Dan and I decided to earn our turns at Heliotrope Ridge on Sunday. Trip Reports all week were coming back in decent favor of the Heliotrope Ridge area. Since the area received new snow since the trip reports, we figured it would be in great condition.
We arrived in the brisk 32° parking lot around 8:30am. The only issue we could complain about was the lack of coverage. There is not enough snow in the woods to skin. (Although it appears some people tried.) This involved hiking in my randonee boots and Dan in his board boots. Once above tree line, the snow coverage was not too great, but we started skinning anyway. Winds were high and we even considered turning around. I lobbied to see what was over the rise. After all, the seven people in front of us did not turn around. When we got up to the upper slopes, we were reminded why we came. Two skiers were making first tracks from a high point on the ridge as we followed the skin track up.
We got the the top, and went to the high point on the ridge. Then it time for turns. Dan went first off of two steeper lips and stopped to take pics of me skiing down. Off the second lip, I fell. Although mostly just laid down into the slope. Got up and made some nice turns to Dan's location. The snow was soft and my skis penetrated it by 3-5". We took turns riding down to take photos of each other. Once about halfway down the slope, we returned to the skin track to have lunch. It was about 12:30pm.
After lunch we skinned back up to a high point further east on the ridge and decided to take a line down a mostly untracked convex hill. We reached the top, and once again hiked to the summit of a small pinnacle before removing skins and riding down. This run was top notch and super fun. We skied to the bottom of the main hill and decided to make an attempt at riding out as far as possible.
Things went fairly well on the way out, but I hit a thin patch and after hearing three "clicks" I decided to stop. The snow got fat again immediately after I removed my skies, but the boot hiking I did afforded me the opportunity to stumble onto a gathering of ptarmigans in full Winter plumage. I finally reached Dan, and we hiked out. We arrived at the car at 3:30pm after leaving it at 9am in the morning.
Overall, the weather was great (except for the 30mph gusts at times.) Dan and I and the two dozen others up there were all in great spirits and you couldn't stop hearing people saying things like "you cannot ruin this day." It was a fantastic way to break into the ski season.
Route Profile - Kautz Glacier
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