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Author Topic: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments  (Read 9352 times)
Charlie Hagedorn
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January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« on: 01/22/13, 10:31 AM »

"Will you be in the lab on Monday?" asked my officemate on Friday afternoon. "Only if the snow is bad!" was my reply. I didn't know that there was a third option.

We'd played with lots of options through the week, ultimately settling on a hunt for sunny corn in the Enchantments, or perhaps on the slopes to the south. We debated entrances for a while, then pointed our skis at Aasgard.



Saturday:

Skinned from the car, leaving about 10 am. Easy ride up the Eightmile road, fairly straightforward trail to the second creek crossing. First bridge skinnable but thought-provoking, bypassed second bridge on a snowbridge just downstream. Burned a little time finding our way up the last thousand feet to the lake, but found our way happily enough. Skinning on the lake by 3:30 (?). Debated camping at Colchuck Lake, but decided to press on up the Pass, knowing we'd top out in early darkness.

Ski crampons went on, and worked great for a while, then boots, then crampons. Susan's competent, capable, and fast on steep/firm snow; I'm a bit of a headcase. Much of the upper half/ two-thirds of Aasgard was pencil/knife hardness; easy cramponing but a long ride back to the lake in case of error. Midway up, I said to myself, "Man, I'm glad I won't have to come back down this thing." Higher up the slope, the slope seemed stable, but very stout 6-12" windslab hung everywhere atop sintered fine-grain sugar. Beginning to bonk from over-reliance on frontpoints, I joined Susan atop the Pass in the moonlight.

A little walking about, and we found home for the next two nights. A submillimeter-thick weak layer (surface hoar?) about 8" down beneath the windhammered surface made for easy blockwork as we dug in the tent.



Sunday:

Sunrise was very fine; yesterday's high clouds were nearly gone, and the warm sunshine felt good. It also lit up endless windscoured snow. Would anything soften? Could we get back out? Sunday's project became one of rattling the prison bars, looking for a chink in the glazed armor of the Upper Enchantments.

We'd been through this process before in April of 2011, bypassing deep soft slabs above Coney Lake after an ascent of Cannon with a sufferfest down the Snow Creek trail. We didn't really want to do that again. So, it was over to Prusik Pass to see if the descent off the far side might give us access to Rat Creek. Nope - steep and firm off the pass too. Susan would downclimb it, but I really didn't want to. As a bonus, we didn't know anything about the descent from Mesa Lake. So, it was back down, around, up, and over to the rib we'd used in 2011 to descend to Snow Lakes from Temple Lake. It'd go, especially in the afternoon sunshine, but might be spooky after it refroze; we'd have to ski it no later than 10 am in order to have enough time to cover the rest of the trail out.

Reconaissance complete, it was a quiet trip back up to camp. Our votes? 1 for Aasgard and 1 for Snow Creek. An impasse. I went back up to look at Aasgard again, but it was still a long way down. Susan volunteered, "I'll go down Snow Creek with you." More staring at maps and photos couldn't shake my worries, so Susan's offer became the plan.

Sunday night was perfectly calm and beautiful. Stars and moon were bright, and we both found that the shivering stopped outside for at least as long as we could fiddle with our cameras.



Monday:

Up in the dark, photos at sunrise, and we were clicked in and skiing downhill at ~7:40 am. Sunday's travels gave us all the keys to a great route to Temple Lake, so we arrived at the knob above Snow Lakes just after 9. The upper slopes were just beginning to soften, but not enough that we would ski them with our packs on. Booting down, we found easy plunge-stepping through the ski-supportable suncrust, which became postholing below. When we had enough, we switched to scratching on skis through the very tight trees along Snow Creek. Can't really recommend it, except that we've done it twice and it worked both times.

Across the upper Lake in the sunshine, then to Nada. The slope above Nada had given us trouble in 2011 with avy chunder. This time, the snow was of middling quality (excellent for this trip!), but a smaller snowpack exposed a patchwork of car-sized boulders/talus pillows and hungry holes. Careful skiing got us down to the scenic lakes. From here, the big questions remained - how skiable would the trail be? Would the really awful slope from 2011 be really awful in 2013?

We were able to keep the trail all the way to the bridge. One of us skied across the bridge, which was icy at the E end, and the other found a snowbridge of unknown quality just downstream. Skiing the trail was superb, 'till we reached the 'really awful slope'. Slides from higher on Wedge Mountain fill in the trail's terrace and pack the slope's snow. Traversing is tough and spooky, and firm snow littered with chunder makes skiing down intimidating. It was much better than 2011, but still thoughtful. Didn't hurt that we had daylight this time too. Susan tootled down by boot, while I finagled a ski crampon-assisted shenanigans. From there, travel was fast, but far. Our toes hurt from all the downhill kick-and-glide with skins on.  As we dropped into the inversion fog, everything was covered in thick delicate frost, and the air smelled of far-off smoke. Our big questions answered, a new question emerged: Could we really ski the Snow Creek Trail all the way to the parking lot?

Every last switchback.

Didn't know that could ever be done - the packing done by snowshoers travelling up to the Snow Creek bridge had steamrolled a very fine trail all the way down. We skinned up and into the parking lot. There, we were thankful to meet Jonah and Ann(ie?) who had just finished ice climbing for the day. We were very thankful to trade our stories for theirs and for a car shuttle up the icy road. Thank you!!!

Off the skis sometime between 3:30 and 4, eating warm burritos by 5:30 ( South, $11-20, tasty alternative to Leavenworth bratwurst - thanks Ann!).



Snow:

Eightmile road - great, easy skinning. Snow along the roadside: decomposing crust over facets. Surface hoar to ~1cm in many locations. A few past wet slides nearly/barely reached the road.

Trail - thin tree-drip crust over rounds/facets. Surface hoar in many spots.

Colchuck Lake trail - more of the same, memory's fuzzy on detail. Wet slide paths visible on Cashmere.

Colchuck Lake - windscoured, ice showing in places.

Aasgard Pass - strong crust, becoming crampon terrain where the slope kicks up. Some evidence of past slides, mostly low in volume. Pencil/knife windslab and sintered crust through the upper half. Wind features/crowns 6-12" in most places. If not crust, then sugary. Sugar no deeper than 6-8".  See photos for 4mm facets atop the Pass.

Upper Enchantments - Wind had its way with everything. Ski penetration usually zero, occasionally 1/2", rarely 3-4". Crusts are smooth, thin surface hoar where the wind doesn't wreck it. Sunny aspects above Temple Lake barely corn, if at all. I kept thinking of LaChapelle's "hard depth hoar" (Secrets of the Snow, pg. 18) on some snow, but am not certain. Many slabs with 6-18" crowns had come out sometime in the past, E/NE faces were perhaps most common, like the slopes above Inspiration and Perfection Lakes. Shade held facets here too, see photos for 3mm facets at Temple Lake.

Temple to Snow Lakes - Early springlike in the top 8-12", still cold/powdery (4F?) below. Another few days of warm sun would've made it turn isothermal, I think.

Snow Lakes to Nada - Zipper suncrust over old fist powder. Surface hoar in the shade. One ~6' diameter collapse in a shady hoary hollow beside the exit to upper Snow Lake.

Snow Creek Trail - fun, fast, chundery where chunder crosses the trail. From ~3k to ~2k, the snow was quite excellent recycled powder. Bathtub ring of 1+cm surface hoar at perhaps 2.5k. Packed trail all the way to the lot.


Unless the new snow arrives with great warmth, our snowpack may remain complicated 'till Spring.




Notes:

Ski crampons can be invaluable. I thought the new Dynafit crampon blades were too short, but they turned out to be perfect.

Partners are everything in the mountains. A huge thank-you to Susan for choosing the miserable over the scary.




Photos (more may appear later):  http://flic.kr/s/aHsjDHaHiM

Handheld video from twilight Sunday:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/64728404@N03/8404988519/in/set-72157632583136867

Edit: Replaced Aasgard/Dragontail/Colchuck conditions photo with a prettier one. See flickr set if you're looking for a Triple Couloirs update.


* EnchantmentsSunrise.jpg (172.88 KB, 800x600 - viewed 2483 times.)

* 4mmFacetsAtAasgardPass.jpg (194.84 KB, 800x536 - viewed 2492 times.)

* susanSunhit.jpg (189.67 KB, 800x600 - viewed 2172 times.)
« Last Edit: 01/22/13, 04:14 PM by Charlie Hagedorn » Logged

John Morrow
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #1 on: 01/22/13, 10:36 AM »

Hmm, "chunder"--is that a technical snow science geek term, Charlie????
Cool trip and thanks for all the useful snowpack and conditions info.
John
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cchapin
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #2 on: 01/22/13, 10:45 AM »

Sweet loop!  Yes, let's hope for the next storm to come in warm!!
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Zap
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #3 on: 01/22/13, 12:32 PM »

You and Susan are a great team.  While reading the report, I was pleased that you both returned with all the pieces intact.  Wink
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #4 on: 01/22/13, 12:50 PM »

You and Susan are a great team.  While reading the report, I was pleased that you both returned with all the pieces intact.  Wink

Sometime over the weekend, I recounted your words from the day you sold me my first ski crampons, probably in 2007. "Now, you use these harscheisen when you're scared... "

This weekend, I used them as much for convenience as safety. It's so much more efficient to have confident footing than teeter over a ski edge and a few wisps of climbing skin.
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #5 on: 01/22/13, 01:27 PM »

Hmm, "chunder"--is that a technical snow science geek term, Charlie?Huh

Not sure where I first heard it in an avalanche context, but I didn't invent it. When I did a lot of whitewater kayaking, we referred to getting thrown around violently in a recirculating hydraulic as 'getting chundered'. Seems like a reasonable parallel to the dynamic avalanche environment.

Googling 'chunder' suggests that's it's also an Australian euphemism for vomit; also not a bad approximation for the huge chunks 'o snow beneath a wet slide...
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Marcus
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #6 on: 01/22/13, 05:28 PM »

Great report Charlie - sounds like gorgeous weather and sporting travel...  Glad you hooked up with Jonah and Anne, they're awesome folks.  And South is delicious...

Love this sunrise shot:
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Marcus
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #7 on: 01/22/13, 05:29 PM »

Ooh, and this one!

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mikerolfs
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #8 on: 01/22/13, 07:04 PM »

I love the blue light on the pyramid.  Great shot.

Nice trip, Charlie!
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #9 on: 01/22/13, 07:10 PM »

Ooh, and this one!

Susan spent a lot more time outside that night making photographs - more and better photos may be on the way.
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Marcus
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #10 on: 01/22/13, 07:15 PM »

Awesome.  I'd love to scoop up some copies for future home page photos...
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jwplotz
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #11 on: 01/22/13, 07:47 PM »

Ooh, and this one!



This is one of the most unique photos of the upper Enchantments I have ever seen!  Very Sci-Fi, as if a glowing diamond fell out of space. 
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shamanblues
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #12 on: 01/22/13, 10:50 PM »

Awwwesome.
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Susan Ashlock
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #13 on: 01/22/13, 11:54 PM »

A very, er, "interesting" weekend:

From my perspective:

Highlights:
  • Running into an old coworker on the way up FS road 7601.
  • Mountain goat tracks in various spots along the way
  • Sunrise and sunset photo ops
  • Running into Jonah and Anne, my new two favorite people in the world

Lowlights:
  • Carrying skis up Aasgard Pass on my back.  Perhaps a physicist can explain how my 30-pound pack can quadruple in weight when I put 10 pounds of skis on it.
  • The fear that our Snow Lakes exit would be as bad as our last (which included 6 hours in the dark, clambering over avy-downed trees and some really really really sore feet.
  • Icy chunder, Post-hole City, the Bridge of Deception (which looked totally benign until I got to the far side...) and other bits of the exit (see map: http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanashlock/8407959608/in/set-72157632592116952)

I think the smartest person of the weekend (with regards to this trip) was Franklin, who suggested that snowshoes might be the way to go.  I can think of at least one section where I would have gladly traded skis for snowshoes!

And, of course, more photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanashlock/sets/72157632592116952/

Charlie's UFO shot (but with a bigger lens):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanashlock/8407931170/in/set-72157632592116952

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Zap
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #14 on: 01/23/13, 11:23 AM »

Wonderful photos.  The wind packed slopes were great to see and not ski.   Wink
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T. Eastman
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #15 on: 01/23/13, 08:33 PM »

Facet-nating...
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Forest McBrian
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #16 on: 01/24/13, 07:48 AM »

Cool! I went to Colchuck lake with similar plans on the 21st with a friend, but we bailed on account of some equipment issues. Truly a wildly variable snowpack just now. Nice work!
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n16ht5
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Re: January 19-21, 2013, Enchantments
« Reply #17 on: 02/01/13, 12:28 PM »

epic
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