Home > Trip Reports > November 3, 2001, Maple/Heather Pass Backcountry

November 3, 2001, Maple/Heather Pass Backcountry

WA Cascades East Slopes North
Posted by markharf on 9/16/02 10:39am
Myself and a partner drove down from Bellingham late Friday night, slept soundly at the Maple/Heather Pass trailhead and then lazed around for what must've been hours waiting for the sun to reach the van; I guzzled strong coffee while munching away at a big stack of cream cheese sandwiches, she occasionally stuck her head clear of the sleeping bag for just long enough to ask how the sunshine was progressing down the opposite hillside in our direction. We finally got underway just as folks started arriving from both Seattle and the Methow, including two friends from Seattle who had agreed to meet us at some ungodly hour, but had apparently been distracted by festivities of some sort (and the consumption of legal intoxicants) the night before.

The uptrack was obviously set by sadists with fat skins and tall heel lifts, and we all thrashed and cussed on the steeper sections. The snow depth varied on either side of about three feet of mostly dry, consolidated powder, but it also featured a very breakable melt-freeze crust up to about 6000 feet, with suncrust above that on sunward slopes. North and northwest aspects held reasonable powder, wind affected in places but apparently stable to about 40 degrees. Below 6000 feet the best skiing was out in the sun, where the crust had melted sufficiently to offer a fun mix of soft crust with now-damp snow underneath. I concentrated on hanging on for dear life in the turn transitions, stopping every dozen turns to huff and pant, while my partner launched graceful jump turns by the dozens. When I ventured ahead into the shadows just above the lake I hit a barely survivable breakable crust, in which I managed to link a total of three turns (after a couple of tries at it), whereupon I declared myself victorius.

By the time the four of us headed out, the trail through the woods had metamorphosed into a rough approximation of a luge run, with a narrow, icy track surrounded by any or all of: 1) Soft, comfy powder snow; 2) Deadly crust masquerading as soft, comfy powder; 3) Deadly crust hiding a variety of hard and immovable objects; or 4) wet, unconsolidated slush barely covering rocks, stumps and holes in the very fabric of the universe. None of this seemed to present any real problems to my companions, who repeatedly went rocketing on ahead, then waited politely while I struggled to catch up.

Great terrain up there in all directions, and easy access from the highway as long as it lasts.



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2002-09-16 17:39:16