April 19, 2002, Nordic Pass/Tinkham Lake, SnoqPass

WA Snoqualmie Pass
Posted by Charles on 7/14/02 9:57am
I have to admit that, in retrospect, all the warning signs were there, but I guess that I chose to ignore them. The sun was out early, working its radiative damage on the 8-16" of snow which had fallen between Sunday and Tuesday, increasing it cohesiveness as it lay questionably bonded to the solid crust from Saturday's heavy rain; the trees were dripping wildly as the sun shined its smiley face down on the wilderness, shedding their loads onto the increasingly stressed snowpack; steeper slopes were littered with avalanche debris, triggered by tree bombs and massive cornice failures; I was alone and determined to force a long spring tour into new terrain to happen; and, huge gouges had been ripped down into the mashed potato snow by skiers the previous day, and very little refreezing had taken place overnight. The inevitable result was that I found myself trapped in a place I didn't want to be, a place where no rational person would want to be: the land of the terrible tandem telemark skiers. Yes, Robie and Nitzy had taken their tandem tele ski setup (two bindings per ski) to the Silver Fir runs Thursday evening and had trashed the slopes. (Sorry, Mark)

In reality, it was a great spring trip, perfectly suited to my wide waxless skis, and while most of the above is true, I did explore a new area (for me), got some good runs, and had no problems with avalanches because I didn't venture into steep, open terrain. I started at the base of the Silver Fir lift (closed) and skied up a run to Grand Junction. The snow was actually pretty firm in the morning, but overall softened up well during the day (although it didn't get quite as warm or completely sunny as the forecast had suggested). I made my way over to the old-growth forest, then went through Nordic Pass and down to Windy Pass. The snow was fairly icy where trees had been dripping, but where turns were necessary there were always undripped patches. From Windy Pass I then traversed south along the east slope of Silver Peak, near where the PCT goes, staying at about 3800' to avoid cliffs higher up. After traversing through a lot of forest and crossing a couple of avalanche gulleys, I got into the drainage which comes out of the southeast bowl of Silver Peak. I climbed up the drainage a bit, then climbed south again to reach some tarns near the west end of Tinkham Peak. From there, I climbed SE to the little lake which lies right at the foot of the north face of Tinkham Peak (about 4600'; about 16-18" of snow above the rain crust). Very nice woods and a spectacular face, and great views of Silver Peak's southeast bowl. Good skiing, too, coming back down to my traverse track - the surface crust mostly acted unbreakable, until suddenly it was gone and there was only mashed potatoes. It was only 5:00 when I got back to Windy Pass (far too early to head back to the car!), and I spotted some fresh up-tracks on Olallie clearcut, so I took them and got up into the glades on the west side of the Silver Peak north bowl. The run back down to Windy Pass was actually very good - only about 5" of snow above the crust in the clearcut; Sunday's wind must have blown lots of the new snow away there. I don't think that steep, open slopes, especially with sun exposure, would have been the place to be today in this part of the Cascades.

I pretty much followed my tracks on the way back. Returning from Grand Junction, I saw what seemed to be bear tracks, made earlier in the day; I followed them all the way to the Silver Fir lift, where I headed down toward my car (more nice turns) and they kept heading toward Central. No photos of skiing, but some nice scenery images can be viewed at http://www.turns-all-year.com/goldhome/hp26/index.html


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2002-07-14 16:57:41