On Sunday Jeff Wong, Lucas Cairns, Tom Skoog and I used the first true spring cycle of the season to ski the SW Face of Buckner via Sahale Arm & Horseshoe Basin. Cascade River Rd can be a frustrating place to ski, but I’m not sure it gets any better than a good day there, and Sunday was one of the best.
Jeff and I had been up on Cascade River Rd since Thursday night aiming for a double dose of Buckner – our original plan was to climb and ski the N Face via Boston Glacier on Friday, rest Saturday, then climb and ski the SW Face via Horseshoe Basin on Sunday. A number of factors conspired to keep us off the N Face on Friday. The peaks north of Cascade Pass, including Buckner, were socked in for most of the day. The 18” of fresh snow was not well bonded to the layer beneath. And if that wasn’t enough, we simply couldn’t get there. Two sudden cornice collapses along the Boston-Sahale ridgeline dissuaded us from continuing that way, and traversing below the ridgeline to the point where you can drop onto Boston Glacier involved climbing rotten snow on very steep, very exposed slopes. It was an easy decision to bail.
On Sunday we left Eldorado TH at 4AM under clear skies. With a fat snowpack and a solid overnight refreeze, travel up Cascade Pass & Sahale Arm was fast and direct. We dropped into the chute that connects Sahale Arm with Horseshoe Basin around 10AM and skied 1000’ of prrrrr-fect corn. From there we made our way across Horseshoe Basin to Buckner. Some postholing was required on the upper SW Face as things began to warm, but with a team effort on trailbreaking we made it to the summit by 12:30 with energy to spare. I’ll never get tired of the summit views in this part of the world.
Skiing the SW Face was a blast. No gnar, no glaciers, no routefinding, no stability issues, just fun in the sun. I wouldn’t say it was full corn top to bottom, but close enough. After skiing the face we retraced our route back across Horseshoe Basin, Sahale Arm and Cascade Pass, enjoying more carefree turns amid spectacular scenery. Below Cascade Pass the good times came to an end and we fought through mush with a fresh coating of pollen until the snow ran out somewhere around Boston Basin trailhead. Well-earned beers were enjoyed back at the car. At 10K vert and 12.5 hours C2C, Buckner was my longest day of the season so far. The combination of good company, good weather, ski conditions and scenery made it one of the highlights of the season as well.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone who’s skied the N Face of Buckner – when did you go, did you approach via Boston-Sahale Col or Sharkfin Col, and what were conditions like getting onto Boston Glacier and back again?
Photos & video by Tim Gibson except where noted.