A week into the spring touring season

Longer days and more stable weather patterns usher in the season of spring, and with it, the season of touring. To celebrate, and to take advantage of a few days of projected bluebird skies, I called up some friends and went on a few adventures. Throwing my gear into the car (which included a brand new pair of Spark R&D Bindings, which I had been eagerly anticipating the use of—full review to come), I was off!

March 18th. North Twin Sister, Twin Sisters Range


John Cocci breaking into alpine with the North Twin Sister in the distance.

John Cocci and I began our assault on spring with a trip out to the Twin Sisters range, just west of Mt. Baker. Our ascent began with dust on crust but as we gained elevation, conditions quickly transitioned to steep and stable powder. Kickstepping up the north face, we were visually serenaded with uninterrupted views of Mt. Baker to the east, and the Puget Sound and Olympic Range to the west. Nearer to the summit, we could see the San Juan Islands to the west, the costal mountains to the north.


Hitting the summit with Mt Baker in the background, (photo by John Cocci)

From photos we knew that the north face proper of the North Twin looked a little too gnarly for our taste, but found we could traverse around to a beautiful northeast-facing coulior. Amazingly stable conditions coupled with deep dryish snow delivered many positive vibes as we milked turns on the lower apron. Warmed by the afternoon sunlight, we rode back to the car and the dry gear it held for us.


John ripping a turn down the steep headwall.

March 19th Johannesburg Mountain, CJ couloir


Our ascent path in red and the decent path in blue.

The next morning, Scott Stugelmeyer and I were on our way to my next objective. Johannesburg Mountain is a vertical wall of rock and ice on the western border of the North Cascades. Our eyes were set on the CJ colouir, a famous line known for its technical climbing and equally technical decent. I quickly stowed the splitboard and got out the crampons and an ice axe, as we climbed the 50 degree slope, careful not to slip and tumble down 3000 vert of exposure. The climbing was slow and each step an ascent in itself, as we wallowed thigh- to waist-deep powder until we arrived at the CJ col.


Scott taking the last few steps up to the Col

Where it had previously slid, conditions were firm, but on the sides of the colouir laid deep, wind-packed powder. Milking the powder for all its worth, we soared past huge chunks of glacial ice and through deeply gouged canyons within cliff bands. The crux of the descent was a rather tense moment when we rode a 60 degree colouir with only a foot of bulletproof snow on top of an ice waterfall. Upon reaching the apron below, celebrations were in order, as we had gotten out with both our sanity and our lives.


Taking a pow turn right before the crux. (photo by Scott Stugelmeyer)

March 20th, Flett Glacier Headwall, Mount Rainier National Park

By now it was Saturday, and the last day of promised sunshine. To finish off my official celebration of spring, I decided to head out for a solo mission to a favorite summer spot. Situated on the north side of Mt. Rainier National Park, the Flett Glacier headwall was a place I’d never before visited near wintertime. Normally (in summer) it’s a full day tour of about 14 miles… but with the road and trails still covered in snow, I’d be traveling 24 miles roundtrip, and I felt it would be an accomplishment to pull it all off in a day.


Spray Park and the Flett Glacier headwall, My line is the highpoint in the center of the photo)

I boot packed, skinned and cramponed in solitude for 7 hours making a trail among the high alpine and glacier-carved terrain until finally reaching my destination. What was at first firm yet carvable quickly transitioned to deep wind loaded slopes for an uninterrupted 3000 vert run, which I found to be well worth the 4 passes and 8500 vert I would climb throughout the day.

First Snowboard Decent of Mt. Buckner


Climbing the Boston Glacier with Buckner in the distance. (photo by Jason Hummel)

Since spring had officially arrived, and I’d celebrated in style, I knew the time had come to tackle something bigger. I’d been studying Mt. Buckner and the possibilities around Johannesburg for a while, and had not found many accounts of ski descents on Buckner’s north face.

This time I teamed up with talented ski mountaineer and photographer, Jason Hummel, as well as his new friend and another talented photographer, Steph Abegg. Within one day, we experienced one repel, two Glaciers, and one potentially fatal crevasse fall before calling it a night under a star filled sky. After 10 hours of rest we were climbing Buckner’s north face with two Ice axes in hand, and crampons on our feet. The climb was nerve-racking to stay the least—careful steps in wind-scoured powder slopes finally led us to the summit.


Climbing the north face of Mt Buckner. (photo by Jason Hummel)

Our summit celebration was expedited by the cold wind that pelted us, so we transitioned as quickly as possible while taking in the contrast of dark blue above us and endless white around. As soon as all were ready and accounted for, we dropped into the aggressive headwall. Once again we were lucky, as conditions were stable and visibility good for navigating the maze of rock bands. Steep pockets of powder greeted us as we took in the late-morning sun, then ripped down the lower slopes. Riding out on what is one of North America’s largest glaciers, we couldn’t help but be stoked at our lines engraved on a perfect canvas of white.


pow turns on the lower apron. (photo by Jason Hummel)


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