April 7, 2002, Secret Mt. Baker BC Stash #421

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 7/14/02 9:47am
Slept late on Sunday-the change to daylight savings made this the obvious thing to do- and hit the trail at the proverbial crack of noon, following a skin track up through thickening fresh slop toward Herman Saddle and into the no-longer-so-secret bowl where almost everyone I know goes to ski powder on warm days (though every one of us claims to have been skiing there long before anyone else discovered it). A group of four was just ahead of me, looking positively offended at my interloping presence and clearly worried that others might be just behind me. My inquiries about their intentions yielded averted eyes and mumbles about not really having any plans, maybe heading off that way (a vague sweeping motion encompassing at least 180 degrees of mountainous landscape), being out here merely for the sake of something to do and a bit of exercise.....

Of course, I have mumbled similar things any number of times myself, usually accompanied by the same unwillingness to make eye contact, so I let them ski off into the distance (strong, confident tele turns from three, with one tentative randonne skier following) while I yo-yoed a couple of runs to warm up. Then I followed them, carrying on with my original plan of exploring the down-valley exits towards the Nooksack North Fork. Of course, by that time they had climbed nearly to the top of the steep couloir just around the corner which was their original objective, but I left them to their prize and dropped down towards the valley a thousand feet below. Climbing back out, I met one of them again, dusting himself off after cratering hugely, who maintained rather against common sense and the evidence that they had found nothing worthwhile way up there anyway. I satisfied myself by taking another thousand foot ride through steep glades which ran in syncopated patterns all the way to the valley floor...and which had somehow protected the previous night's powder from the heat of the day.

By then it was time to pay the piper; it was late, the sun was gone, the lighting flat, and what once was slop had turned to 1300 feet of trap crust. I survived only by making liberal use of the double-poling telemark step turn technique I'd been shown just last week in this very spot by some old geezer I was skiing with at the time-name of Beeve Sarnette, or Sleeve Barbett or something similar. Every now and then I'd try a few fast and aggressive semi-jump turns, just to remind myself what total humiliation felt like. The step turns kept me alive. To pad out my vertical footage I climbed through the ski area to ski some frozen groomers out to the parking lot.

Conditions were nice and powdery in sheltered glades, reasonable but fading fast in the bowls, and horrendous elsewhere else...though good corn won't be long in forming. 8 inches of storm snow sluffed reliably at 45 degrees but not at 40, with potential releases on the raincrust from late last month just a couple of feet down still a bit worrisome. Forest roads at 2000 feet in the Nooksack valley are still snowed in one to two feet deep, so it'll be a couple more weeks before they start really melting back.



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2002-07-14 16:47:55