Friday, June 5, 2009

Mt. Pilchuck Ski - 06.05.09

Elevation Gain: 2324'
4 miles RT
Left car: 8:20am
Summit: Approx. 11am
Returned to car: 1:20pm
5 hours car to car

Eight consecutive months skiing! (Dan pointed out that was pretty good considering I had only been skiing 18 months.)

Dan was being forced to take a day off from work this week due to lack of work, or the economy. So we had planned earlier in the week to ski Mt. Pilchuck on Wednesday. But it turned out Dan had to get some work done and we postponed to Friday.

With the high temps, we weren't sure what to expect about snow firmness. When we arrived in the parking lot, nothing was left of the measured 5' of snow that the forest service stated was in the parking lot two weeks ago. (I guess two weeks of >70° temps will do that. Heck it was 89°F at our house in Seattle earlier this week.)

With the warm temps we decided it was safe to leave the crampons in the car. We started boot packing up the trail and continued to do so even when we met continuous snow. At some point it may have made sense to start skinning, but both of us felt that the boot packing was going well. This would also save us from having to get our skins wet. The hike up was uneventful, except for the cloud we were hiking in. Then, we waited a bit and the summit came into view. We did an end run east around a cliff band below the summit ridge and then came back west to gain the saddle between Mt. Pilchuck and Little Pilchuck. (Another party coming up as we descended said they tried the direct route and found it sketchy.) Once under the saddle, I left my skis at the base and we pulled out ice axes for the final steep bit to the ridge.

We then had a hard time trying to stay on snow and not fall in moats to get to the lookout. The last rock scramble was especially hard in ski/snowboard boots, and it seemed like we spent as much time on the summit ridge as we did getting to it. We went inside the lookout, took our boots off and hung out. We were the only ones there. We ate lunch and read the signs and dried out gear a bit. Then we headed down. Just off the rocks we met a lone skier and then three guys bare booting. We got back to the saddle and I plunged stepped down to my skis while Dan geared up to board that section. We then traversed a bit east where I finally strapped on my skis.

The snow was OK for skiing. The sun cups were big and bumpy, but not so much that it was difficult. The corn on top was a bit sticky, but was not deep sloppy mush like it may have been earlier in the week, or last week. We stitched together some turns then descended into the clouds where we had to pick our route through trees etc. while trying to follow our boot pack from the morning. We finally de-skied about 700' above the parking lot. There was skiable snow below that point, but with the lower angle terrain and Dan on a split board, it didn't seem warranted to put skis back on.

Overall a nice easy experience on skis which makes me want to get out and do more spring skiing. I had a nice learning experience with ski boots and scrambling. To which I realized it may make more sense to have the boots buckled all the way. (I only had the two arch buckles done.)

My pics are here.
Dan's are here.

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