Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lumiere Ridge 4.21.09

With Steven's Pass Ski area recently closing for the season I did my usual pilgrimage to the ski slopes. Since I have climbed all the peaks surrounding the ski runs I was going to have to get creative. I parked at the trailhead for the PCT and quickly changed to snowshoes. I could see that trying to follow the PCT was not going to work so I traversed to the ski runs and gave up some elevation and dropped to the ski run that would take my directly to the saddle between Big Chief and Cowboy. Not knowing how far I would stay on the runs I left the snowshoes on. I did see a few prints going my way. The sun was beating down on me and was quite warm as I easily made my way to the saddle. Once at the saddle I could see my objective a long ways off. I had plenty of concern about avalanche danger with the warm unbroken sun. I was surprised to see about 20 snowmobilers in the Mill Creek Basin. Since most of them were highmarking every available hillside without provoking any slides, I felt more comfortable. I quickly dropped in the basin below and followed the snowmobilers tracks as far as I could before I began a traverse at 4600'. I followed an old ski track which worked. I decided that the slope above me looked suspect so I dropped to around 4400' to give myself an extra cushion. I rejoined the snowmobilers track greatly increasing my speed. I met a big group at Lake Susan Jane. They were going up the steep gully just to the SW. I would have liked to use this gully because it was a more direct line. Not wanting to get run over or have any issues with the dogs I crossed over the frozen lake and followed roughly the PCT. In the gully I did see a couple small avalanches come slowly down the slope.Once in the basin above I dropped pack and pushed for the ridge. There were plenty of snowmobilers tracks to follow so the going was straightforward. I reached the ridge just South of the summit and started to make my way to the summit. The ridge was heavily corniced and they were full sun resulting in a steady stream of water coming off of them. This seemed to me a dangerous situation that didn't warrant continuing. I gave some thought to traversing underneath them and decided against that. I slow motion glissaded back to my pack. I had a quick bite and retraced my steps back. When I reached the point where I had decided to drop lower I was dismayed to find a larger avalanche that had crossed my path. Feeling lucky I pushed on to the dreaded climb out of the basin. I took off the snowshoes and booted the remainder. I was hoping to speed up the descent back to the car by glissading but wasn't able to get much speed up due to the soft snow and low angle descent.

Approx 8 miles 3100' of climb 5:30 car to car

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