Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mad Pow Disease

Anyone who read the blog posts from my recent trip to Salt Lake City will recall that I was deeply affected during that trip with the realization that I had foolishly moved away from some really good skiing. At the time of my trip to SLC I had only been out skiing twice around Seattle, and neither day had been all that good. I am happy to report that this past weekend I learned that there is good powder and bluebird skies to be had in Snoqualmie pass (though maybe not as often as in Utah), and I am feeling more at ease with my present location in the PNW.

My friend Rok texted me on Friday to see if I wanted to get out on Saturday for a day of backcountry skiing near Alpental. Of course the answer was "Heck yes!!!", so on Saturday morning I loaded my skis and gear onto my bike and rolled over to Rok's place (he lives a few blocks from me) where Kevin picked us up at 7:45am. Kevin had a few lift ticket vouchers for Alpental that had to be used before the end of the season, so our plan was to ride the lifts up to the top of Alpental and then traverse out into the backcountry near Pineapple pass in search of untracked powder. We arrived at Alpental and suited up just as the lifts were starting to run, and we rode the Armstrong and Edelweiss chairs to gain the top of Denny Mountain. After a short drop down Upper International (I had skied down this during the Vertfest race at Alpental a few weeks prior, it was much easier to ski it having ridden lifts to the top instead of skinning there!), we traversed out into the back country. Here are Rok and Kevin surveying our playground:

We decided to head toward Pineapple Pass, so we continued traversing through Piss Pass and then dropped down a short section through some nice powder into a basin below the Tooth and Bryant Peak. Here is a shot of the slopes leading down into the basin, that powder sure looks inviting!

From the basin we then headed up a skin track towards Pineapple Pass, ascending the slopes that we would be skiing down. Two or three people had been down already, but there was plenty of fresh snow awaiting us. Here is a shot of Rok making his way up the skin track, with some mist in the background that would burn off by the time we reached the pass:

After reaching the pass I noticed a really cool looking peak nearby on the ridge, and asked Kevin what it was, thinking that I would love to climb it sometime. He informed me that it was the Tooth, which made me realize that I have already climbed it, but from how awesome it looks I better do it again! Here it is in the photo below:

At the pass we removed our skins and prepared ourselves for the fun that lay ahead. Here we are getting ready to head down (though I may look pregnant in this photo I am really not, I just have my skins stuffed in my jacket):

Without further ado we headed down, and OH MAN was it ever awesome! The slope was only just coming into the sun, and the snow was the best powder that I have skied in Washington (which may not be saying much since it was only my third time skiing here). Not super deep, but definitely deep enough to have some fun and the slope was a perfect steepness for me and nice and consistent. Here is a shot of me skiing down (thanks to Rok for taking this shot, he titled it "Cam likes powder"):

And here is a shot of Kevin ripping the mad pow on his creaky tele skis:

We stopped at the bottom of the steep part before the slope continued dropping down towards Source Lake, and put our skins on and headed back up for another run. And then another. And then another. Each run was about 700 feet of vertical (according to our GPS), so we did about 3000 feet of skiing in total with our four runs. The slope was wide enough so that we could spread out and hit untracked snow on each run, super fun. Backcountry skiing is so awesome, each run has about 10 times the fun factor as a groomer in a resort, so you actually get more skiing done when you are in the backcountry despite the extra time needed to skin up. At the top of one run while we were de-skinning on the pass before heading down again, Rok was saying something about "mad pow", when Kevin suddenly turned towards us looking very serious and stared silently for a few moments before saying "Mad Pow Disease." Funny! The basin we were skiing was an untracked virgin slope when we arrived, but it sure wasn't by the time we left:

We had to be back in Seattle by 4pm since Kevin needed to attend a meeting about ripping out blackberry plants along the Burke-Gilman trail (which I vociferously oppose since they are so delicious, invasive species or not), so at 2pm we skied down towards Source Lake and then traversed back out to the Alpental base where we had started our adventure. We made it there in good time so we decided to use our lift tickets to ski one groomer run to finish the day. Below is an annotated GPS track from our big adventure, thanks to Rok and Kevin for an awesome day of backcountry skiing!

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