Having had no chances to get in turns over the summer in AK (I didn't have my board), I was itching to get out onto some snow - any snow. I recently saw several TRs from this area on the cascadeclimbers website and had been stimulated by others in previous years. With clear weather in the forecast and a couple free days it seemed like the perfect chance to explore a new area while breaking in my old riding partner on his brand new burton split.
Well, I certainly broke him in .... along with myself! Due to scheduling, we were unable to make it to the parking area on the cascade pass road before 9 pm. It was already dark as we fumbled about in the parking lot, trying to do the impossible. Fitting scant overnight gear, warm clothing, glacier gear, split gear and a couple photographic aids in day packs was quite the task. Cramming for half an hour, it all finally stuffed in, resulting in ungainly packs that were rediculously heavy.
Finally off at 9:30, we soon met our next challenge. There was no trailhead, and with a sizeable creek to cross it was a gamble guessing where we needed to aim for. We ended up crossing a slick log 15 feet above the riverbed, proceeding to thrash around on the other side in the devils club for 15 minutes. Discouraged, we crossed back over the log, then forded the creek at an obvious point just across from the parking lot, getting our boots wet and eventually finding the minimal trail after another good 45 minutes. It was 11 by then, and we were already somewhat tired and rather dismayed at our progress.
Next came the 2 hour march up a trail that seemed to go straight up the mountain. Whoever made the thing certainly didn't like switchbacks, and grabbing tree roots to pull up on was sometimes the only way to move forward. Finally the trees came to an end, which just happened to be an endless boulder field. By this point, our headlamps (the non-LED type) had been going for several hours, and we were concerned about keeping them for backup - so we switched to moonlight on the boulders. This worked fine, except, as we discovered on the way down, we missed a much easier faint trail and instead tumbled about on the house-sized blocks with our skis banging every rock in sight.
At 3 am, we stumbled into a makeshift camp, utterly exhausted and ready to pass out. That we did, until the sun woke us around 8 the following morning. Feeling surprisingly refreshed, we ate our dry breakfast and packed our gear to hoof it up to the glacier.
With only minor route-finding issues we made the eldorado glacier in reasonable time, roped up and worked our way onto the inspiration glacier flats. There we skinned up, giving Jack his first taste of splitting. He did great until some steeper sections on the peak proper, where a combination of the crappy burton crampons and lack of skinning experience made going a bit slower. At that point, Jack was feeling worked, so I headed up the narrow uncrevassed side of the glacier solo. All in all, the dude kicked a** since he had been sitting in front of a computer all summer while I had been hiking all around Alaska.
I made my way sans board up the knife-edge ridge to the summit with instant death on both sides, then quickly retreated and strapped in. The first section was nice and smooth, and I soon crested the roll-over, coming into view of Jack. He rolled the video camera, and I made one turn, then another, then.... oh shit! My board came straight out from under me and I slid completely off the side of the glacier into a deep moat with rocks jutting up on the side. Before I knew it, my board slammed into the rock wall, and I had stopped my fall into an even deeper section of the moat. At that instant, both Jack and I were thinking I would probably need a heli (considering the fall). Various parts of my body were hurting, but I was able to unstrap, pry my board out of the rock vise, then throw myself back out onto the glacier. All in all, I was extremely lucky - one core shot and a minor bent edge, sore, scraped wrists and a slightly overstressed ankle - good to ride down on. Looking back, I really must've just been careless and not payed close enough attention to the quickly steepening rollover on the side of the glacier. Usually I can hold it down in situations much hairier than that, but I'm sure the fatigue had something to do with it too. Lessons learned....
Well, after that ordeal I rode quite conservatively while Jack ripped it up down the corn-fields. A quick hike back to the top of the flats and some minor crevasse dodging on the eldorado, and we were back on solid ground. All in all, the Joy-O-Meter (JOM) was at about 25% (vert ridden/vert hiked) - not bad considering the crappy snow year. Then again the approach was particularly hellish, something worth considering.
We made our way back down to our campsite, gathered our stashed gear, then worked our way down the boulder field. At the end of it, the light disappeared along with all our energy, making for a dark, dehydrated, exhausting and steep descent in the forest. Back at the river, tracing the trail, we discovered that only about 100 yards before the parking lot was where we were supposed to have originally crossed on logs to access the trail. Oh well.
In the end, we made it back to the car at 11 pm, resulting in a full 12 or 13 hours of hiking and excitement for the day. Combined with the previous day, we were both ready to sleep in the car but pushed on towards Bham, stopping several times on the way to nap.
I later told Jack that this was probably the hardest (depending upon ambition) he would usually have to work for turns and that wintertime eases the suffering - hopefully he believed me. Despite the suffer-fest, I enjoyed our excursion in retrospect, though I'll probably wait for winter to travel the road to eldorado in the future.
Cheers all - hope you're enjoying the turns of summer!
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 8:41 pm Posts: 1620 Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Damn! Sounds like some borderline Type 3 fun there. Glad you made it out in one piece. I think if that was my first split trip, and had to go through that approach, and on top of that witness a close call like that... there would be a Burton split up on ebay.
dam. rough approach, rough day/night/day, rough on the equipment and the body. that sounds harder than the tour to Frazier for sure. oh well, fu*k it. you got turns in. of course it was worth it. we'll have to keep hiking a lot this fall. i'm hoping for freshies at the end of sept or shortly after just outside of town. it's still a bit of an approach though. so what kind of split are you looking for now? looks like about time to consider that old Prior your rocksplit. i have a brand new shiney Ride Timeless still in the plastic i can sell you, and you could split it.
nice job with the TR pat! i knew that you would do a better job at it than me
...and welcome *me* to splitboard.com i have been lurking here ever since pat convinced me to dump the snowshoes a while back. finally picked up a spit a few weeks ago from the "swap" section on the website. now i've got nothing but stoke for turns all year...
"take it easy, if its easy take it twice..."
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:43 pm Posts: 439 Location: Western Washington
I've been eyeing that one for years, good job! That approach is one of the worst I've seen (personally) and I feel for ya! I get to see a glimpse of Eldorado every day going to work as I pass on the freeway and look up the valley, always inspirational.
_________________ Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them (Frederick Douglass)