Monday, January 24, 2011

Kendall Ridge

The weekend that I was skiing in Chamonix saw some really warm weather back in Washington, to the extent that the ski resorts in Snoqualmie Pass actually closed due to the conditions being so bad. We didn't get a lot of snow during the week but it did cool off a little, so that the rain soaked snow froze to a crust and created less-than-ideal ski conditions. Despite this, when the weekend rolled around and the weather looked like it might be decent, we were definitely going skiing since a rotten day in the back country with skis strapped on your feet is far better than a nice day in the city with your feet propped up on a couch.

We decided to try skiing Kendall Ridge since I am trying to explore all of the places in my Washington backcountry ski guidebook, and it sounded pretty fun. There was one other car present when we pulled up at the trailhead, so at least one other person thought the conditions were worthwhile for heading out. We clicked into our skis at around 9:30am and started skinning up through the forest. We soon emerged from the forest into a clear cut with smaller trees and more open areas, and continued our ascent. The trees were completely soaked with water at this point, so we got pretty wet when we had to squeeze between them. Here is Roanne trying to enjoy herself despite all the moisture as we slowly gain elevation:

As we continued to ascend, the water on the trees slowly turned to snow, and the thin layer of fresh snow on the crust became a little thicker. Another bonus was that the clouds parted and the sun came out. Here is Roanne continuing to climb in our newfound sunshine:

Eventually the top of the slope we were ascending came into sight, and we climbed the final stretch onto Kendall Ridge. Here I am headed up this final section:

The last part had been quite open so we were pretty excited for the way down. Before doing that however, we decided to work our way along the ridge some more since I am always hesitant to turn around and head down when it is possible to climb further. We soaked in the view a little before heading on, here is a nice view of the Chair Peak and it's environs where we had been touring a few weeks ago:

We then headed back into the forest and continued along the ridge, as the clearcut ended there. Here I am about to reenter the forest:

We continued along the ridge through the forest, which stayed fairly flat with some minor undulations. After a stop for lunch we continued up, as the ridge gradually began to steepen towards Kendall Peak proper. Here I am as things open up and get a bit steeper towards Kendall Peak:

As we continued the terrain became quite steep, making further progress on our skis quite difficult. By this point Roanne was strongly suggesting that we turn around, but I somehow managed to convince her that we needed to test the ski-carrying capabilities of our packs by bootpacking. So, we continued on (though we only tested the ski-carrying capabilities of my pack since I somehow ended up carrying both sets of skis) and eventually topped out onto a rocky high point. I knew that we were not on Kendall Peak yet since the rocky ridge continued along further, but after wading through knee deep snow along this high ridge we eventually were blocked by a drop off and had to turn around. Here is Roanne wading after me on this final stretch of our ascent:

At this point I finally conceded that it was time to head down, so we reversed our tracks to a point where we could remove our skins and put our skis back on and got ready to head down. Here is Roanne gearing up for the descent:

The snow up at this high point was a pretty good approximation of powder (we were at about 5500 feet), which made for some fun skiing down the steep part of the ridge that we had come up:

Upon reaching the flat ridge below we continued on with some side-stepping and boot packing to surmount the undulations, and then headed down the clear cut with some fun skiing. By this time the sun had softened up the crust, so what had been an icy crust on the way up now had a few inches of soft snow on tip which made for some fun turns. We arrived back at the car just before 4:30pm, an wrapped up a great day out in the backcountry. Here is a topo of our out and back route:

And the profile, which saw us gain about 2600 feet of elevation:

And finally, the most fun, the GoogleEarth view:

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