Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jim Hill Mountain - 12.06.10

Steve persuaded me to join him and Seth on an exploratory ski trip on Jim Hill Mountain. Now I should have guessed with the term exploratory that this would not be a straightforward trip. But that did not cross my mind. So we left Steve's house around 7:30 am to park near Hwy2 on the road into the Steven's Pass Nordic Center.

We parked near a closed gate and skinned across the lot to a gated forest road. There was a skin track in the road and it was easy going up the numerous switchbacks. At one point the road took a right hand bend downhill and we contemplated our options. We decided to backtrack around the corner and head into the woods there as the undergrowth was not as severe. Within a hundred vertical feet we ran into our first obstacle of getting around some downed trees. After circumnavigating them, we attempted to stay a bit lower off the ridge to avoid the more wind damaged areas.

We traversed through some thick woods up and to our right and arrived below an area with many blow downs. It would have been arduous and time consuming to cross through it (if we even could.) So we passed under it and then continued on our course upward and rightward. The snow seemed good for skiing, but was deep and made for strenuous skinning on the steep treed slopes. We eventually made the ridge and crossed the tops of some open slopes before the terrain got too difficult for skis and we resorted to booting a hundred feet or so. We were hoping to ski off the right side of the ridge, but the terrain was steep (over 50°) and heavily treed. It wouldn't have been easy to even walk that terrain. We contemplated continuing in the hopes of finding a suitable ski path, but it was already after 2:30pm. We had maybe two hours of daylight left to get out, so we started to backtrack on the ridge to find a suitable descent route.

Seth dropping in the clearing (photo by Steve Machuga)

A little before the point where we started to boot was the decided upon descent route. We put the skis on and headed down. It was lightly treed at first but a fairly steep slope probably more than 35°. After only a few turns, I had to jump a downed log as there was no way around it. I was successful, but had to hit the brakes as soon as I landed. Then the trees became more dense and I side slipped and stepped down through a few sections linking a few turns and traversing where I could. I made a lot of downhill kick turn in tight spots. This probably progressed for a few thousand feet with Steve encouraging me the whole way down. I had some good moments like jumping/dropping logs without crashing. But I had some bad moments, especially lower down. I think the fatigue was getting to me and I crashed a bit including some real mix ups with my skis. I think my final crash had me sliding into a small tree like it was home plate.

Yes it really was that thick at times (photo by Steve Machuga)

We eventually made it to flatter ground where we donned headlamps and skins. After a short time skinning we found an old overgrown road and followed that through some alder. There was a moment when we had a clear cut above us and it looked like the road ended and Seth checked to see if the road switched back. It didn't and we continued through thicker alder before we quickly arrived at the road we skinned in on. Steve and I removed our skins, while Seth kept his on and his board split. From there is was the typical luge run down the now firm skin track until we hit the car. I was glad to have a good headlamp with a spotlight, because fast skiing at night is difficult without a fair amount of light.

Coming out by headlamp (photo by Steve Machuga)

Overall this was a fun trip. We now know this is not the way to go to achieve turns on Jim Hill Mountain. It was a fun outing and it pushed my limits in skiing. So next time I am in terrain that is more sedate I should be feeling more confident.

My pics are here.

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