Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hansen Creek Ski 2.25.14

After getting caught on the wrong side of the pass closure last week I decided to avoid any issues by looking for something on the West side. I have been up Hansen Creek a few times and I still need to cross off Scout Patrol Peak. I know the road grade is manageable with my marginal skiing abilities. I know the 7+ miles to the summit might be a tall order but I was willing to give it a shot. I didn't get an early start but I had plenty of time as I made my way up the very gusty I-90. When I reached the junction to the Annette Lake trailhead I was surprised the plowing ended. I wedged the Audi behind a pile of snow making sure I was out of the way or those who were going to need to turn around. I suited up quickly dodging the snow bombs being blown off the trees.


I was pleasantly surprised to find the middle of the road scraped of any new snow from the recent truck traffic. I was able to make good time to the junction with the Hansen Creek Road. I was again thankful for the recent truck traffic keeping the tralbreaking  to a minimum. I alternated from the middle of the road to the rutted portions depending on the snow. Above 2500' the snow started having a nice rain crust making for slower going. I kept plugging along, once reaching the turnoff to Scout Lake I gave some thought to changing plans. I decided to stick with the plan and continue on the road. Above 3000' the crust became even thicker making for tricky skiing I experimented with different tactics with limited success. Around 3300' the crust was thick enough to support my weight without allowing me to break through. This made skiing unpleasant with out any ski crampons. I decided to turn around.


I had some fear for my descent since I really don't have much ability on skis. I alternated from following my broken trail for the easier grade to using the untracked snow for the steeper portions. I was really trying to find away to control my speed. I noticed much improvement over the miles and by the time I reached the lower reaches I found easy going in the tire ruts. I was able to ski the last 2 miles of the Hansen Creek road without exerting much of any effort.  Once reaching the mainline I started to lose my steam but I was able to make it back to the car without too much discomfort.

Approx 9 miles 1500' of climb 4:30 car to car.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cole Creek Ski and 7+ Hours Pass Closure





  With all the recent snow and the heightened avalanche conditions that go along with it, I was challenged on what to do this week. I felt like other than running around Tiger Mt. the only other option was to do some low angled skiing. I am not very adept on skis so I do my best not to put myself in overly challenging positions. I decided that a long road ski was something that might pan out. I figured the road would be broken by snowmobiles which would make a nice base. I also knew that the snow would be coming down with purpose giving me something to smooth out the bumps.  The Cabin Creek Road was plowed to just before Monahan Road. The short ways to the end of the maintained road was topped with 6 inches of new snow. I plowed my way to the turnaround and carefully parked out of the way.



The Pup's leg is slowly mending but I added some extra insurance. Thankfully it seemed to help and stayed intact for the entire day.





The snow was really coming down as I started up the road. It is hard to believe but despite getting out a couple of time nearly every week this year this was the first time I had any snow fall on me.  I don't know much about snow conditions when relating them to skiing but the snow was sticky and I didn't get any slide whatsoever.  I was making good time despite of this. roughly the same speed I would have been doing walking. After a few miles I was passed by 3 snowmobilers making for an interesting situation. Since now the way was a deep trench I was able to get out of the track to allow easier passage. I however was not able to corral the dog. The first two were able to coax the dog enough to get passed, but the third had no such luck. The dog ran up the road after the first two. I was disconcerted with this, thinking I might have to keep going until I was able rejoin my wayward pup. Thankfully after a mile the dog came bounding back allaying my fears that I might have to put in an epic day. I always laugh when I run into snowmobilers on my trips. I tend to be well into my day and I always get the same funny looks. I can always imagine that they are thinking, how did he get so far in.... and then quickly followed by the Why? I was very happy when I reached the where the snowmobliers had stopped. It is always a moral victory when I can outlast them.  After reaching the area where they stopped the snow was at least a foot deep of very sticky snow. I started to get snow balling up on the bottom of the skis. The drill became, ski for a short ways and then stop and knock snow off the skis, and repeat. This became old quickly so I decided to stop. The slope was not steep enough to overcome the stickiness of the snow so I wasn't able to glide at all. Finally with about a mile to go the snow became slick enough that I could get some sliding in. Finally I regained the car and had a well deserved lunch. In retrospect I wished I would have eaten my lunch on the run since I was unable to make it past Easton before the pass was closed. I had no idea how long the pass would be closed so I got some coffee and parked for an hour. After becoming bored I decided to do some exploring in Easton. This also gave me some opportunities to see how the new Audi handles in the snow. I pushed it pretty hard and enjoyed it immensely. Not wanting to tempt fate I again parked and waited. After a couple of hours I made my way back into Easton and got some snacks. After about 4 hours WSDOT finally gave 10 pm as a tentative reopen time. Only 3.5 hours to go. Thankfully I was able to get enough phone connection to fill my time with updates to my family and using the internet. While for most people waiting 7.5 hours for the pass might be disappointing but for me it was a very memorable day. In the end , for me creating good memories is what life is all about. He who has the most stories in the end wins, in my humble opinion.

Approx 7.5 miles  4 hours car to car 1500' of climb 7.5 hours waiting in the car

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ski Acres Hill 4200' 2.11.14




Since the pup has had an injured leg for some time and everything I have tried to get him to stop licking it has failed, it was time for drastic measures. Thankfully after a short period of the dog freaking out he has settled into his new collar.  I decide also to give him a couple of weeks off of hiking to make sure it heals properly.
As it turns out I doubt he would have been able to do very well in the very deep snow.



I had read a report from John Morrow of  a ski tour he did last week and it piqued my interest. A hearty thanks for John for giving me lots of additional beta for my attempt. I was pleasantly surprised when I awoke to find it not only not raining but rather warm with some hazy sunshine. It was well above freezing at Snoqualmie Pass. I am not too familiar with the area but with John's help I was able to find a suitable jump off point. I parked at the new lodge next to the Silver Fir lift. The were only a few cars when I arrived. I suited up and soon connected with a old snowshoe trench right off the bat. It was covered with a good 18 inches of snow but I was able to follow it to connect with the crossover road where I went left thankfully crossing Hyak Creek on  a bridge. I thought I had seen some posts of groups having to cross the creek without one. If I remember it correctly it didn't look too enjoyable. I followed the crossover road a short ways past the creek crossing. The pup is currently recouping from an injured leg so I thankfully didn't have to worry about him running amok. I was careful to stay in the outside edge of the road to minimize the damage to anyone wanting to ski the road. Once leaving the road I quickly found another trench heading my way. It stayed quite near the creek and made for easier walking. I don't think I would have nearly as much enjoyment on this day if I hadn't been fortunate in my route finding.  Once I reached the power line corridor I was faced with continuing on with the trail or heading up the corridor on another trench. I could see what looked like some easier going higher up the power lines. It almost appeared like an avalanche had come down but because the there wasn't much slope I surmised it was  caused by something else. Once reaching this area the pace quickened. It appear the area was packed by a snow cat and was provided some quite solid footing.


The plowed area started heading away from where I wanted to go so I made my way up in the deep unbroken snow. The going was quite slow but I was determined. I broke out on one of the groomed runs which was a little steeper. I again walked to the far outside of the road but I am not sure it mattered since I could barely see my tracks anyway. I followed this for a ways until it again started heading away from where I wanted to go. I followed what looked like another road but this was unbroken. It seemed like there may have been some sort of trench since I was able to find easier going in the middle of the road.  I decided that the pitch wasn't enough to get me where I wanted to go so I left the road. I went through some very deep snow that forced me to meander through some new growth trees with plenty of tree wells to slow my pace even more. I decided to turn around and regain the road since I was making much quicker progress. To make matters even more difficult the decking on my snowshoes broke on both making it feel like I was walking with shoes where the sole had separated from the shoe. I could have used more float and this certainly didn't help. I decided that I was going to have to pare down my aspirations. I had hoped to continue on the Ollalie Hill. I found some older growth trees with better snow conditions putting me right under Ski Acres Hill. Once the pitch increased again my pace slowed. I decided to give my self a better chance so I dropped pack here and wallowed up the steep portions. Thankfully the steeper portions were short and I was able to reach the summit. There wasn't much to see so as usual I didn't linger long. I gave some thought to mixing up the descent but since my gear was stowed in the wrong direction I decided to just retrace my steps. Overall the short trip was made more difficult with the snow conditions but I felt like I patched a route together which wasn't the most direct but substantially easier.

Approx 4 miles 1400' of climb 3:30 car to car


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