Home > Trip Reports > March 8, 2003, Skyline Ridge, Stevens Pass

March 8, 2003, Skyline Ridge, Stevens Pass

WA Stevens Pass
Posted by Don_B on 3/8/03 4:36am
Mountaineers trip, group of 5 to Skyline Ridge from Stevens. With avalanche danger high, and trail breaking very strenuous when we ran out of tracks in 3 feet of new powder, we did a shortened route, just  out-and-back to Skyline Lk and the ridge above.  Amazing snow! One had to turn back right away due to too-skinny skis not up to the job. Snow was somewhat moist around the Hwy 2 level, but light and even though the 3' new depth by 5000'. No slabs on these south slopes.  We needed to use caution coming down through tight trees due to really deep feather pillows around tree wells. Skiing was in slow motion on low angle slope open areas, and it was a project to get up after a fall. We were pushing a lot of snow out in front of our waist-deep bodies with buried skis, but not triggering anything, and eventually were making some turns on steep south facing slopes. Fun work!  
Light snow started falling at about noon. Wet snow down at Hwy 2 and rain just below the pass, with wet roads.  

Thanks for the report.

2 of us skied the southeast face above the parking lot on Friday. Our timing was perfect as 2 others had just put in a track! (thanks GB & friend) The 2 parties were the only ones out, so had the slopes to ourselves.

Every run was fresh tracks with face shots on the steeper sections, so there was no need to go any further. The other party reported hearing a couple of "womps" further up the east face on steep sections.

I've skied Skyline many times and never hit conditions like this. These are the runs we'll keep in our minds in the future, as we ski those slopes at the end of the day in their usual wind/sun blasted conditions. :-)

Here's a photo to give you a little taste:http://home.attbi.com/~rschwartz45/wsb/html/view.cgi-photo.html--SiteID-607956.html

Don_B, russ - did you see any activities related to the reported avalanche on a SW-facing slope, 2' x 300', which carried a skier over cliff bands, with minor injuries? It sounds like they were also somewhere on Skyline Ridge.

Thanks for the reports, and glad you found great snow.

We did not see any avalanches or related activity.  We saw two other tele skiers out on south side from parking lot, 2 pair of snowshoers up as far at the lake, and two tired out  snowboarders postholing up to the ridge in our tracks who said they were going to go off the west side.


 Nice photo finish there! I like it.
Good Skiing, Darin

Don_B:  we were the two other tele skiers above Skyline Lake (although I only remember a party of four?)  We dug a pit on the ridge, not to determine if the snow was stable or not - we knew it would scream unstable - but rather for our own education.  There was about 3 feet overlaying an old rain/sun crust in this slightly wind deposited spot.  Slope angle was very low, 15 degrees or so (I'm a bad judge of slope angle, especially this low).  A column for compression test fell over a foot or so down when isolating it.  The three sided rutchblock failed when placing the first foot on it but did not slide, the second foot made it slide off in a single three foot slab two inches above the crust.

Watching those snowboarders posthole up the ridge when we ran into you I began to get very worried.  I remarked a few times to my partner I hoped they knew what they were doing and that I hoped they were going off the north side as they would probably only suffer the fate of hours of postholing to get back to the ridge.  I very much hoped they were not going to descend the avi chutes towards the highway.  They did (read Sunday's NWAC avi report), and set off a very large slide that slide 2000ft down to the old highway.  Thankfully they were not caught.  I wonder about their mentality in a situation like this.  Surely they are aware of such a thing called an avalanche.  Did they have any training at all?  Do they even know the NWAC exists?  Did they read the report?  Were they trained and experienced and simply made a gross judgement error?

It of course begs the question:  were we being safe?  We skied back to the skin track well below the lake and went up for another run in what appeared to be the same area as Russ et al. the previous day, probably a tad skier's right towards the skin track.  At no time were we in what I would consider avalanche terrain, and we were very, very conservative with route selection.  Still the question gets asked again and again.  Perhaps it's the inherent risk backcountry skiers must accept, the knowledge that we can never be 100% certain.  It nags.  Sometimes it nags so hard it begins to torment.

We had the same uneasy feeling about the young pair of boarders we met. They were really whipped by the time they were at the ridge using our tracks, and then were heading off into completely untracked areas on worse exposures. We talked about taking care,etc., but it's hard to act like a cop or their mom out there.  
BTW, we were just 4 at that point. Took one back early and returned.
We were pretty cautious, but wondering a bit about our judgement, too. It's so tempting to go for steeper slopes when you can't get going at the lower angles. At least we were staying in sight of each other but not skiing all at once down a slope.
Good to meet you, however briefly.  Thanks for the snow test report.

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2003-03-08 12:36:01