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2017 Backcountry Trip Reports => April 2017 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: ADappen on 05/01/17, 11:43 AM

Title: April 29, 2017, Williams Butte - The Big Lonely
Post by: ADappen on 05/01/17, 11:43 AM
On Easter Sunday I skied St. Helens along with 200 others from the Church of the Blue Cupola. This weekend, I enjoyed the opposite experience in the Chelan Sawtooth Mountains Ė a large, larchful subrange of the Cascades that probably sees fewer than 100 skiers per year.† On Saturday Tom Janisch, Coron Polley and I carried skis up Williams Creek to the 4500-foot level before transitioning to skis. While the great heaping mounds of elk pellets adorned the trail, there were neither boot prints nor ski tracks anywhere in the drainage.

The ascent of Williams Butte (7,500 feet) offered superb touring through forests of lodgepole pines, stands of subalpine fir and, eventually glades of larch. Even with the monotone shades of winter the area inspired, but all of us wondered aloud about the beauty of this area in autumn when the larches would be aflame.

The snow was firm from the nightís freeze, but was developing a soft skin of corn by early afternoon. The master plan had been to yoyo a few subpeaks beyond Williams Butte, climb Camels Hump (8015 feet) and descend War Creek where we had stashed a bike for the car shuttle. As we reached the summit of Williams Butte, however, the sky was falling and the adjacent peaks were being devoured by clouds. It was apparent the master plan would be an unpleasant exercise of skiing by braille through flat-light conditions. We contented ourselves with skiing the buttery corn on the slopes leading down to Williams Lake while we could still see and retracing our route out.

Reasons why this entire range (most frequently accessed from the Twisp River Road) is such an empty ski land: 1) no highway access to snowline 2) no snowmobile access to the goods 3) miles from nowhere. Yup, there are prices to be paid if you want to ski the big lonely. My shoulders are tired from lugging the gear but that fatigue will be forgotten in a day. The memories of big, empty ski grounds; ski lines by the thousands; and superb spring conditions will last at least a month before they are lost to shoddy memory.† Thatís a good gain-to-pain ratio.

Title: Re: April 29, 2017, Williams Butte - The Big Lonely
Post by: mikerolfs on 05/03/17, 09:09 PM
Quote from: ADappen on 05/01/17, 11:43 AM
Thatís a good gain-to-pain ratio.

Great thought. There must be some equation you use, similar to your ski to hike ratio, that either disqualifies a trip, or warrants the excursion. :)

Thanks for the write up. Sounds like a fun trip.

Title: Re: April 29, 2017, Williams Butte - The Big Lonely
Post by: ADappen on 05/09/17, 12:08 PM
The gain-to-pain ratio is so much more subjective than my 50-50 ratio for hiking vs skiing.
For someone like The Rolfs who is willing to carry 4,000 vertical feet to ski a 1,000 vert, the G2P ratio is a beautiful thing -- who besides you is to say the gain wasn't worth the pain?

Title: Re: April 29, 2017, Williams Butte - The Big Lonely
Post by: LangleyBackcountry on 05/15/17, 12:26 PM
Coincidentally, I just identified this exact spot on a map yesterday for future consideration for skiing or backpacking. :)

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