It’s been a fun season so far out here in the Pacific Northwest, with everything from corn snow to over a foot of fresh. The past two months have been full of adventures for me, from mellow tours at home on the flanks of Rainier to excursions into the Canadian Rockies. While all my touring and riding is really just training for touring season, it’s been exciting none the less.
In early December, Jason Hummel and I climbed out into a seldom-traveled area near Steven’s Pass, the Chiwaukum Range. Out there, we tackled a sub-summit of Big Chiwaukum (the Big One itself seemed out of reach due to low snowpack and short days), known as “point 7142.”
Climbing deep in the Chiwikum range (photo by Jason Hummel)
Climbing the final pitch to tag the summit of 7140 (photo by Jason Hummel)
Later in December, north facing slopes in the Cascades were still holding bare ice, but there was a chance that south facing slopes would hold perfect corn. Joe Bell and I decided that in the event that this might indeed be the case, a trip was in store. We hiked the deserted Comet Falls Trail on the south side of Mt. Rainier, until reaching our turnaround point of 9000.’ It turned out that we got well over 4000′ of perfect, fall-line corn.
Climbing under Comet Falls (photo by Joe Bell)
Riding wide open corn fields (photo by Joe Bell)
By this time, we were all starting to worry about what was in store for the PNW, with a dry spell stretching for over two weeks. Glued to the local weather forecast, I was relieved to see that precipitation was coming back and what was ice was soon forgotten under two feet of fresh snow. With conditions looking good, we all flocked to our local resorts, and I, to Crystal Mountain. Knee to waist-deep pow greeted us for a week straight, as I rode with locals Jacob Hase, Sky Risvold, and Blair Habenicht along the way.
Laying down some tracks under REX at Crystal Mountain (photo by Jason Hummel)
Stoked on my bomber gear from TREW Hiking back from lapping the Southback with Jake Hase (photo by Jason Hummel)
January, however, was a battle inbounds, as it was one of our warmest in history with freezing levels hovering around 5000′ and rain often halfway up the resorts. Given those conditions, it was an easy decision for Jason Hummel and I to head to British Columbia to meet up with local steep skier, Sky Sjue, for some hut skiing near Pemberton. We decided to take advantage of the best fall line within the Joffre group and ride Slalok Mountain’s South face for well over 3000′ of sustained fall line all the way down to Joffre Lake.
Skinning out to Slalok with Matier in the distance (Photo by Jason Hummel)
Riding past the toe of the Anniversary Glacier (photo by Jason Hummel)
A week later, it was time to head out again, but instead of focusing on British Columbia, we decided to trek further east to the Canadian Rockies. The snowpack was as stable as it gets in Alberta, so we climbed Mt. Hector, an 11,000 foot giant just North of Lake Louise. Conditions couldn’t have been better for our skin up Hector Glacier– blue skies served as backdrop to breathtaking views of the glaciated Rockies. The next day, due to visibility issues, we chose Mt. Fairview, right by the Lake Louise Hotel. After a glorious 2500′ descent down the open col at dusk we skinned across the frozen Lake Louise under a starlit sky.
Skinning up Mt Hector with the Canadian Rockies in the background (photo by Jason Hummel)
Hitting a sub summit of Mt Hector (photo by Jason Hummel)
Riding down 5000 vert of Champagne powder (photo by Sky Sjue)
When I got back to Crystal, I kept myself busy and my legs strong by working up at the resort and touring in evenings. I took a long, scenic tour with John Cocci in the deep Crystal Southback one day, tackling well over 9 miles and 6000 vertical feet.
Riding down the Dog Legged Chute (photo by john Cocci)
Making a nice heelside turn off the walls (photo by John Cocci)
High freezing levels do have their advantages, though, as access to seldom-visited places can be good. Jason, Connor, and I went out to the Glacier Peak wilderness to attempt Mt. Pugh. We got within 1000 vert of the summit when we set off a slab, and chose to opt for turns down a safer, low-angled glacier, before heading back for the car, 4,000 ft below.
Traversing out to Mt Pugh (photo by Jason Hummel)
Sweet Low angled turns on the Straight Glacier (photo by Jason Hummel)
For more pics from this trip and endless more check out Jasons site at alpinestateofmind.com
This is only a taste of what is in store for the spring touring season.