Skiing at Washington Pass - Nov 10th

Emily and I wanted to get some good early season skiing in, so we submitted to the long drive up to Washington Pass. It had been sunny and warm all week, but temperatures at the pass seemed to have stayed below 40 deg. Dreams of powder and nice open slopes danced in our heads until the alarm went off at 5:30 Saturday morning... but it was not to be, the snooze button dictated another half hour of jerky sleep.

We hit the road, and had bare and dry conditions all the way up to the Pass. We drove around the hairpin, marveling at the almost-formed but now rotting roadcut ice, and checked out the gully coming down from the S ridge of South Early Winters Spire. The slope looks like a great ski, very open and decently steep for a couple thousand feet, but the low snow cover had left the slope a bit bouldery for our liking. Thus we headed back to the Blue Lake TH and setup--we could skin right out of the parkinglot!

Emily climbing up with Cutthroat Peak in the backround.

We followed a track that cut off right, and seemed to be made with someone who has skinny Sikhs. Who the heck telemarks on skinny skis these days? No one! (well, almost no one) Once we figured this out we broke off the traversing track and headed strait uphill. We found a nice little clear cut that is far skier's left of the usual ski destination, and were able to quickly skin up to the base of the "headwall" in the valley. When approaching the liberty bell group, this headwall is a rock slab that you have to scamper up. In fall and spring, it's a nasty little trap of glide cracks. However, over on the forested left, it's just good old fashioned trees. We picked up an old uphill track traversing into the woods and followed it in. Little did we know, it didn't traverse for long! Soon we were pulling "ski-class 5" pine stemming moves with our skis on just to make it up the icy trail. After a hundred feet of that hastiness we traversed out of the track-of-doom and into the basin above.

The snow had been surprisingly powdery all the way up so far, but on top of a nice firm base. We skiied to the base of the open slopes below "blue lake peak" or what ever it is called, and ate a scrumptious lunch of sandwiches and chips (we brought the full size bag, of course!). We skinned up the slope until Emily's chronic skin-popping-off-the-tip-of-her-skiis problem was too much, and we headed down.

Emily turning through the powdery glades under the Spires.

The snow was a bit crusty, and after some halfway decent turns I managed to do a total face plant. Here's how it went: Dave turns down hill, left ski is going left, right ski is going right (shit!), Dave's head hits the snow first, Dave's ski popps off and hits him in a "sensitive" place. I had snow in everything, including packed deep into my ears. Ugh, this doesn't happen with corn snow! Luckily lower down the crust abated, and Emily and I had great powder glades back down to "the headwall".

We reached the headwall and the quality of skiing quickly deteriorated. The trees were too dense to ski in, and it got pretty steep. We slipped and turned our way down until we were skiing out the crusty lowlands back to the car. Eventually we found the summer trail and tried skiing down it. This was ridiculous, so we soon put our skis on our backs and walked out the rest of the equally ridiculous trail. (this is the only trail I know of that parallels 30 ft off the road for a good 1/4 mile)

On the way home we were talking about what to have for dinner. Phil's recent trip to The Olive Garden got me thinking about their unlimited salad and bread sticks. Around colonial creek campground on highway 20 it was decided. We need an Olive Garden. The only problem is, where the heck is an Olive Garden?? We decided to just drive back to town and find the one on the East side. We found the place in Kirkland without too much trouble and were soon waiting in line... Waiting in line for The Olive Garden you ask? Well... yes. They gave us a little flashing pager for when our name was to be called. Once the thing lit up we walked over and the door man opened the door for us. Being ever so gracious, Emily thanked our doorman by saying, "You must have a really strong right arm!" An awkward moment between the doorman and us ensued, but soon laughter was had by all.

The spires were in amazing shape for mid-November! All of the SW facing routes looked mostly snow free with only patches on ledges. The Beckey route on Liberty Bell was totally dry, but I'd expect there to be some ice on the 2nd pitch's chimney. (There was a ton of ice in May of one year on that pitch) The SW corner of SEWS looked doable, and I heard of more than one party climbing the South Arret of SEWS. The gullies between the spires didn't seem to have enough snow/ice to make for any decent mixed climbing, but maybe they will if it stays cold!

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