2/28/12 Big Mountain Starfish/EV Trip Report and Black Flag Warning.
By writing this blog, I’ve given up the idea that EV is my personal space. People other than those I know, know about this area and will be out there at the same time I am. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a local’s only rant. The caveat is in my experience that almost every time, no matter how many people are milling about the Top of the World, I can easily find solitude and my own space if I put a little effort into it.
Today was a bit of a reversal. With J and I heading out into the tardy but increasingly powerful storm this late morning we seemed to be on track to have EV to ourselves. I did notice on the way out on the Ghengis catwalk another backcountry traveler, masked in a full face helmet, speeding down through a lightly covered, tracked Sugar Mountain. I watched him beeline toward the catwalk. not seeing the two small compressions that lead out of the small face. He skipped off the first, cased the second and starfished onto the catwalk. Ouch.
I’ve done that exact same thing once or twice in my years and it hurts more than you want to let on. You pick yourself and ski limp to the lift. Dust off the snow on your pack, dig the snow out of your face and tell yourself the concussion you just gave yourself is a mild one. Then, continue on like nothing happened. Big Mountain Starfish, I feel your pain. We ended up behind him on the lift.
Big Mountain Starfish post holed while skinned, a tough day on the lower hike as the wind slab was variable in density and thickness. Boot punching through wind slab world looked miserable. BMS tried to find the boot track, but couldn’t. He gave up and fell behind in our skin track. We left him behind as we skinned into low visibility, high winds and heavy horizontal snow.
J and I took our time up top, enjoying the hostile weather and the rawness of it all. It gave BMS a chance to catch up, making up ground on the scoured, groomed tail to the top. He hiked directly over to me. Around two feet away, he stopped and launched into an intense first run report on Tweeners. It took me by surprise. I listened and got a few syllables in every now and then. He was amped on the small wind slab that broke around him at the top of Tweeners first run and he was going back for more. The wind slab was just a couple of inches around 11 am as the storm was just getting going. I got in that Tweeners was also our destination when he stopped to breathe.
Suddenly, he ended the report, clicked into his skis and was off. He, a blur. I, a little shell-shocked. It was truly amazing, one person made EV feel crowded on the unlikeliest of days. EVI note to Big Mountain Starfish. If a group breaks trail, gets to the top first, and is geared up and headed to the same run as you are, unwritten etiquette says offer it the crew that did the work. J sat silent through the whole ordeal staring in disbelief at the full-face whirlwind.
I shook off the enigma of BMS, wondered if it was just a snow mirage. EV was just starting to fill in at 11 am. We skied four or five nice new inches in Tweeners below the ridge out of the winds, the snow fresh and light. We skied fast smooth north trees in boot deep, watching the snow come down bit by bit erasing the wind events scour. We at least had the bus stop to ourselves.
EV Black Flag Warning:
High winds and heavy snow still at 9 pm. Got a report from DPS that Tweeners was filled in again and reactive around three pm. Spiderweb cracking and wind slab release in the upper scarp of Tweeners, not at critical depth at the time. Tomorrow it will be. All sorts of different layers are lurking underneath this new storm snow. Old bed surface, east facing suncrust and upper north facing rock hard wind slab just to name a few. The variables are many and with a couple of feet of wind load on top, it could be a significant avalanche cycle.
Interested, as always, what will go down tomorrow in EV.