May 3-5, Wa Pass tours

WA Cascades East Slopes North
Posted by Paul_Russell on 5/5/08 3:42pm
Mary and I spent three days touring at Wa Pass to celebrate the highway opening and her birthday on, May 5th, Cinco de Mayo.  And it was a fine celebration!  Day 1: Cutthroat Pass from Rainey Pass to Cutthroat Cr TH, Day 2: Lyall Gl from Maple Pass and Frisco Peak col, Day 3: the Birthday Tour, of course  :)

Mary skiing the Birthday Tour, and Madison Ave, on her birthday

Looking back at Madison Ave and Blue Lake Col

On Sat morning, we were delighted to find mostly sunny weather after driving from Seattle for our first tour to Cutthroat Pass with a later start about 11am.  Clouds had moved in with some precip for our ski from the Pass to Cutthroat Lake in softening slushy snow.  We hitched a ride back to Rainey Pass just in time as it began raining harder.  I explained to the friendly but confused tourists who picked me up, that yes, we had skied from the other side of the highway. 

The Lyall Glacier and Frisco (left) with Mt Goode in background (run from snowy peak in middle)

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day, and quite warm.  We had initial designs on skiing the South face of Black Peak and a longer tour with an earlier start about 6:30.  But with the warmer temps, softening snow and loud sounds coming down from Corteo early that morning, we opted for the more reasonable objective of the Lyall Gl.  We toured to Maple Pass, descended to Maple Creek on surprisingly firm corn, then traversed and climbed to Frisco col to reach the Lyall Gl.  We were concerned about big sluffs on the descent after setting off a small slide from the col, but the run down the Lyall Gl was on nice creamy snow that held well.  We ascended to the ridge above Lake Ann and found a good run following older tracks down to Lake.  Altogether a great day, and better than expected skiing.  On the drive to Mazama at the hairpin turn, we were startled to see a Suburban that had been crushed by a slide only shortly ago.  At the Country Store, we talked with the owner who amazingly wasn't hurt.  We were glad to be back safely!

Left, Climb to Frisco Col. Right, Cornices viewed from Blue Lake Col

Left, Touring to Maple Pass.  Right, View of Golden Horn and Tower from Blue Lake area

The Birthday tour was very special to do for Mary's birthday, and espeically nice to do on Monday finding ourselves alone on a typically busy route.  Clouds gave way to sunny skies in the early afternoon giving us a nice run down the top section of Madison Ave.  But we found deep unconsolidated slush down lower that became quite hazardous on the steeper rolls.  The run from the col down Hidden Bowl was on nice, sometimes sticky snow after the chunky skied out upper section.  Lower, we had some major sluff management setting off a slide into the trees on a ski cut.  We found a ride with some friendly local Mazama folks who had skied down Spire Gulch.   We were back to the car by 2pm to celebrate with some beers.   Happy Birthday Mary!

Left, Descent of the Lyall Gl.  Right, Hidden Bowl descent on the Birthday Tour

Note: as mentioned in other reports, the current snowpack and deep slush is concerning until we get more of a melt-freeze cycle.  I don't recall a recent spring this late requiring so much attention to sluff management, ski cutting and other measures to be safe.
That deep slush was pretty crazy, I don't think I had ever skied shin deep slop before. Is this due to the sun rays pentrating the snow and warming the rock, thus giving a rotten facetted snow? We opted to stay on the top of those ribs to avoid a potential terrain trap with that heavy wet stuff...

Some of those descriptive references to the snowpack in that area are strikingly similar to what I encountered on Wedge MT(Leavenworth) Sunday May 4. 

The slush shouldn't last long.  There simply has been no spring until this last week.  Usually a week or so of heat will bake the snow down to an all day solid, easy skiing consistency.

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2008-05-05 22:42:20