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2013 Backcountry Trip Reports => February 2013 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: EbenezerSteezer on 02/28/13, 07:28 PM

Title: Feb 25 - Machine Gun Pillows, SR542
Post by: EbenezerSteezer on 02/28/13, 07:28 PM
Machine Gun Pillows:
My first experience with Machine Gun Pillows was a great example of slightly sketchy circumstances that turned out just fine, and is uniquely dangerous because it conditions backcountry risk taking. Many of these trips happen in a winter, and the responsible rider acknowledges them for what they are.
It was Monday Feb. 25. We had just had an epic day at Mt Baker Ski Area shredding inbounds. No backpacks, no lines, no breaks, no brakes. Just charging. The plan was to hit Machine Gun Pillows, located across the Nooksack River, between Glacier and the DOT Station on SR542 at the end of the day. This would be when the most snow had built up and the likelihood of a core-shot as well as injury was least. We were tired but we knew we had one more run left in us.
Leaving the ski area at the end of the day was our first questionable decision. It had been snowing for the past few days quite hard and we had necessarily been skiing it quite hard. Our mental energy was high, but the fatigue had well and truly set in as we pulled away from the White Salmon lodge at 3:45.
I knew the route up would be difficult, but I was very unsure about how long it would take. It could not have been more than 600 vertical feet, yet I was worried about the wet and worn condition both of the road and of us. We made it tothe only feasible spot to pull over and park and charged into the snowy shoulder. We'd deal with excavating the car later. From there the plan was to don some trash bags and cross the river. This would have been a lot easier if several conditions were met. (a) we each had the appropriate two trekking poles to aid our balance (b) ski boots were not made of hard plastic and instantly ripped thin plastic bags when confronted with rocks underfoot, and a great deal of water otherwise (c) we used a better fording method. Alas by the time I struggled to the otherside, there was a very definite squish in boots with a noticeable gain in weight. Curses.
We zigzagged across the floodplain of the river, jumping none-to-gracefully over half buried logs until there appeared before us, the variable wall of hummocked snow that is Machine Gun Pillows. A shear rock wall looms at the top of a giant pile of rocky debris that has formed at its base from the mountain eroding away. Due to the large and irregular shape of the ground here, hiking up was extremely tricky. We threaded our way up the boulder pile near the east tree line, occasionally stopping when one of us fell into a previously unseen hole. My feet were managing to stay warm as I pumped my toes every step, but I readied myself to be the buzzkill if I had to turn back.
We could tell the light was fading fast and when we finally reached the top, where the slope met the shear wall that had given birth to it, we paused only to slap the wall, strap in, and concede the goggles were far to foggy from the climb to be worth wearing on the way down. We would just have to blink a lot.
Steward dropped in first. As the most confident rider he naturally led the way, and made it exactly half way before eating it over an exceptionally large pillow. After dusting himself off, he ripped it all the way down. I was next, the only skier and carefully picked my way down, looking for the smallest pillows I could find, hoping no leg-breaking holes lurked on the other side. I fell a few times, and ejected on the second to last pillow right in front of my cohorts but had a great time in the process . Matt dropped in last and tore it up, but not without a few spills. A very technical and difficult line this Machine Gun was. Yet totally doable with some care. I actually only managed get the pillow percussion on the bottom of my skis a few times, probably over timid from fear, but it shows that it can be done.
Crossing back over the river I forwent the trashbag futilities and just mobbed across the torrent and resigned to dry my boots and feet later. The car was very foggy inside but we were happy to sit there and let it warm up as we rode the emotional high that comes from hitting an epic line that some only dream of.
Machine Gun, I got you.
slightly underwhelming video coming soon

Title: Re: Feb 25 - Machine Gun Pillows, SR542
Post by: dberdinka on 03/04/13, 02:13 PM
bad ass

Title: Re: Feb 25 - Machine Gun Pillows, SR542
Post by: EbenezerSteezer on 03/06/13, 05:22 PM

There's the video. kinda weird the way youtube fixed the shaky but its all good

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