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Crystal to White Pass ski tour Dec 28 -Jan 3

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Abstract: Trip Dates Dec 28 to Dec 31 oops to Jan 3

It was slow going S of Chinook Pass w/ the unconsolidated new snow and add'l daily storms. This was lots of work for just two people to break trail along the PCT. Despite the tremendous amount of snow and high avalanche terrain, we saw no avalanche activity except for some day old tracks (class 1, single pt releases) on the leeward side of Naches Pk on day 2 (Dec 29) and similar class 2 runs on the windward side of pks 6350 and 6388 just S of American Lk. The area between Crystal Mtn and Bumping R along the PCT contains many avalanche prone slopes, most of which we were able to avoid. Navigating from Bumping R. to White Pass in white-out was no cake walk.


TR by date Dec 28

Got a late start, not getting to Crystal until 9:30a.m. We checked in w/ Crystal Ski Patrol for excellent local reports on avy conditions and control work. We talked to the patroller who bombed Three-Way Pk and decided on heading up the slope they bombed. We had a great ski into Crystal Lk basin, and another down from Sheep Gap. Camp 1 above hwy 410 (Deadwood Lk?).


Dec 29 We avoided the worst of the avy slopes above hwy 410 by climbing up into a basin N of the hwy then skiing down to the Chinook Pass. Anchors were still visible on the PCT S of Chinook Pass, so we risked the slopes and skied over to Dewey Lk for water, crossed 3 small steep open slopes then up to Anderson Lk to camp.


Dec 30 We awoke to 6-8" new snow and continued along the PCT to One Lk drainage. We lost the PCT at the pass near American Lk. This is the same pass where, a month previous, I had stopped for lunch on my day ski S from Chinook Pass. Along the route we crossed a long steep slope that had many pt releases w/in the last 48 hrs. Travel began to become very strenuous w/ the new snow on the unconsolidated snow. Visibility was poor. Taking note of our slow progress, we began conserving food and fuel (no desert tonight). Camp above One Lk.


Dec 31 With poor visibility and add'l new snow we missed our intended route along benches near Two Lk and we traversed steep slopes to a pt above a pass N of pt 5941. We thrashed down 80 ft through cliffs and trees to gain the pass. We then headed over and around pt 5941 to a pass just E of it. We managed to find a route around cliffs and thick trees down to Fish Lk (1800 ft descent). "Hero snow" conditions made this tricky descent a real treat. To conserve fuel we camped near Fish Lk and used the remaining daylight to pre-set a track through deep snow to our next land-mark.


Jan 1 We get worried that we are overdue and still have lots of miles to go. The snowpack refuses to consolidate although no new snow falls until noon. We make our way S up a gentle drainage (Bumping R.) using the stream as a hand rail and find the pt where the PCT (invisible under snow these last days) crosses the stream. In this area, despite heavy snow and open meadows, we were able to follow the PCT (mostly following straight lines and tree blazes) all the way to confusing tr junctions near Snow Lk. We camped at dark, still not finding Snow Lk, but finding water.


Jan 2 The snow was deep, the blazes were confusing, and the terrain difficult to read. We finally just followed a SSE bearing towards other large landmarks which we also managed to miss in the fog. Finally we came out at a high pt above Buesch Lk. During a brief lifting of the clouds, we could see White Pass Ski area strait S of us (magnetic). Camp at Buesch Lk just as it starts to rain hard.


Jan 3 Despite the rain, the only skiable crust is in the trees. Fortunately there are lots of trees. We missed our intended landmark above Buesch Lk, took a bearing, and ended up in Dog Lk drainage (N fk Clear Cr?) instead of the Sandy Lk flats. We skied down, and down, and down to Dog Lk where we met the HWY, walked up to some yelling noises (kids on sleds) and were met by Yakima Co. SAR.


The End.



Logistics I picked this rt at this time of yr because of its low elevation, the low snow pack w/ visible anchors and the fact that the terrain gets safer the farther S you go. The area is also below tree-line, and therefore sheltered from the weather. I love exploring, and I had never been to the center of this area. I knew the navigation on the S end would be fun and challenging. Brian, Chris, and I left my car at White Pass after Christmas when we went to ski the Hogs Back. Despite arm twisting, I could not get these two to come on the traverse. Brian said something about a wedding. I attempted a little 11th hr recruiting as well, to no avail. It was left to NV and me to break all the trail. I expect that we could have eliminated a day for every add'l person used to break trail. I expected the snow to consolidate as it usually does after a day or so, but the temps remained cold and the snow kept building up.


We each carried 2 to 2.5 lbs of food per day for the expected 4 days. Our packs, fully loaded, started out weighing about 25 lbs. We brought 44oz of fuel total and melted snow 3 nights (and had 11 oz left over at the end.) Generally I allow for 11 oz per person per day – which gives you enough fuel to melt 6qts of water, cook two meals, have hot drinks, and boil up a hot water bottle for your feet.


My feet get cold at night, so I brought along a pocket warmer that burns naphtha or white gas. I found it would burn all night in my bag, warm up my feet, and dry out my fleece glove and still be hot for a few hrs in the morning. I kept it handy in the a.m. to warm up my boot liners and heat my hands after fine work w/ naked fingers in the snow.


Our shelter was a 2.5 lb Mega-Mid w/ skis to anchor the corners and an avy ski-pole for the center-pole. Each night we would stomp out a platform for the Mega-Mid and usually dig a kitchen. The snow was so unconsolidated that even after a good stomping the platform would not hold your weight w/o skis. Thus, by morning we were each sleeping in small bath-tub like depressions. After a night or two we perfected the system of stomping out a trench around the Mega-Mid for use as a place to dump the accumulated snow during the night.


Other than my gloves, I stayed dry until after day 4. NV, however, will break into a sweat just standing still, so I passed the pocket warmer off to him at night to help him dry out. My Feathered Friends Gore-Tex over bag lost maybe 30% of its loft at its wettest. NV’s FF 20 degree bag lost up to 60% due to moisture. He is all for getting another NF Cat’s Meow (synthetic).


I wore mostly just med wt under-wear under my Gore-Tex shell and expedition wt equivalent while in camp. I would ski out wearing camp clothing, then reach in and zip off my exp wt pants and shirt when things warmed up. Skiing to dark was not an issue, but it was really hard to get skiing before we had an hr of light in the morning. It sometimes took us 3 hrs to get moving, and getting up earlier in the dark did not help much. It seems things take twice as long to organize in the dark, even w/ headlamps and a candle lantern lighting the way.


NV was on randonee gear, and so had to wear skins most of the time. I was on bc gear w/ fish-scales and had more flexibility – but due to the very light snow, I had my skins on almost as often as NV.


Footnotes This is the first trip where I’ve actually lost some weight. Usually I gain it. My thighs are now strong enough to win a kicking contest w/ a mule.

We found Maxi-Glide worked great for everything from frozen tight ski poles, to sticky snow on skis and bindings, to frozen skins.


We started to exhibit expedition behavior around day 4.


Had we been injured, SAR would have had quite a time getting us out. You almost always need someone on the ground before helicopters can be used for extraction. I'm not sure the snow was consolidated enough for most helicopters to land. In CND, we've always stamped out a heli-pad or landed on a wind-swept summit or ridge.


Help me perfect the Hamaker temperature scale.

1. Power Bars are chewy (70 deg F)

2. Naked is cold (50 deg F)

3. Snow is cement (40 deg F)

4. Chocolate brittle and hard to chew (35 deg F)

5. Cheese and caramel is rock-hard (30 deg F)

6. Bagels break your teeth(25 deg F)

7. Water bladder tubes freeze, even after blow-back (20 deg F)

8. The water in your Nalgene forms ice crusts even as you travel, breath freezes to all surfaces, damp clothing freezes into abstract shapes (15 deg F)

9. You can entertain yourself by watching ice crystals grow in your water bottle, spilled spit and hot chocolate freeze as you watch. (10 deg F)

10. Breathing cold air freezes in your lungs and is exhaled as tiny snow crystals. Snot freezes before you can wipe it away. (5 deg F)



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