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Dave B

Ski-moe in low snow years

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Howdy - My buddy and I had planned to make the trip to WA (from CO) this spring with the intention of skiing the SW chutes on Mt. Adams. The deplorable snow year is starting to make that plan look a bit risky given the required travel time and the lateness of our trip (first week of June).

 

We're now considering options further north, in particular the East Ridge on Eldorado and the Coleman or Easton descents on Baker.

 

I'm hoping to get some opinions on the Baker routes in a low snow year such as this. I understand the Coleman descent is heavily crevassed and am concerned this just ain't the year to do it as a ski (at least not in June).

 

Any suggestions for other peaks of the over-nighter length variety that would provide some grins? Priority given to aesthetic high camps.

 

Five days is just too little time to do the Ptarmigan traverse on skis, right? Especially given the unpredictability of the weather pre-July 4th?

 

Plan B is Tetons or Winds (shucks).

 

Much thanks!

 

 

 

 

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there will be snow,

 

you may consider mt. shasta also. the recent storm deposited lots of heavy wet snow on the mountain that is going to push the season well into the spring (hopefully).

 

last year was similar to this, maybe not quite as bad, and i was skiing great snow on the n side of adams on july 4th.

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Generally, this has been a warm and wet year, so low elevation snow has been almost nil. I'm guessing that higher elevation snow pack (Rainier, Adams, Baker, etc.) may be more 'normal'.

 

If I'm correct in my assumptions, then Adams might be ok and Eldorado might not be ideal.

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Your plans shouldn't change because the impact this mild winter is having is all going to be below 6000 ft. Adams will be just fine. If anything, the only thing you might have to change is instead of skinning up some road for miles, you'll have to boot up that same road for miles.

 

Coleman and Easton on Baker would be fine objectives if you have weather/visibility.

 

To your other question: 5 days for Ptarmigan Traverse with skis is like, almost too much. The thing has been done sub 24 hours with skis, 5 days would be like lollygagging pace. The skis will make the very long shallow decent from Spider-Formidible col to Yang Yang lakes like a 20-minute thing, and a lot of the scree would be simple shallow skinning for the most part. That said, finding 5 days of good weather that time of year will be the crux.

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I'd play it by ear if possible. See where conditions and weather are good right before the trip, and go there!

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I'd play it by ear if possible. See where conditions and weather are good right before the trip, and go there!

 

THIS is absolutely the way to go IMHO. It's what us locals do too.

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Thanks for all of the replies! Looks like Adams might need to be put back on the table as an option - which I'm not sure how I feel about after putting some thought into doing Ptarmigan or other N. Cascades options.

 

I can get a SW ticket into Spokane and luckily they offer no change-of-flight fees so I think the playing it by ear will be the best way to go.

 

So perhaps the question is, and I know it's apples and oranges but, what's a better use of 5 vacation days for a visitor? SW Chutes or the Ptarmigan? SW chutes = epic skiing while Ptarmigan = epic location?

 

Edited by Dave B

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Both!

 

You should consider some alternatives to the Ptarmigan in the same area that have better descents, like the Magic S-Loop tour or the Forbidden Circumnav. Unless you're specifically planning on tagging some peaks along the Ptarmigan.

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I think June might be too late for a Forbidden Circumnav to be enjoyable on skis this year. I was on Eldorado in June last year and it was just barely skiable down to Morraine Lake off of Forbidden, I doubt it's skiable now this year.

 

My GF got up on Baker on Jan 29 and made it to 9400', somewhere on the Roman Wall above the CD col. She said the Coleman was really broken up and pretty spooky. I was up there last April and stuff that I skinned and rode across was still wide open gapers. This last storm should have helped up at the 8000' level but I'm not sure it did much on the Coleman glacier where the biggest holes are.

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If you have five days I think I would head to the N. Cascades and ski the Boulder on Baker and the Sulphide on Shuksan. Two classic summits and one decent (sulphide) and one terrific (Boulder) ski descent. Of course if you are dialed in and the weather is perfect you would still have time to ski the SW chutes (lots of driving though).

 

The Ptarmigan will involve a lot of grunt work and not much in the way of ski descents. Scenery is hard to beat, however.

 

I agree that the Magic S and Forbidden tours are iffy unless the winter magically turns around. It is quite grim at the lower elevations of both of those tours right now.

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