North Cascades and overshadows most of the surrounding peaks. Jason was kind enough to invite me on this two day trip, which got our hearts pumping thanks to both crevasse fall and steep skiing (12 miles and 12,000 vert over two days).
Eldarado Area This was a project I had been waiting for all season. One day would never be enough time for this densely peaked area but three days seemed to work out quite well. Jason Hummel and I completed about 20 miles and 19,000 vert on this trip.
Mt. Shuksan (via Sulphite Glacier) It was mid-May and over three feet of snow fell in the higher elevations in the North Cascades. With avalanche conditions somewhat sketchy both Scott McAlister and I ventured up Mt Shuksan via the Sulphite Glacier only to make the tough call to turn around at the base of the summit cone. Luckily, a few days later, I'd be able to summit in similar conditions from SR 542.
Approach to the Picketts Long brutal days were in store for us when we planned on traversing the Picketts. For a myriad of reasons, I chose to turn back three days into the trip.
The North face of Abernathy has a wickedly steep chute that was begging to get some tracks in it so after a climb of the South face with my girlfriend Jessie I attacked the north face with two Ice axes for the steep climb out.
On the eastern edge of the Cascades there are a few giants that hold gnarly lines. Robinson is one of which and totally under the radar. While I had planned on riding a amazing line on the north face I changed my mind once eyeing this beauty.
State Route 542
State Route 542 is best known for Mt Baker ski resort but other then that it is filled with numerous peaks that climb above 7000 feet. Starting at the Twin Sisters range and ending around Hanagen Pass this area alone could keep someone busy for their entire life.
North Twin Sister In early March, John Cocci, a fellow splitboarder and Seattlite, and I went out to the Twin Sisters area to ride a steep north facing line of the North twin. With sunshine and fresh snow we had a blast riding down the steep untracked line (11 miles and 4,000 vert).
Mt. Ruth After 4 days in the Picketts I soloed Mt. Ruth in hopes of seeing Jason and Forest traversing the Picketts, and quell my fears for their safety, only to see nothing. While I had gone up to Ruth for the scenery the 3,000 feet of powder skiing was a definite added bonus (12 miles and 5,000 vert).
Slate Peak and Mt. Baker Slackcountry Mid March marked the first (hopefully soon-to-be-annual) Mt. Baker Splitboard Festival organized by a Seattle local. The event was my first time heading into the Mt. Baker slackcountry. To our surprise we found powder conditions and overcast skies which from what I hear is rather rare in this area. A leisurely 6 miles and 4000 vert delivered gorgeous views and fond memories alike.
Mt. Shuksan (via the White Salmon) We pulled off an ascent of Shuksan in Mid-May after a few inches of fresh snow fell on the steep northern slopes of Mt Baker. With a 4 a.m. departure, Drew Tabke (local seattle freeskier and volcano-slayer), Scott McAlister, and myself climbed under the occasional cloud only to be engulfed by a white out on the summit proper. Blowing snow and extemely flat light made for quite the exciting decent from the summit proper and a classic "skiing by braile" experience (9 miles and 9,000 vert).
While this is most of what I've gotten after in the past few months, touring season is still in full swing. Most trips have full TRs on my website, whereiskylemiller.com, but I'd be happy to field any questions about them here.
By the way we still have a healthy snowpack deep in the mountains.
Post subject: Re: A Taste of the Washington Backcountry
Posted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:47 am
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:18 pm Posts: 913 Location: reiter hills
This season has been the EPIC!! and it keeps going and going......
Congrats on completing the Snoqualmie haute route! Can't wait to check out the report. Checked your spot to see your progress during the crappy weekend and noticed you guys spent a little time doing some camping high on hinnman/daniel.