Welcome to PNW Skiing

Some people out here might say that being ~5″ of liquid below average for the season indicates it hasn’t been so great in the PNW.  However, There have been a few nice bands of storms, where I caught some powder in November at Crystal and got to check out Stevens Pass with Catherine.

I'll never get tired of this view.

I’ll never get tired of this view.

Rainier in it's glory from Crystal.

Rainier in it’s glory from Crystal.

But, what I was most excited about was meeting up with Josh and his friends Nick and Justin, who kindly introduced me to the PNW backcountry.  I’d been having trouble finding someone to tour with until Jonathan introduced us.  Plans changed several times before the 4 of us started skinning up Mt. Lichtenburg in the Stevens Pass Backcountry on Saturday.

We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but with the somewhat more limited BC options right now, there was another group just ahead of us, and a summit above us, making it fairly straightforward.  NWAC had forecasted Moderate danger for the day, with no propagation or energy in snow-pit tests across the board, indicating good bonding during the recent storm.  Ridge-top winds and wind-slab were the main concerns.  Therefore we were more than pleasantly surprised when we encountered ~8″ of glistening powder.

To be honest, I started slowing down a bit on the ascent.  Whether it was due to a lack of fitness on my first day touring, carrying a few lbs more on my feet than some, or being more familiar with skinning less and booting up the rest, it’s hard to say.  Either way, I was in good spirits because of the warm temperature, clear skis, and mind-blowing conditions.

Propsecting our line.  Photo Credit: Justin Herx

Prospecting our line. Photo Credit: Justin Herx

We switched over to ski crampons midway up, and I’ve never been more thankful for a last minute pre-tour purchase.  The skinning was manageable without, but the crampons gripped the breakable crust beneath with ease.

Goregous view

At the summit, we soaked in the views, transitioned quickly with minor GoPro fiddling, and picked our line.  We traversed over a scoured slope in search of the fluff.

View over the saddle

Thanks to Justin Herx for catching such a sick photo of me.

Thanks to Justin Herx for catching such a sick photo of me.

We found it.  I was still in shock when Nick suggested, “You know it’s okay if you say those were your best backcountry turns ever.”  It wasn’t hard to admit that I’d never had a day in the BC like this back East.

Ours are the right-most.

Ours are the right-most.

After descending a bit further we switched back to skinning for a second lap.  I was experiencing leg cramping unlike ever before while touring (well, maybe it was close between this and the 15 mile Lvl 1 tour, day 1 of the weekend).  I hung out in relative safety while Josh, Nick, and Justin made for the summit again.

A gully that was the target of the first half of lap #2 by Josh, Nick, and Justin.

A gully that was the target of the first half of lap #2 by Josh, Nick, and Justin.

After re-convening we made our way out.  Nick clocked the day at ~4000′ and 8.5 miles, with me being a bit shy of that due to stopping short.

Thanks to Josh, Nick, and Justin for being great touring partners and bearing with me while I’m was getting my touring legs back.  It was a successful trip that far exceeded expectations.  Josh got some great footage of him tearing it up.  Now I just need kick things into high gear and mount my new Movement skis I picked up from skimo.co.

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