March 14, Silver Peak Basin
Having done Mt. Catherine the dumbest possible way a few weeks ago (link), M. and I pleasantly surprised ourselves by doing Silver Peak basin laps the smart way this weekend, with one minor exception.
A few inches overnight on Friday (smart! go when it's not rainy and 38F), caught the Silver Fir chair 9:00 a.m. sharp (smart! take chair up instead of skin for 1,000 mi. from Hyak parking lot), schussed the XC trails to the low point by the power lines (smart! see previous parenthetical phrase), put on our skins, got passed by a bunch of women who were younger, fitter and much better-looking than M. or I.
Stormy! Snowing and blowing 20+ out of the east. In addition to the aforementioned ladies, we ran into a few other casual alpine tourers and XC skiers out in the weather and sticking to the XC trails.
Made it to Olallie Meadows by 10:00 a.m. or so. As we started to quarter back into the east wind and blowing snow, M. went to put his goggles on and after much frantic pack and clothes pockets searching, realized he'd dropped his goggles somewhere. Oops. Yours truly put on all his clothes and stood in the lame lee of a few puny trees facing west away from the blowing snow contemplating his well-insulated navel (and also occasionally considering possible worst-case coronavirus scenarios) while super-fit M. went looking for his goggles... and came back ? min later without them. I don't know how long. You'd have to ask M. -- I didn't have a watch. Maybe 30, maybe 45, maybe 10 min, I was spaced out and it was so pretty out I honestly didn't care. No pics of M. and so he is saved from shaming. OK, I said we were smart this weekend but that was one dumb bit, I guess. But M. is a biochemistry PhD. and maybe the smartest person I know except I guess his lab partner is a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient so maybe his partner is the smartest person I know. Anyway, M. is not dumb but it just goes to show you!
We went to the top of climber's left of the Viewpoint XC trail and left the trail to contour around the toe of the ridge on the east side of Silver Peak basin (in red on map below). First ones in that day. Skinned up the basin climber's left and made our way to the top of the ridge/knoll on the east side of the basin. Still pretty much a whiteout. 3-6" over very hard crust. Anything steep wanted to sluff and it was hard to keep the skin track intact...wanted to slide.
Got to the top of the ridge/knoll and decided to ski the basin just to the east off that ridge rather than what we'd just ascended. Some neat and steep skiing over there...snow was sluffing but otherwise it was bomber and we got some truly great sections (in blue on map).
So delicious we had to go back for seconds. Contoured around the ridge west back into Silver Peak basin (in fuschia on map), encountered a couple of other parties using the skin track we'd put in, THE SUN CAME OUT, made it back to our high spot, this time skied down Silver Peak basin proper, which was lovely.
There was sluffing on anything over 35 degrees or so and you could scrape on the crust underneath at times but no punching through and the good bits were ecstatic.
Reversed our dumb "up" route from the last trip by smartly going out on the Cold Creek trail, which was 3+ miles of downhill, maybe a mile of skating for both of us and then I gave up and skinned the last mile while M. skated. Like I said, he's fit. Caught the East Peak Chair and we were back at the car at Silver Fir parking lot by around 3 p.m.
Link to photos and video below. Hopefully this works for people, as resizing and posting here is a PITA! https://drive.google.com/open?id=1s_HdX1tYB1-rxxLU_LhDSSQFXsI3gpVT
Thankfully the very definition of backcountry skiing is social distancing, so I look forward to all of us being out there and not seeing each other over the next few months!