January 5, 2020, Castle Mountain Environs

Posted by htg22 on 1/7/20 1:56am
We set out Sunday morning with the intention of skiing in Bullion Basin, however, our late(ish) start, and everyone else's enthusiasm for the powder that was sure to be found in the resort conspired against us. According to the sign board in Enumclaw, all lots were full by 8:30am and the stop and go traffic from the scenic view onwards up 410 indicated that we would have to initiate plan B. After some brief consultation of the guide book, we decided that storming Castle Mountain was the mission for the day.

We arrived at the gate at approximately 9:45 and, after the usual faffing and the ceremonial emptying of the piss bottle, we set off. The general consensus of the group was that the mixture of gravel and new snow that was thoroughly churned together by a couple of snowmobiles prior to our arrival was somewhat lacked glide but skinned much better than sitting in another hour of traffic. Coverage was thin for the first 2 miles of Correl Pass road, but rapidly improved above 3600'. Above 4200' we were grateful that the mini-groomers had been through ahead of us (apparently towing several of our less aerobically minded skiing brethren), as the new snow had gotten deep enough to make breaking trail a chore.

Upon arrival at the flats around 4 miles in, we bumped into the groomers who indicated that the west facing ridge above us was deep and stable, and, as we were 2 hours into our assault and unfamiliar with the terrain, we decided to heed their advice and split off the road and into the snowy trees. As we worked our way up the north facing drainage we found 14" of relatively light, new powder that appeared well bonded to the rain crust below. Upon cresting a small rise, our enthusiasm was further buoyed by a break in the weather and clear visibility to the western face of the ridge across the bowl. Inviting looking chutes among burned out trees lead to a lightly treed apron which, to our eyes, offered some excellent turns. Plans were quickly made to gain the ridge above then wrap around and harvest our well-deserved faceshots.

Our plans quickly fell apart. As we gained the ridge the storm that was predicted for that afternoon rolled in on schedule and the winds picked up. On southern aspects we found difficult travel conditions particularly where the winds had stripped the surface down to the rain crust. What snow we did find was thin and poorly bonded. We decided, given the conditions, we should abort our mission to the chutes and traverse into the trees on the westerly aspect for our first run of the day. The decision delivered, and we harvested about 500' of shin deep turns through the trees.

For lap 2 we decided to skin up the northern end of the ridge to stay in the trees as the winds continued to variously scour and drift the more open slopes of the ridge. At approximately 6000' feet we noticed that the storm snow that had been rapidly accumulating all afternoon was not bonding very well to the storm snow the day before. Given that, along with the fact that we were running dangerously low on snacks, motivation, and daylight, we decided to transition one last time and head for the car. The turns in the bowl alternated between light drifted powder, and, to our surprise, hidden tree and avalanche debris from the last rain cycle.

At 3:15 we rejoined the road and had a pleasant slide back down the road. Most of our party chose to walk the final half mile to the car to avoid the abrasive (gravel filled) snow, however, if one had an total disregard for the integrity of one's bases, the road skied quite nicely all the way out. After recovering our carefully concealed beverages from the snowbank, packing the toaster to the brim, and high-fiving a day well spent, we drove home satisfied knowing, if nothing else, we made it out before dark and we got plenty of exercise.

13 miles, 4000' of gain, fewer than 50 quality turns harvested, 2 beers consumed. Rating: Athletic suffering.
This is everything we're looking for in a TR. More like it, please!
2020-01-17 09:26:07
Pictures of suffering also appreciated.  That aspect to the southeast skied quite nicely.
2020-01-19 12:33:11

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2020-01-07 09:56:52