Sunday, May 27, 2012

Iron Creek - Peak 9145

Iron Creek provides access to some very cool spring skiing terrain. Saturday May 26th might have not been the best day, but I have not skied there for several years, and I felt the urge to tour there. The day was snowy and rainy ...

The destination was peak 9145 above Iron Creek. I skinned to the summit via the long left to right ridge.

From inside my vehicle, dirt road to iron Creek trail head. Peak 9145 in the center.

Peak 9145 above Iron Creek

Peak 9145
Iron Creek TH is at 6700 feet thus there is hardly any snow at the TH. I reached consistent snow at 7000 feet immediately after crossing Iron Creek on Alpine Way. The topo map is include below. The red line denotes the mostly snow free trail. The purple line was the route used for skinning-up as well as skiing down.
Next, a selection of pictures from today hiking, ski touring, and skiing.

Trail head register

Turn-off into Alpine Way. This is the route followed to reach the base of Peak 9145.

Peak 9145 behind the first "false" summit.

Peak 9145 Summit

Peak 9145 Summit, Chago

Views during the ski down.

Views during the ski down ... granite walls

Views during the ski down ... there are lots of granite on this area.

Views around me  as I skied down.

Iron Creek "log" bridge.
Earlier in the day as I reached the 8200 feet there was evidence of wet loose avalanches during the last 24 hours. Between 7000 and 8000 feet there was no more than 5 cm of new snow. Above 8000 feet there as much as 15 cm of new snow. The NEW snow was not bonding well above 8000 feet to the old snow.

Ski cuts during the descent on terrain steeper than 35 degrees and above 8000 feet produced wet loose slides. Considering the high consequence terrain, I skied and toured terrain that was not steeper than 35 degrees. There was not enough snow (15 cm) to bury a victim, but there was plenty of rocks and cliffs where an unexpected slide could take you, and most likely ruin your day!

Between 8800 and 9145 feet of elevation the snowpack developed a nasty breakable crust due to cooler temps that made skiing challenging, particularly with the low visibility conditions. There was a narrow band between 8800 and 8600 with fun high density pow, but such easy skiing pow did not lasted too long, the mid 8500 to 7000 feet elevations were plastered with wet and sticky snow.

After skiing I transitioned to hiking shoes, strapped skis to backpack, and started to hike down under light rain. Farther down on iron Creek trail I ran into some very nice folks enjoying a walk in the wet woods. One of the kids (Alexis) have won the Redfish Marathon earlier in the day.

Alexis in Green rain gear.

Alexis in green rain gear with Isaac in front of him.

As the pictures attest, visibility was poor with many snow showers making difficult to snag good pictures. Below two images captured from Google Earth for Peak 9145 showing the uphill and downhill route.

This was a very nice tour on an area I have not visited since 1994. Definately I experienced some of the least enjoyable ski conditions of the season, but it was well worth it. I will try to convince my friends to accompany me next year, but on a clear day so that we can thoroughly soak on the splendid views.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Primavera at Bench Hut (April 5-8th)

Late March warm days and a rain event at all elevations left solid mark (literally) in the Sawtooth Mountain snowpack. Not surprisingly we started loosing ski partners as the dates for our trip to Bench Hut approached. Skinning into the huts confirmed our fears, rain and sun crusts were everywhere. After arriving to the Hut we settle in for dinner and prayed for snow.

Friday morning dawn with winter conditions - Yippee! - A small disturbance, not expected to do much, delivered the goods!

Upper Bench Lake basin - 5th Lake Bowl.

Lanza Posse.
Fumbling around in the saddle between 5th Bench Lake and Monolith Valley.
5th Lake Bowl: New snow (dust on crust!), with a rare window of visibility.
The new snow depth varied from a 6 cms to as much 25 cms depending on elevations and wind effects. We had poor visibility most of the day, but skiing was FUN!

Getting ready to ski "Surprise".
Surprise ski run.
After skiing the Surprise and Eagle runs, we were ready to enjoy great cooking and relax with friends.

Dinner - with only 5 skiers, the Hut felt very spacious. 
Gary working magic in the kitchen. 
Inside bench Hut. 
Bed time at Bench Hut.
Saturday morning we toured over to "Buck Park" to the west, where a series of 800 feet long and wide ski runs were harvested by our party. The skiing was entertaining in "velvety" snow and we left our tracks on each of the runs. I lost count, but we skied each ski line not less than 2 times with a total of 7-8 runs. Of course we skied agin Surprise and Eagle on our way back to the hut.

Eagle is the 1st ski run staring from the bottom, Surprise is next, with Buck Park ski runs to the middle right.
Buck Park Ski runs.
Not unusual for April the afternoon warmed-up nicely. Some slept and read in the sun, some others split wood, others read SI Swimsuit edition...

Steve always dozing.
Chip never rests!
Bench Hut permanent resident.
Picture blurred to protect identity of SI reader
Included below the topo map with named runs for Bench Hut. This will allow blog readers to plan their future trips to Bench Hut.

Bench Area numbered ski runs
Bench Lakes are named ski runs
Chago Topo Map with uphill traces (red) and downhill runs (green)
Sunday morning we skied Cat Pack and the Triangle. These are good runs for the last day due to their proximity to the Hut, thus allowing to have an early exit and assuring that we skied in fast snow back to the trailhead and the road.

Cat Pack (background line dropping to the left) and Triangle ski runs (prominent treed run). 
Dave Dog Peak. 
Great company!
A classic - Thumb Line run
5th Bench Lake Bowl 
The Thumb
The Sawtooths
This posting remind me how fortunate I am, this was a very relaxing ski trip, and I was able to enjoy the company of fabulous friends. In addition, I had time to think about the ski season about to conclude. And there is much to be grateful for:

  • The 2011-2012 ski season provided plenty of great skiing with my friends.
  • Ski toured with my wife and sons ... Lourdes owns now a powder whore ski set-up, and Pedro is going Tele!
  • Re-discovered some areas I have not skied for some time at Mores Creek Summit (Rando Ridge).
  • And more importantly, BC winter recreationists continue to provide positive feedback about Mores Creek Summit blog postings. I only wish more folks step forward to make blog posting on the sister blog:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Copper Mountain - May 19th 2012 ... and April Ski Adventures

Last Saturday morning I dusted off my ski crampons, lightweight ice axe, and my trusted lightweight ski mountaineering skis ... my sights were set in skiing the NNW Copper Mountain Couloir. I was not disappointed ... the skiing was phenomenal.

Copper North Face - May 19th 2012
However, I need to atone from my lack of blog posting activity ... thus on this posting I will try to play catch up with my friends and readers. I will come back to Saturday's ski tour with some pics, topo map, and tips when touring Copper's Mountain north drainage.

Cinco de Mayo and Mother's day weekends offered a much slow pace than usual, and provided an opportunity to take a pause from skiing. These two weekends saw me spending time with Fritz and Lourdes, going to the movies, doing groceries, decompressing from the "tough" work environment, and just having high quality time with my loves ones.

The month of April was really busy; skiing with Pedro during Berkeley's spring break, yurting and ski touring at Bench Lakes with Lanza's posse, and corn skiing "Rando's ridge" in the Mores Creek area.

Below some pictures while skiing with Pedro in the Boise Front:

Pedro trying his new Tele gear while ski touring the Boise Front.
Deer Point - View from the Doe Point to the South - Early April
Left - Schafer Butte/Bogus Basin, Right - Deer point
Pedro at the Ridge Road - NE Doe Point
In a previous posting I suggested naming a ridge south of Freeman after Rando Steve (TetonAT blogger). During April 21st, Brian B. and I thoroughly toured and explored the southern reaches of Rando Ridge.
Lower Rando Ridge
Live to Ski run
Shark Fin Runs
Notice that that the topo map for Rando Ridge has unnamed runs. Comments with alternative or new ski run names are welcome! Click on the image for larger view. The best access to Rando Ridge is to ski down into 12th mile Creek from Freeman Peak ridge.
Rando Ridge Topo Map
I will leave the trip report for April's visit to Bench Hut for another post to be published later in the week.

To finish the month, the weekend of April 27-29th I visted Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. My good friend John Taggart and I attended the "NSP NW Region Education/Instructor Clinic and PNWD Skills and Drills on Advanced Terrain Clinic". This event was a fabulous opportunity to be mentored on Saturday by one of the best - Ross Bisshop - in the handling of toboggans in steep backcountry ski terrain. Sunday I joined the Patrollers Ski Improvement Workshop. I was lucky to have Kim Petram (Director of Fiorini Ski School at Snoqualmie) coach me during the whole day as we skied steep line after steep line under invogarating spring conditions. 

View of Rainier from Crystal Mountain Ski Resort
View of Rainier from Crystal Mountain Ski Resort 
BC terrain East of Crystal Mountain Boundaries
Crystal Mountain has some very cool terrain!
Back to last Saturday ski tour at Copper Mountain ... it is time to share pictures showing the great snow coverage at E, NE, N, and NW aspects:

Copper Mountain corniced summit
Copper Mountain Ridge - Northern Sawtooths
Looking down into North Copper basin from the Summit
Copper NNW Chute - The line I Skied.
Dropping into NNW Copper Chute - summit cornice in background 
Upper NNW Copper Chute
Looking down from mid Copper NNW Chute
3/4 Way down the Copper NNW Chute
Bottom of Copper NNW Chute
View of NNW Copper Chute near the terminus
Copper North aspect - view from Snowmobile parking area.
The snow conditions were typical for an early summer snowpack ... highly texturized and somewhat irregular surface, not the "orgasmic"classic corn skiing. However do not get me wrong, the skiing was fantastic, but it is essential to time the descent well to guarantee carvable soft snow turns.

Definitely ski crampons are an asset to facilitate skinning and ascending in the morning hard snow. The snow coverage was pretty good down to the 7000 feet level at E, NE, N, NW aspects. Avoid S, SW, and W aspects since the snow line is approaching the 7500 and the coverage is thin.

Next a topo map with a suggested route up to Copper's Summit that work pretty well for late May. Be mindful that this route is not child play (not recommended) during the winter months or Considerable/High avalanche danger conditions.
Copper Mountain Topo Map - North Drainage Access
To access Copper's north drainage park your vehicle at a small pull-out west of I-21 just before the bridge where the creek crosses the road from west to east. There is a small forest service rest area at this spot. It is strongly suggested to follow the creek for the first mile or so as you ascend toward Copper Mountain. The purple route in the map was the course I followed last Saturday, but I have also skinned via the green route. The yellow trace in the topo map denotes the line I skied last Saturday, which is the best steep and sustained ski line at Copper. The red lines are in my opinion the second best lines, but 400 feet or so shorter than Copper NNW Chute I skied. These two alternate ski lines in red trace are best approached from the summit shoulders.

After skiing, I camped at Stanley Lake. The plan was to ski Sunday morning the attractive McGowen's couloir. Saturday afternoon I hiked a couple miles on the inlet meadow to scout conditions.

Unfortunately Sunday dawned cloudy, and the night cloud cover negated a much desired snow surface re-freeze. It did not make sense ski McGowen under a cloudy ski and poor snow conditions.

It has been few years since the last time we had sufficient snow coverage to allow for June skiing in the Sawtooths, but it is looking very promising this year. It is going to be hard to choose among the many options; returning for more skiing from Stanley Lake and Iron Creek trailheads, the upcoming opening of Snowbank Road (Granite Peak), ski Gunsight and Lee couloirs at Anthony Lakes, or the opening of Chinook pass next weekend (East of Rainier).