Cascades Redemption — Guest TR


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 10, 2009      

Photos by Josh Kato and Rob Mullins

Stevens Pass received over 13 inches of rainfall on January 6th and 7th. A Youtube video showed some guys at Alpental on Snoqualmie Pass riding tubes in flowing water on the Alpental Road, between the snowbanks. Across I-90 an avalanche and landslide of the entire snowpack on a ski run at Hyak removed lift towers and a home.

Backcountry Skiing

Josh on top of Arrowhead getting some Cascadian redemption.

All of the east-west Washington Cascade passes Highways were closed, as was the north-south pass over the Wenatchee Mountains, Blewett Pass Highway 97. The closures were related to avalanches, landslides, falling rocks, flood water and damage or destruction and removal of the entire roadbed in places.

After all this, a few days ago I checked the Stevens Pass weather telemetry and finally noticed a perfect trend for stability. The data showed a one-day trend of rain to snow gradually with significant cooling and low winds. This was in my view the ultimate scenario for snowpack stability, along with the previous 13 inches of rain that flushed away the deep instability.

In two days the north central Cascades weather and snowpack had changed from wet and rainy to cold and partly sunny with well-bonded new snow over a now homogeneous and hazard-reduced old base. Thus, January 9th was the day. We had some sunshine for a while on our ski tour, and deep new snow — what we call powder here in the land of ten percent water content “fluff.” Wet and crappy to partly sunny and powder skiing. Cascades redemption.

Cascades backcountry Skiing

My run on Arrowhead. Cascade powder, low avalanche danger, redemption.

We climbed from Hwy 2 at 2800 ft. elevation to the 6030 ft. summit of Arrowhead Mountain. Arrowhead is located a few miles east of Stevens Pass and directly above the 7 mile railroad tunnel. To the north is the ridge which includes Rock Mountain and to the south the spectacular Chiwaukums Mountains and Snowgrass Mountain.

We walked the different aspects of the upper open areas and found no evidence of instability. The refrozen granular was under about seven inches of new snow at 5000 ft., and I was able to penetrate the granular 6 to 8 inches with my ski pole basket which demonstrated adequate refreeze in my view. Higher up the snow had drifted in to perhaps 18 inches deep in places. No slab formation was seen by us, nothing went from a ski cut on the steepest faces, uptrack switch backs did not fail with a kick.

Climbing Arrowhead on skis is full-on exposure to avalanches while climbing and I avoid it most of the time, especially with hazard. Last year my second turn set off a six inch slab that propagated the path that we skied today for 2/3 of the length of the path. Today we saw no evidence of such instability, and we enjoyed turns in Cascade powder.

So, today was a good start — finally.

Cascade backcountry Skiing

On the way up, slides in background had all run big and full path during the previous week's events.

Luckily, in the maritime-climate affected Cascades snowpack rain and warmups change the nature of the snowpack on a regular basis. When one is skiing powder one must remember that it always rains, always warms, and crusts form. But then, conversely, at some point, it always snows.

(Guest blogger Rob Mullins lives in the Washington Cascades with his wife, daughter, and a black lab avalanche dog in training named Blackie.)

Comments

4 Responses to “Cascades Redemption — Guest TR”

  1. Nathan January 10th, 2009 2:03 pm

    Rob, great post. Love the pictures and the redemption. Also, thanks for letting us in on your avy decision-making process. In this year of avalanche issues coming to the fore nationwide, it’s really nice to be able to confirm my own decision-making processes by hearing from someone else who has experience and expertise.

  2. Randonnee January 10th, 2009 2:34 pm

    Glad that you liked it, Nathan. It was a nice tour after a long wait for reduction of hazard in a crazy snowpack. In the North Cascades serious deeply-buried hazard remains and avalanches are rippin’ there.

  3. NORTH.BEND January 10th, 2009 3:57 pm

    Rob,

    Glad to se you’re getting out safely. But, you got to quit telling everyone how awesome our snow is.

    Let me know when it gets all crappy, I’ll come over for a tour.

    Regards,

    -NB.

  4. Randonnee January 10th, 2009 10:43 pm

    Hey NB,

    I hope that you all survived the deluge without problems.

    We scored a pretty good day for the Crest, I needed sunglasses for a while! But then, that preceding continuous stormy weather- no break in precip between rain to snow for crust formation and no clearing for faceting with the gradual cooling created great stability conditions.

    Unfortunately the main portal to skiing the Wenatchee Mountains, Blewett Pass Hwy 97, remains closed due to reconstruction of washouts. Perhaps next week we may return to the usually sunny geographic center of the state for ski touring.

Got something to say? Please do so.





Anti-Spam Quiz:

You can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box to left, but you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit.
If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

:D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
  
Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

  Your Comments

  • Aaron Mattix: Bohemia has been high on my radar of interest. Would love to hear more feed...
  • JCoates: Lou, I grew up in rural Montana so "I get it" when you're talking about the...
  • Maciej Pike-Biegunski: Lou, I abandoned heavy "beef" boots years ago. The marginal gain in ski ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Jake, I tested on bench, forward-upward release is fine, heel to the side (...
  • Chris: Clean, affordable, and efficient mass transit (whatever form that might tak...
  • Jeremy C: Unfortunately for anyone who likes driving, self drive cars will slowly ero...
  • Lou Dawson 2: In Western Europe, I sure see a lot of people driving... it's not the nirva...
  • Shar: If your subways cars are "grunged out", then that is a reflection of the la...
  • Maz: So when you're in Europe, how do you enjoy the "grunged out subway cars and...
  • zippy the pinhead: Rob, Answer to your question seems to be "yes". https://www.google.com/...
  • peterk: More features than an Alien: carbon, powerstrap-buckle, dual durometer sole...
  • rob trauscht: Possibly dumb question on the soles, but is anyone resoling AT boots? Seem...
  • Scott S Allen: Thanks Lou for the feed back, I really appreciate it! I have worked with B...
  • Topi: I have used Mammut RAS Light 30 for two past seasons (Euro). No durability ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: All fine Dave, appreciate the industry voice chiming in here with useful st...
  • Mammut Dave: Forgot to mention--regarding durability, with any of these light packs you ...
  • Mammut Dave: Harpo and Lou--a bit of info on the light fabric from Mammut. These two pa...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Maciej, in my opinion not quite a stiff feeling as TLT6-P, a bit stiffer th...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Scott, if lasting is your concern, when doing shell fit without liner you p...
  • Lou Dawson 2: John, I'd say your view is accurate. Until they reduce the weight and cost ...
  • John S: I have a little bit older BCA Float model, and this fall I'm helping my dau...
  • Scott: I got a 28 shell and seems tight with 1.5 fingers....may up it to the 29, b...
  • Lou2: There is no real industry standard for how lasts are measured. I go with SK...
  • Scott Allen: Scarpa site claims a 102 mm last in this model of F1 (one of the reasons I ...
  • Maciej Pike-Biegunski: This boot looks really appealing. My feet measure out at an 8D on a Brannoc...
  • Jake: Does this binding work with la sportiva spectre? Had assumed it would sinc...
  • Christian: I made the switch to these late last winter after giving up on my old TLT5 ...
  • Scott McCullough: You could make a bungy lock for split boarders. I bet someone might like t...
  • Kam Harris: Thin soles wear out ridiculously fast on my Dynafit boots, usually in about...
  • Bill H: Hey once we can sell a ski clothing brand on including panels of power gene...

  Recent Posts


Facebook Twitter Google Instagram Youtube
Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

Switch To Mobile Version