Sunday, November 29, 2009

Amabilis Mountain - 11.29.09

Ken had organized a mellow outing up Amabilis so that people could either ski or snowshoe. The road up or in has not been groomed yet, so I made the decision to bring fat skis. There were six of us on the trip and it was split with two people snowshoeing and the rest skiing. We had a casual start, and didn't leave Seattle until 8am. With a few stops on the way, we were finally on snow around 10am and headed up the road.

The road conditions down low

Despite the recent warm weather and rain, there was enough coverage down low. Shortly after getting on the road to Amabilis, there were a few dirt patches, but there was adequate coverage from previous skiers to keep going up a track that was put in by multiple parties before us. We skied up under cloudy skies and hoped that they would turn "partly sunny" like the forecast had told us. While the coverage was nice on the road, snow depth in the trees was minimal. The snow on the road had a packed section where people had previously traveled, but the snow was deep and mushy outside of that section.

Upon reaching the intersection for the loop of the upper mountain, two of our party decided to turn around. Liz turned around because she had Nordic skis which just weren't ideal for the situation. And Jack turned around due to blisters from his boots. This was his first time using his AT setup to skin. After our little break the rest of us continued upward, choosing a clockwise direction to complete the loop.

In the woods near our turn around

The conditions got worse from there as there were few people who had gone up that section of trail. The snow had a breakable crust which wasn't good for the two remaining skiers or the snowshoers. It took a long time for us to continue up while the weather worsened. When we finally made the last section of woods before our turnaround, a cool mist was wetting us and I quickly put on a rain shell. In moments we had reached our turn around point, where I donned another layer under the shell. We all had a quick snack/lunch. While us skiers transitioned into downhill skiing we discussed with the slowshoers that we would wait for them at the intersection of the top loop.

And away we went. The skiing was surprising not horrible. With a slightly steeper road than on Mount Catherine, I was able to glide without a whole lot of double poling. But Ken and I did have to remain in the track otherwise we would slow to a stop. A few portions were difficult to maintain speed as they were lower angle or the track wasn't wide enough for both of my skis. Had we not had to wait for the snowshoers, Ken and I would probably have returned to the parking lot in a little over and hour.

The ski out

After a certain distance, the track widened, and was more compact and our speed picked up. I had to occasionally snowplow in order to maintain speed. Sometimes you could just steer into the deeper snow to lose some speed, but this practice proved to be a little difficult as you didn't know what to expect outside of the track. Once closer to the intersection, the packed swath of road was wider and more firm. I really picked up speed on this section without trying. And the last stretch into the meeting point was all snow plow. Ken followed behind me and attempted to scrub speed by sticking a ski into the deeper snow off the packed section. He started to lose control and laid down instead of continuing toward the immanent crash.

Ken on a faster section of the road

We waited a long time before our snowshoe friends arrived. We greeted them and asked if they needed anything. They didn't. And we were on our way. I got to the car in about 20 minutes from that point, and that even included one stop to rest my legs and a short uphill that I had to side step. The lower section of the road had some good snow and the packed section comprised more of the road in certain areas to the width where I could actually make small turns. Before I knew it, it was over and we were back at the parking lot where Liz and Jack were waiting. Once again we waited for the snowshoers, and then it was time to head back to Seattle.

Jennifer and I had done this trip with Gabriel and Lindsay a few years ago. At the time I was new to skiing and debated about trying it on my skinny skis. I opted not to and stuck with snow shoes. After seeing Gabriel's ease of skiing it, and the relative easy conditions, I had wished at the time I had attempted it on skis. While it would be interesting to try it with a Nordic ski, they weren't the right option for today's conditions and I was happy to have my backcountry skis which did not inhibit my performance at all.

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