Monday, November 22, 2010

Crystal Backcountry - 11.21.10

Steve invited me to join him, Sebe and Toph for some skiing. The decision was made to head to the Crystal backcountry and so I tagged along. There were flurries, and a temp of 33° when Steve cam to pick me up in Seattle. We met Toph somewhere south on Renton, and continued in his car. I don't have a great idea of where we skied, but best I can tell we skinned up under the Gold Hills chair and made a few runs in the Pickhandle Basin.

The chair we skinned under was not yet open, due to lack of coverage. No rocks, but plenty of shrubs visible. It didn't impair our skinning and soon we were at the top of the chair ducking into the woods. This is where it got slow. The trees were narrow and we spent plenty of time avoiding downed trees and forcing through narrow gaps between other trees. If there were a few more feet of coverage, we would have had it easier, but these were the cards we were dealt. At one point we even booted a bit due to a steep section with many trees. After that, the forest opened up a bit and we started skinning again until booting the last thirty feet or so to the ridge. We then skinned on the ridge, which was not that great and we should have booted. We got to a nice area out of the wind to drop in and transitioned over.

The snow was deep! Deepest snow we had experienced yet on the day was our first run down. Deep powder, and no rocks. A really fun run. Wasn't too steep, probably a blue run. I had a little difficulty starting out as I was third in line and wanted to go farther right to get into cleaner snow. The snow was slow, and the traverse almost stopped me before I rounded a small tree and turned downslope.

My first run (Photo by Steve Machuga)

We gathered at the bottom and headed up again to a different location on the ridge and a sub bowl on the original run. We found a fun wide chute to run and transitioned back to downhill. Steve went first on a bold run of an arete which slid a bit after he made a few turns. I was third in line and enjoyed the run, but it was definitely a little more avalanche prone and a bit rocky in spots. At the bottom we skied through the tree for a bit until we came to a meadow.

My second run (Photo by Steve Machuga)

We all figured that the terrain would drop again in the woods on the other side of the meadow, so Toph was going to post hole across and then put his board back on while us skiers would shuffle with no skins. Unfortunately, on the other side of the meadow the relatively flat or rolling terrain continued and we all skinned up to make it out of the woods. More unfun tree skinning and we were finally back at the top of the lift ready to make one last run to the car. No issues on the final run and soon we were driving back to Seattle.

This was a fun outing even considering the poor skinning in the trees both up and down. I skied well, but not great. Not bad for almost five months of not skiing. I look forward to getting out again soon.

My pics are here.

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