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sunnyseattle

Backcountry overnight tours (mellow ones)

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Haven’t done much backcountry in Washington…can anyone recommend a few specific places or lakes (mellow tours) that I can take the girlfriend (who skis but is new to backcountry) for an overnight camping trip (1 or 2 nighter)…ski in saturday and do a few laps around camp and then ski out Sunday. Really also looking for somewhere that is low avy danger generally so there's less to think about and more opportunity to go given a range of conditions...thanks

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not that I am much of a BC ski expert but I have a couple ideas for you. (maybe if you posted this in the ski section, you would get expert ideas)

 

Just outside of the mount baker ski area, there is really good BC skiing and you could head out as far as you liked, camp and do some laps. Maybe being within striking distance of the parking lot is not a great camping place, but it is a good starting place.

 

In the mt rainier park, I would think you could find some good places in teh tattosh range. Fairly level ski approach in on a closed road and then you could camp and ski around the tattosh peaks.

 

As far as avi goes, go when the conditions are good. Avis happen everywhere there is snow so any "low avi" locations will kill you in wrong conditions. I thought that the trail to source lake was low avi location till someone I knew died snowshoeing that way, in the trees no less.

 

Not meaning to get all down and serious. Just stay safe. Enjoy and let us know how your trip goes.

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Heather Ridge at Steven's Pass is an excellent beginner backcountry ski area w/ good overnight potential (camp at the lake... I forget its name). There's good turns skier's left of the road that you ski up as well as off the backside of the peak. This is an area people often go during higher avy conditions, but if you don't know what you're doing... just stay home until conditions stabilize.

 

I agree with Gene that camping around Artist Point at Mt Baker is another good overnight trip. Keep in mind that the ski patrol there sometimes checks to make sure you have transcievers, shovels and knowledge before you head into the Baker backcountry... but you should have this stuff anyways...

 

Another place I really like which is close to Seattle is Source Lake. Good for short tours with the GF. I've found good pow weeks after storms in the Snow Lake Basin. This would be another cool place to snow camp.

 

I also really like the Tatoosh area at Mt Rainier. I think you need a special permit to overnight in MRNP, so check on that if you want to overnight. Also, the gate up to the skiing at Rainier opens at 9 am or later depending on snowfall, so check that before heading out (my first time up there I showed up at ~6am and ended up sleeping in the car). Check out the Castle Saddle first. It's the easiest ascent and what most people do there. The skiing from the saddle tends to be wind affected though - I've found skiier's right to be generally better though it gets cliffy down lower.

 

Have fun, pray for snow!!!

-Peter

 

 

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I agree with the Heather Ridge and Mount Rainier Park recommendations.

 

I believe the feature that most of us call "Heather Ridge" is in fact "Skyline Ridge" if you check the topo maps, but it is accross the street from Stevens Pass ski area and it is a good place for an intro overnight tour.

 

Another Highway 2 destination is the Lichtenwasser Lake on Lichtenburg Mtn., approached from the Smith Brook trailhead with a tour that is largely flat road, a bit through the woods, and a couple hundred feet where you'll probably take the skis off and doggie crawl. The result is that you will reach a remote-feeling lake that is not likely to see other visitors and is actually close to the road. A very do-able summit climb lies above, though it can be hazardous in avalanche conditions.

 

At Snoqualmie Pass you can head up from Gold Creek snopark to get to Kendall Lakes and you'll get a mountain lake that is pretty close to logging-road skiing. You might also park closer to the pass and head up into Commonwealth Basin, from where there are some pretty good peak climbs. Source Lake is not a bad choice but it is a popular area so this may be a deterrent depending on your taste.

 

At Paradise, or really just about as accessible from the Narada Falls parking lot below, is the road to Reflection Lakes. From Paradise, ski out the back end and follow the road that drops downhill; from Narada do the doggie crawl up through woods left of an avalanche slope to reach a road that heads right. Either appraoch will lead to Reflections Lakes, and you can camp "roadside" ( 2 miles from the car in winter) or head up toward Pinnacle and Castle peaks on the right or onto the ridge to the left. In good weather this will offer great views but will also have other visitors.

 

At Chrystal Mountain, you can head up behind what I think is called Chair 4 (Quicksilver?) into a backcountry basin that is pretty damn scenic and close to "development" as well as probably avalanche controlled.

 

White Pass also offers some possibilities. I think to the North is "Cramer Lake" or "Dumbell Lake" that are off the highway, remote enough to feel isolated, and really only a few miles from the road but requiring a climb of one steep but fairly modest hill. From there you could tour as far as you want on a high plateau with some small hilltops, all safe from an avalanche perspective.

 

At Mt. Baker you can head out toward or beyond Table Mountain but I don't know the area well enough to suggest any particular destination and I think most of what you will encounter there is avalanche prone during high hazard conditions.

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I also like Mount Rainier area for mellow BC skiing (Reflection Lakes). You might also consider the Mountain Loop Highway/Monte Cristo area when there is enough snow.

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Source lake drainage is not a good place to be if you are new to the backcountry, and I would venture, a poor place to camp in nearly any snow condition. The head of the valley has probably 270 degrees of avalanche exposure. That's why the trees all look like they've been wrecked by avis down there! Same goes for the Bagley lakes basin--you can cross below some big slopes, and you don't even have the benefit of trees to show where the avalanche chutes are.

 

Heather ridge to skyline lake via the road is a route that is safe in nearly every condition as long as you don't stray too far east or west. Reflection Lake or Snow Lake via the Paradise road would be pretty safe, too. Around artist point, the Blueberry cat track towards Huntoon point is a safer route, too.

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img26.JPGimg38.JPGA couple pictures to give you an idea of Source Lake and Mountain Loop Highway (Big 4 Mountain) in winter. Very little avalanche hazard and pretty flat going.

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Bear in mind that there are precious few places in the Cascade backcountry where you are not either on, above, or below an active avalanche path... the Source Lake basin is infamous among Washington's professional avalanche workers... at least carry transceivers & shovels, & practice with them before you tour.

 

The Scottish Lakes High Camp, on McCue Ridge, about midway between Stevens Pass & Leavenworth, offers a commercial version of the introductory tour you describe. Comfy tent-cabins, good food, & local, current information are plusses. If you want the lady to enjoy this intro, I'd at least check them out. They even have a snow-cat ride to the camp available if you don't want to ski in.

 

Skyline/Heather Ridge, across highway 2 from the Stevens Pass Ski Area, usually has a cat-road up it all winter, which makes it an easy, attractive backcountry approach. Bear in mind that that cat-road is put in and maintained each winter by the Washington DOT to provide quick access to the ridgetop for their avalanche control workers, on their highway protection missions. Translation: not a place for the avalanche ignorant.

 

There are lodges & B&Bs in the Winthrop/Mazama area that cater to backcountry skiers, but I'm not as well-informed about them as I am about the Scottish Lakes operation. I've heard lotsa good talk about the area...

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"High Camp" rocks.

 

I haven't been there for 10 years but I worked and skied there for several years and it is sweet terrain for touring.

 

Ski-mountaineering opportunities and truly alpine opportunities are limited but for backcountry skiing it is tops times three and it is pretty cool to ride a snowcat to 5,000 feet and stay in heated cabins. There is also some reliable ice climbing about 40 minutes' ski from camp.

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