Silver Peak via Annette Lake (Pilots Do It Better)
Silver Peak via Annette Lake, or...Pilots Do It Better.
After lots of time on skis but not much actual "skiing" (i.e., making fun turns) plus failure to reach our objective on last week's trip, Mike and I decided on Silver Peak for this week. Looked like there would be good cover on multiple aspects and the cooler, cloudy weather suggested better snow conditions than we had in last week's blazing sun. We had been looking at the long and mostly open eastern/northeastern slope of Silver Peak from Kendall Ridge, Mt. Catherine and other viewpoints for a long time and thought we might be able to ski that.
Mike's friend P. joined us. P. is a commercial pilot. Turns out commercial pilots (or at least P.) may be more prudent than other people (or at least more prudent than me or Mike) and that this prudence may lead to more enjoyment than is typically found on ski touring outings (or at least ski touring outings as planned and executed by me and Mike).
For starters, P. set a pleasant conversational pace on the trail up to Annette Lake, versus our usual sprint (OK, Mike is usually sprinting and I am in deep anaerobic debt within 10 min. trying to keep up). And at the lake we stopped to drink and eat, rather than charging straight up the hill without pause. And at the lake P. even whipped out micro-spikes, allowing him to comfortably navigate the remaining vertical feet up the hill through heather, mud, icy snow patches and scrub alder to the start of skinnable snow, whilst Mike and I flailed behind.
Skinned to the ridge. Not the best conditions -- top 1"-3" were sluffing and pretty much had to kick each skinned step rather than glide. Hard labor. We let Mike off his leash to lead. I kept behind P. based on my new appreciation for his pacing skills. Unlike me, P. appeared to experience no fundamental sense of personal inadequacy followed by compensatory urge to keep up in response to Mike accelerating ahead. I suppose actions based on sense of personal inadequacy and accompanying ego-driven compensations could lead to problems when piloting a 737. P. pleasantly surprised me again by stopping for a drink and quick bite halfway up the 2,000' from lake to ridge. I joined him. Versus usual habit of chasing Mike to the brink of toxic dehydration and glycogen-depletion meltdown.
Note to self: plan more trips with commercial pilots, or at least with P.
Reached ridge about 300 meters north of Silver Peak summit, right as snowboarder and skier were dropping back into Silver Peak basin, having ascended from Olallie Meadows after driving as far up road from Hyak as possible (which sounds like it wasn't very far at all). Traversed ridge and contoured around on the west side to the summit. To be clear, even for someone who used to be a really hardcore climber this was kinda sucky and it would have been much better to drop down off the ridge and contour around south toward the summit on skins. Lots of traversing on loose talus, steep snow, slippery heather.
Note to self: GripWalk soles with no rubber under the arch and slippery plastic bit under the toe are not suitable for exposed scrambling. Consider getting proper ski touring boots with full rubber soles.
Left our skis at the top of highest snow tongue and scrambled to summit. Of course, being idiots, Mike and I both wanted to carry skis all the way to the summit because "you never know;" P., not being an idiot, talked us out of it. Another long break on the summit with lots of food and water and conversation. Thank you, P. Looked over the east aspect but view of entire east slope is obscured by shoulder below the summit. East side will have to wait for another day, with approach from east side.
Ski back down to the lake was ecstatic. Probably 1800' of uninterrupted pleasure. Cloud cover had persisted and we had excellent corn all the way down, just this side of too soft. Lucky -- the sun came out 30 min. later.
Moral of the story: By going slower and stopping more often and eating and drinking more, you can actually have more fun and go further and do more and, paradoxically, be less tired at the end of the day. Where do I sign up for flying lessons?
I'm way too lazy to insert photos and videos. Lots of photos and videos here.