January 19, 2002, Shangri-La Found, Mt. Baker

WA Cascades West Slopes North (Mt Baker)
Posted by ema on 9/11/02 9:42am
Today I continued my search for the perfect, untracked and unknown ski locales within easy reach of the end of the plowed highway. I resumed where I left off several weeks ago, dropping off a ridgeline crowded with skiers and boarders, snowshoers, snow-cavers and other sorts of riff-raff, squeezing through the slot in the treeline down into the big, fluffy bowl below. Last time I tried this route I got hung up on narrow little ribs covered with giant trees separating avalanche-scoured gullies, so I tried another possibility this time around, and found....heaven, featuring good visibility and deep, unconsolidated powder, stable on slopes to greater than 40 degrees, in glades, bowls and little ravines winding downhill like luge runs. I don't even know where I found the strength of character to stop and head back uphill, but it's a good thing that I did, because breaking trail all the way back up to the ridge was onerous indeed. By the time I emerged into The Place Where Everyone Goes, fog and light snow had rolled back in and everything was totally whited out, so I picked my way carefully back to the ski area.

Others, testing stability on other aspects along the ridgelines, drew different conclusions, but I got releases at 4 in two pits on the steep south and west aspects I skied, both times releasing without showing any hint of slab, 8 inches deep (at the base of last night's snow). Ski cuts were similar, with point releases around 50 degrees steepness, which is way steeper than I would have skied. I admit that it was still a bit nerve-wracking dropping into those ravines, a.k.a. terrain traps, but all was uneventful. Until, that is, I found a couple of pockets of strangely slabby snow in the trees on my long, arduous skin back uphill. These propagated cracks and released on unsupported rolls (e.g. tree wells and rock outcrops) located unpredictably here and there, suggesting humility in all pursuits. Once the current snow is loaded with another couple of feet tonight and tomorrow it'll probably become pretty weird. Looks to be worth staying home (or in-bounds) tomorrow.

I'm claiming this new secret stash as my own, for as long as it lasts.



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2002-09-11 16:42:41