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Skiing photos: a ski touring loop in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area, Washington
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This is a gallery of ski touring photos which appeared on the Turns All Year home page in the past. Thumbnail images on this page can be clicked to view the full-sized photos, and lead into a slide show sequence for the gallery. Photos from a ski touring trip to the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area, in the Washington Cascades north of Stevens Pass. We did a loop through four river valleys using waxless skis on this beautiful late winter day and skied through a lot of snowy forest.
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The complete version of this photo gallery is now available on Turns All Year CD-ROM. Below you can view thumbnail photos from this gallery.

Turns All Year CD-ROM contains over 180 photo galleries, containing more than 3200 full-sized photos, from backcountry skiing and snowboarding trips in the Pacific Northwest.

from March 13, 2006:
Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area ski touring loop,
Nason Creek-Martin Creek-Rapid River-Smith Brook, Stevens Pass, Washington, March 3, 2006

Skinning up through sunny Nason Creek forest
Skinning up through sunny
Nason Creek forest
Skinning toward saddle to Martin Creek
Skinning toward saddle
to Martin Creek
Using vertical to get across upper Martin Creek
Using vertical to get
across upper Martin Creek
Traversing in Martin Creek toward Rapid River saddle
Traversing in Martin Creek
toward Rapid River saddle
View from saddle up Rapid River valley
View from saddle up
Rapid River valley
David gets some turns at the saddle
David gets some
turns at the saddle
Nice powder on north slopes heading into Rapid River
Nice powder on north slopes
heading into Rapid River
Traversing out of a deep gully
Traversing out of
a deep gully
Forest traversing in Rapid River valley
 Forest traversing
in Rapid River valley
More forest traversing in Rapid River valley
More forest traversing
in Rapid River valley
Still more forest traversing in Rapid River valley
Still more forest traversing
in Rapid River valley
Starting the climb toward Union Gap
Starting the climb
toward Union Gap
Skiing through meadows below Union Gap
Skiing through meadows
below Union Gap
Chiwaukum Mountains from upper Smith Brook
Chiwaukum Mountains
from upper Smith Brook
Still skiing as the sun is getting low, upper Smith Brook
Still skiing as the sun is
getting low, upper Smith Brook
Sparkly snow winter landscape photos
Sparkly snow winter
landscape photos
Climbing toward saddle to Lake Valhalla and Nason Creek
Climbing toward saddle to
Lake Valhalla and Nason Creek
Charles at the saddle, with Lichtenberg Mountain
Charles at the saddle,
with Lichtenberg Mountain
David glides by Lichtenberg Mountain
David glides by
Lichtenberg Mountain
Nearing the breakable crust descent, with Mt. McCausland
Nearing the breakable crust
descent, with Mt. McCausland
David on breakable crust below Lichtenberg Mountain
David on breakable crust
below Lichtenberg Mountain

Photos by David Nicholson and Charles Eldridge
Backcountry skiing touring trip report:
Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area ski touring loop,
Nason Creek-Martin Creek-Rapid River-Smith Brook, Stevens Pass, Washington, March 3, 2006

    This was a tour that I'd wanted to do for several years, and the snow conditions seemed to warrant trying it now. Plus, long-lost ski partner David reappeared and seemed interested in my type of ski tours using waxless skis. Maybe I didn't read the forecast correctly, but an expected cloudy day turned out to be full on sun and blue sky the whole day. The east wind was really blowing in the morning, with big plumes of snow coming off all of the higher Skykomish valley peaks (Index/Persis, Gunn/Merchant/Baring), but it wasn't much of an issue where we were in the morning, and seemed to largely die down by afternoon.
   We parked at Stevens lower lot (Yodelin), crossed Highway 2, skied to the end of the cabins road, then up Nason Creek. When it got steeper we had to put on skins, and skied northwest up to a meadow, then climbed to a saddle on the Cascade Crest leading into the Martin Creek drainage. Mostly traversing on sunny slopes of upper Martin Creek led to another saddle near Valhalla Mountain. We skied down the north side of this into a tributary valley of Rapid River - very nice turns on the shaded north-facing slopes. We then traversed north and then northeast quite a ways on the east side of the Rapid River valley, staying 400-500 feet above the valley floor. Forest just like around Nordic Pass, except hundreds of times greater in area - beautiful. Eventually we came to a tributary of Rapid River which comes down from around Union Gap, and we generally followed this southeast to reach Union Gap (had to use skins again to climb this). Skins off and then mostly traversing southwest near the route of PCT to the saddle above Lake Valhalla (between Lichtenberg Mountain and "Mt. McCausland") - had to use skins again for the last few hundred feet because sun-affected snow was refreezing. The slopes on the east side of Lake Valhalla were still in the sun, so we pulled the skins and zoomed on a descending traverse across under the west face of Lichtenberg - fast. That was a good alternative to skiing down to the north end of Lake Valhalla and then breaking trail acoss the lake. The final descent on south-facing slopes to Nason Creek was pretty bad, sun exposed and now re-freezing. We'd get a few good turns and then hit bad breakable crust overlying 20" of rotten snow - must have been everything above the last significant crust. Back on the shaded areas along Nason Creek the snow was still as good as it had been in the morning.
   A fun trip, with plenty of navigational challenges keep our minds active on the long traverses through the forest, which was gorgeous on this sunny day and seemed limitless. The snow turned out to be not quite as fast as I had expected and so the loop was pretty tiring. There are a number of interesting looking variations on this loop, and I'd like to return with faster condtions and try some of them. Maybe a sunny and warm April day with a great snow pack (ie. next month)?
   Charles

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