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May 18, 2003, Iron Peak, NF Teanaway

WA Cascades East Slopes Central
Posted by Charles on 5/18/03 10:22pm
After getting reports from Saturday trips to Chinook Pass and Bean Creek, Andy and I decided to try for corn and so drove the NF Teanaway to blocking snow (~3/4 mile short of DeRoux CG). As we were packing up, John_M and friends showed up, intending a direct route up Iron Peak. Andy and I decided to head up the road, leaving the decision between Iron and Fortune until the Iron Peak trailhead. Part way up the road walk we met two climbers who had been intending a 1 day climb of Mt. Stuart. They had encountered cold and fierce winds at Longs Pass, and completely frozen slopes everywhere, and had turned around there. We decided to go for Iron's lower elevation and choices of S-facing slopes, which we hoped would soften in the abundant sunshine.

Skiable snow started at ~4400', solidly frozen overnight but already softening in sunny spots. We followed the trail route to about 5200', then skinned more steeply SE to gain an open ridge, where we ran into John and his party. We took the ridge to the Iron Peak summit ridge, where a gusty cold wind did not encourage lingering, and the solidly frozen N slopes did not encourage skiing. We skinned over the summit and continued S on the ridge to a S facing bowl, where we skied down to ~5300'. The snow was true corn, up to 1" soft solid base, fast and never grabby.

After lunch in the sun, we skinned back up largely in cloud shade, which was causing the formation of what I think of as "glass pane" snow - a thin and delicate surface layer of clear ice over the still soft and moist corn layer - which I have usually found to provide nice skiing. A second run to the bottom of the bowl met or exceeded our expectations, and turns were accompanied by the musical cascading of the shattered glass layer around us. We skinned back up to the top of Iron, where we saw the tracks of John's group, then began the run back down our ascent route. A few icy spots in tree shade at the top, but once we started down all was great, never getting mushy even as the snowpack began to run out.
It will be a couple of weeks before I get around to making a homepage gallery (we took 250 photos!), but here's an Andy-posing shot, from the top of Iron Peak with Stuart in the distance:

Charles - a friend asked me recently about what my favorite ski area was (work friend so doesn't ski and I didn't have the energy to educate him on the difference b/w BC and ski area skiing - you know, "you went skiing this weekend?  How?  All the lifts are closed?")...after a moment I told him it wasn't a place so much as a time, and the most vivid times for me are the weird snow conditions you only find in the BC.  The "glass pane" skiing you mentioned is one such a time as the gentle tinkle of a million glass panes rolling down hill along with you cannot be recreated anywhere but in the high mountains.  Thanks for reminding me why I go out there!  

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2003-05-19 05:22:45