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dave schultz

Ptarmigan Ski Traverse

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Hi Everyone,

 

I am looking for a partner and/or information about the Ptarmigan Traverse. I know it's been done in a day, and can take as long as you want it to take. I am looking for someone to do it during one of the following times:

 

(1) a random weekend, after Thanksgiving (obviously would be looking to go really fast)

 

(2) the Thanksgiving weekend (a little slower pace than the random weekend)

 

(3) between 28 Dec and 10 Jan to take as many days as required.

 

Obviously skiiing is the only way to go, so if you're interested please let me know, or if you have any information about what the conditions might be like. I would be grealty appreciative.

 

daveschultz125@gmail.com

 

Thanks,

 

Dave

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Waiting till spring is a better option. Yes there will be new snow. On the other hand trying to ski a traverse like that with a brand new and thin snowpack sounds like a bad idea.

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But in the spring you wouldn't be skiing as much by headlamp. Where's the fun in that?

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The coverage is going to be crap, even with this precip, at Thanksgiving. I would opt for (3)

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So with relatively poor snow coverage in Nov ... at what point will the snow coverage be good enough for bigger backcountry tours (estimate based on past experiance)? What is the best outdoor addiction for this shoulder season then? I am new to the area and this will be my first rodeo in the PNW. I am comfortable skiing, rock and ice climbing, or mountaineer. I would prefer to ski, but if that's not the best choice what would be the best? Off season rock? I hear the ice is unreliable, so how about routes on Baker and Rainier?

 

Thanks

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What's your background/experience? If you've made a solo traverse to the North Pole, the Ptarmigan will be a (bumpy) walk in the park in comparison.

 

 

A wintertime Ptarmigan trip is a notable thing. Crevasses will be hidden, but bridges will be thinner than than Springtime. Trailhead access gets difficult as soon as the real snow arrives.

 

Weather rules everything in the Cascades. A strategy is to have a number of tasty and diverse objectives in mind and compare all of them against forecasts. It's rare that there's not something in condition in the state (~2 weekends/yr). Bomber high pressure in concert with stability can appear only once or twice per winter; be ready to capitalize like a hungry fiend. A partner and I turned around on a route with stringent snow/weather/avy requirements in January 2009; I'm patiently waiting for a second chance.

 

For ski intuition, watch reports on turns-all-year.com , and follow the old hands. They're rarely involved in a rainy mess. As above, when conditions are right, there will be a sudden flourish of burly trip reports. If you look backward through the TAY archives, you can develop a sense for which winter conditions make the big trips succeed.

 

The state has a number of climates (the strongest division is the Cascade Crest: sunny/dry east, cloudy/wet west) - figure out how they each behave, and you can figure out how to plan around the weather.

 

November is a time for opportunism. It's also a time that I spend with non-outdoor friends/family that I neglect for the other 11 months.

 

My typical season (I climb to ski, unless the climbing's much better than the skiing):

Oct: last warm/sunny rock/alpine, hope for pow

Nov: Family, rain, pow please?

Dec: Cold powder by Christmas

Jan: Cold powder, especially early Jan. Low snow levels, pray for high pressure.

Feb: Winter, maybe a Pineapple.

Mar: Lots 'o pow! So deep. Good coverage.

Apr: Beware death slurpee. Long volcano lines, traverses. Pow in Canada.

May: Nirvana begins: Corn/pow/stability

June: Nirvana: Big corn lines everywhere.

July: Ski nirvana ending, but still excellent. Summer alpine climbing begins in earnest.

August: Alpine climbing excellent, still corn in spots

September: Perfect weather, shorter days, no bugs, gorge on alpine, scratch for turns.

 

Repeat.

 

Lowell has useful traverse thoughts:

http://alpenglow.org/skiing/high-route-tips/index.html

 

 

 

Winter routes in the Cascades are a treasure whose value is magnified by rarity.

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The sailor speaks the truth....November is the best month to get out of the PNW, build up points with the family, or get indoor projects done.

 

That said, there is always the weird year where mixed routes come into shape for a spell, and you'd best be ready.

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Jah it really is all about the weather around here. More resources:

 

The NW Avalanche Center site

http://www.nwac.us/

 

Awesome and really unique resource, and fantastic to have in this area. Read it daily to get a feel for conditions in season.

 

I've been using it since '96 but I think they've been around much longer. They get reports from all over and *really* know their stuff. Even reading their historical snowpack reports is educational, and a nice supplement to in-person avvy training. I don't know how experienced you are, but if you don't have any avvy training, I or others can point you to some good resources, some are even free.

 

One caveat: unfortunately the "season" for NWAC detailed forecasts has completely arbitrary start and end dates, and winter conditions can often extend far beyond when they go dark on April 28. Last year was a good example.

 

After they shut down for the season you are on your own. Don't believe them when they say "if conditions are REALLY bad we'll say something." Not always true. Be careful and as always use your own judgement. The potential for avvy danger surprises many people new to the area and conditions can change quickly.

 

Re. general weather reports, long-range forecasts (2 days+) have improved considerably with last year's installation of coastal doppler radar, but local meteorologists are still getting a feel for how to incorporate the new data.

 

Cliff Mass is a UW prof and his blog is another nice supplement for weather geeks. (which you will become after a while climbing around here)

http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/

 

Welcome and good luck.

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This is my personal favorite for weather, though it may seem confusing at first: http://www.atmos.washington.edu/mm5rt/rt/gfsinit.d3.html

 

Not very user friendly, but the 4km runs are where I usually spend my time. Either the column integrated water or the 1 hr. precip are a good start. Lots info here for the weather geek in you.

 

+1, my favorite weather resource. I have this loop memorized:

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?mm5d1_s_pcp3+///3

 

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November and December usually suck and are the worst months for doing shit outdoors here. But last year we skied pow locally in November and had a N Cascade trip in December, so it just depends on wedder and conditions. Your best bet for skiing this time of year is probably the volcanos if vis is good enough.

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