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EVI on the River

Looking at J’s video from the West Wall today inspired me to write a post. Check it out, looks like a sweet bluebird day in ol’ EV and a nice run. Makes me a little misty…
Don’t have much snow info for you all, Mt. Baker still exists and the nonstop weather here has ended for the time being  revealing the Cascades cloaked in feet of the white stuff.  Bluebird here hurts the eyes at first, takes a little while to get used to it after four weeks of constant snow and rain. The energy around town immediately picks up, the vampires here absorbing the UV’s and turning back to day walkers. Will get up there when I can, but starting somewhere new requires more work, less play.
Been occupying myself with learning and guiding some of the local  rivers, many which run year round. Trying to get ready for the whitewater season here on the Sauk and Suiattle rivers. Fast and loggy, they both provide a different challenge than most of the Colorado rivers and are a challenge for any rafter, especially during the spring runoff.  The northern Cascades are chock full of snow to melt, the coming season shaping up to be a good one so far(starting  after an AK ski trip I hope.  Snow is starting to fall up north in the Chugach finally after a drought cycle.)

It’s eagle season here and that’s a big deal. Thousands of eagles, Balds and Goldens alike travel down from Alaska and Canada to feed on the spawning salmon in the Skagit River basin. The river, fed by rain and snowmelt from the towering Eldorado and Glacier peaks, contains all five species of salmon, as well as steelhead and rainbow trout.  The might Skagit runs emerald green and crystal clear, a big wide beast of a river headed to the Puget sound, 10 billion gallons every day. Seattleites flock with here with the eagles, toting five thousand dollar cameras, clad in Gore-Tex, ready to capture the action. They  turn the tiny rural river  towns of Marblemount and Concrete into bustling tourist havens for a month or so.

The eagles sit perched on branches overhanging the gravel bars at turns in the river. The mottled dying and dead salmon wash up on these bars and provide an easy meal for the eagles and their young.  One trip I had we saw 190 eagles. I was told by a veteran river guide here that was a below average day. Pretty cool to see.

I try to stay in the loop as much as I can as far as EV concerned. Read about the snowboarder that launched a cliff and took a ride sometime back.  More recently, I heard someone ran Benchie and ripped out the whole thing. I’m wondering if Old Man’s has ran yet wall to wall. Sounds like Deja Vu all over again, assuming the existence of persistent loose facets below the new snow like last year.  J’s run looked solid.  Typically the East facing West Wall snowpack sets up differently than the shaded Northern aspects of Old’s and Benchie.  Just hearsay, however, from a recovering EV addict at large. Hope everyone has a safe year.

 

 

skagit

Eldorado Peak/Skagit River

10/28/12 Thoughts On Our First Layer

Took a drive tour over Loveland Pass  coming back home from the front range yesterday.  Stopped to hike the dog up  the eastside ridge at the summit of Loveland pass.  Stomping through freshness layered in among the scree it was great to get smacked in the head with 0 degree, 30 mph winds under  a cobalt grey sky.Stood into the wind  and took  a breath of the cold. The jet stream was whipping clouds overhead, obscuring the tops of the highest peaks off the Divide,  blasting eastward. Snow was falling and the wind was transporting it  in great swirls on the open faces of the pass, steadily erasing whats left poking through the snow. Off in the distance, A-Basin looked better than it did all of last year, lifts churning on a busy Saturday,  snow in the tress .There were even a few intrepid souls braving seriously early season conditions on the West side of the pass, skiing down to the lower switchbacks . Looked to be about 8 inches of fresh on top of  a  60 mile deep granite base. Admire the love, a little early for myself. Drove over a mitten in A-Basin”s cross walk. coming down the pass.  No hand in it.  Ahh winter. It’s back.. At least above 11,000 feet.

Back in our world, EV is covered in its first layer of the white stuff. I drove back over Vail pass looking   the notorious layer that is the foundation for  our snowpack. Usually for us in Colorado this  becomes a  loosely faceted  layer that sets the stage for an avalanche cycle in mid to late November in EV and can dog us for the entire season,  depending. Last season Old Man’s early season was perfect example, sliding to the ground in November.

This first snow set the stage for the crown jewel of a  garbage Continental snowpack in 2011/2012. Early October snow with a long  long period of  clear, warm weather created  2-4 mm very loose facets out of the first snow. Surface hoar also reared its’ ugly head. When we finally did get some snow, it came with wind and the results….well you remember. The snow pack never recovered.

Our best hope is continued snow without a third Indian summer before the larger snow load arrives.  As bad as last year was ,two years ago was the textbook for a decent  snowpack. fo us. Snow, snow and more snow, consistent temps and little wind. “Average” year ? I’d take it. 

Every year is different and fascinating in our world, , not only because of the endless variables that affect our  snow, but the endlessly variable human element as well.  You can’t make the stuff up that happens out in EV. Keeps me coming back and I can’t wait to tell the tale this year. See you soon at the bus stop. EVI.

EV late October

2/26/12 Strip Club

Headed out into the moonscape of the scoured world.  Wind event 2012 is in full swing and EV is not immune. One look at the Gore Range says it all.   Mountains bathed in white a few days ago are stripped bare, the precious  contents transferred to Nebraska.  Flagging on the peaks yesterday was huge, clouds of snow pluming off anything above 10000 feet.  Really a sense of deja vu, the Poma hike scoured, the anti-tracks of travelers past sticking out in relief, exposed by the winds.  It reminded me of  early December conditions. DPS and I headed out just to see what the results of the wind, not expecting any phenomenal skiing.  There has really been no periods of consistency with weather or snow this year and everyday seems to bring something new.

Steps In Relief

Not much traffic, no surprise there. Top of the World really wasn’t that bad wind wise, the worst of the event is hopefully over.  Snow conditions were variable, meaning I skied seven different kinds of snow during our Tweeners run.  Rock hard scarp gave way to thin window pane like wind slab.  Old pow in the trees, old pow with a cracker crust in any sun hit lowers out of the wind.  East facing sun crust of different variations. It was a snow condition buffet, and I had my plate full.  I survival skied the run, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Hanging out with DPS on the ridge, looking around and shooting the shit is always a good time.

The run out to the water tank was the capper. The wind had brought down smaller limbs and pine cones and scattered them like confetti on the run-out.  Flying through the luge on a mostly brown carpet with the crunching of the pine cones under the skis capped a strange, otherworldly run in a otherworldly year.

On the ridge we watched Benchie and Old Mans reloading, the plumes of snow cartwheeling into the scarps.  The crown in Olds is still visible.  The fracture profile looks pretty similar to the slide I set off with the ski cut heard round the world early in the year.  Strip on the right side of Old Mans is holding tough.

Old Mans Watch Continues

I’ve chosen a couple of strip runs next to old slide paths this year.  These strips of snow have provided good skiing, while mitigating the danger with the old slide path interrupting the open faces.   Pow strips have provided this year when we couldn’t step out into the open faces we wanted to ski.  Can’t ever remember choosing runs in EV this way during any other year.

East faces are crusted from sun and warm temps. Upper north aspects are cross-loaded or slid out.   Lower protected trees are the best skiing at the moment, out of the sun and wind.

Bottom line in EV,  we need the reset button pushed in a bad way.

1/23/12

Sunny after powder day in vail, but not much enjoyment in it after the tragic death of a 13 year old local skier.  Bombs were resonating all day in the Vail area, with slides happening in places I’ve never seen before inbounds, like lower Sugar Mountain.  We went out to check out expected releases in EV after the storm and reported near misses from yesterday and had no expectations of skiing.  Had been two days since I had been back, purposely  taking time off due to dangerous conditions.  Saw evidence of natural and probable skier triggered avalanches, some of them considerable size.  Check out the photos on Luke’s report.

Looked like yesterday was an active one, as slides, cracks and debris were all evident on E-NE slopes, a big one in West Marvin’s. Below treeline had evidence of large cracking and piles of debris indicating stability was terrible down lower in the trees yesterday as well.   Heard a report of a partial burial below treeline yesterday but don’t know the details, I believe CAIC has the report.

Glad no one died in EV over the weekend, really thought it might happen.  Hard to believe inbounds, though.  Not much else to say. Hope to get back to enjoying the pow, but wondering if that is in the cards this season.  Had some good skiing and didn’t see any new activity today, but in light of recent events, it doesn’t matter. Pow skiing should be fun not tragic.

Fear and Loathing 1/13/12

The day after my showdown in Old Man’s I was back out in the mix.  Not for the great skiing, but for a dubious anniversary.  EV lost a great skier on this day some years ago in King Tut’s during one of the biggest seven-day cycles I’ve ever seen.  I wandered up on the accident in a different party and ended up recovering Gus with a good friend of mine.  A sobering reminder that there is a fine line between pushing it and pushing it too far. It was the first pack of the day and other friends rounded out the locals only group.

I was seriously spooked from yesterdays verification of a trigger happy snowpack, and was all about a crappy Mushie run.  I let everyone know about what had transpired the day before and let them make up their own minds.  We had come in separate groups and a group of geared up quickly and stood ready at the small tree platform above the skier’s left entrance of Abraham’s.   I couldn’t resist the urge to spot them and see what was going to go down.  I called coming and skied up to them, happy to let someone test the left side of Abe’s first.  A shelf like cliff guards the entrance and is a prime spot to trigger a release. I’ve seen it break and flush at the exact spot.

They dropped, cut left into the denser tree slots.  Both were able to cut left and then descend without incident.   Other groups joined me at the spot and then took turns skiing similar lines.  Nothing.  It sounds crazy, but I was a little disappointed.  All this build up from yesterday and I ended up crying wolf.  I realized that I had let yeaterday’s incident and the fact of Gus’ tragic aniversary skew my judgement and assesment of a  different day, different conditions in a very different area.  The human factor by far, both the positive and negative aspects, is the most variable of all.

After six people had gone, Big J wanted to bring up the rear, so I gathered myself and dropped over the shelf cliff and into the left hand slot of Abe’s.  The snow was at the knee and a little wind whipped, the fear of punching through in the back of my mind.  It was evergreen slalom, and had to be wary of catching a non-exposed part of a tree or log.

The evergreens anchored the snow pack and combined with a day of settlement, the snowpack seemed to be a little calmer.

Aired over the little choke and into the flats and to my ski partners, happy to have gotton the first Abe’s out of the way.  A few deep pow turns, thankfully without incident on a perfect day was just what I needed.  Big J and I took our time and skied out with Brenden  stopping along the way to enjoy the day and remenisce.  I caught a glimpse on the way out of Old Man’s and turned away quickly, wanting to be in the moment and put it a literally and figuratively behind.

Haiku

Oh you Chilango
Lip gloss glistens in the sun
See you next Christmas

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