Mount Ellinor is a hike in the summer, but is a favorite of unskilled climbers in the winter. Recent reports seemed to indicate there was snow from the car to summit so it sounded like a nice time. Adam had not been on top of a mountain in the Olympics, and we were both hoping for views.
After catching the 7am ferry (which was not an express to Southworth,) we were on the peninsula driving south. It took us around three hours to get to our high point in the car, a few hundred meters from the upper trail head parking area. We geared up. I brought skis, and started to put them on on the snow, when Adam who was on ahead said that the snow was not continuous. Turns out there wasn't snow for some distance, and while Adam registered us at the trail head, I put the skis on my pack. Adam put his snowshoes on his pack as well.
The trail was dry and there were no signs of snow as we headed up the initial section straight up a ridge. The trail starts to switch back and we were getting concerned about why we had brought floatation. I was simultaneously cursing bringing skis while enjoying the extra training weight of the boots on my feet. Around 4300' we turned a corner and were welcomed with continuous snow. What a relief. The boot track was firm and we continued with no need for floatation. In short time we were at the base of the chute which is the key feature of this route. Adam and I took turns kicking steps, but were mostly trying to remain in steps that littered the slope. It was warm out, but in the constrictions the snow remained quite firm. The glissade chute running down the middle of the main chute was three feet deep! It looked like a bobsled run. We marveled at it, and I wondered how I could ski the slope without falling into it.
We got to the summit plateau without ever pulling out ice axes. We then headed up the final 250' to the summit where we were greeted with a brief five-volcano view. Clouds started rolling across the sound and we lost site of Baker and Glacier pretty quickly. It was chilly up there and we both donned shells for the descent. I skied off the summit and back to the upper basin where Adam headed off to find a spot to see if we could traverse over to Mount Washington. After much post holing and two falls into moats, we called that operation a failure and decided to head down.
Since I could not find a easy way to get around the large trench (luge run) in the middle of the chute I booted down it a bit. Adam found the glissade run to be too fast and exited it before the steeper constriction and we both booted down a while. The plunge stepping was good, but awkward with skis on my back. Part way through the third constriction I put my skis on and skied back down to the woods. Bummer there was that glissade trench in the way. I removed my skis once back in the woods where the snow was on the icy end, and it was maybe only a few hundred meters before returning to dirt. Once back on the trail, Adam and I cruised out.
This was a fun trip that would be an awesome ski if the glissade trench didn't exist. There were a few options to partially avoid it, but I wasn't feeling good about them. Trying to ski it with the trench in place would have meant sideslipping down the constrictions, or trying to jump the trench between turns. Neither really seemed plausible with my skill level. At the car we talked to a "Ranger" from the Department of Agriculture. We told him about a woman we saw heading up who in conversation alluded to her desire to glissade the chute. Our concern was she only had a stick with her and not an ice ax. The ranger told us they get calls up there all the time for those sort of mishaps. The hiking is easy enough, and I guess it attracts all types.
My pics are here.