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2006 Backcountry Trip Reports => June 2006 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: jt on 06/05/06, 01:26 PM

Title: June 3, 2006, Kaleetan
Post by: jt on 06/05/06, 01:26 PM
With the weather forecast for Sunday not looking too good for a bid on Rainier, I had set my sights on something closer to home and much less involved albeit probably still in the rain. When my wife arrived home earlier than expected from her commitments Saturday morning, I just couldn't let the nice weather go to waste and leaped through the open window to head into one of my frequent stomping grounds. That is not to say that this trip is worthwhile for the quality of skiing, but it's a good workout in a pretty place.

Getting a bartender's start at 11:00 from the TH at Snow Lake, I stomped up the well-tracked path. Soon enough I found myself heading toward Source Lake wondering how I had missed the switchbacks leading up the ridge. The answer turned out to be simple enough--everyone has been working up to the ridge via Source Lk. instead of the normal route. Deciding that I had somehow missed the track, however, I scratched and clawed my way in running shoes toward the cliff where I knew the trail switchbacked. I should have kept to the beaten path. I postholed a few times, found the trail a few times only to be blocked by large, steep snow chunks, and finally made it to the ridge reminding myself that on the way back I would traverse over to the Source Lk. side to descend.

The skis and boots went on at this point and the run to Snow Lk. was enjoyable and soft over a firm base. From near the buried campsites I looked across the frozen lake and thought it sure would be nice to ski straight across to its western end and save the extra distance and elevation gain, but decided it wasn't prudent. Anyway, I didn't need skins to glide quickly along so stayed above solid land, at least until the first climb. Here I thought it was worth a try to skirt along the lake's edge. I probed the lake with my pole and couldn't get it to break through, but it was still a creepy sensation to be skiing over the top of what I knew was water well over my head with anchors strapped to my feet. I neared the outflow and was faced with the choice of hopping the meltwater ditch then scrambling or venturing out further on the mush covered lake. Unable to summon the nerve or maybe finding some common sense, I opted for the scramble. I followed boot tracks for awhile then found myself once again lured to the edge of the lake, gliding across the mush to avoid more ups and downs and again bailed to solid ground rather than take to the open flats above the abyss below.

At the west end of the lake I threw on the skins and zig-zagged my way up to the cross-country track between Gem and Chair Lks. Soon enough I was at Chair Lake traversing its west side below the steep faces of Kaleetan's north ridge. Shortly thereafter I was atop Melawkwa Pass and traversing toward Kaleetan. I opted to follow a boot track up the snowfield closest to the pass while one skier and three climbers descended. At the top of this snowfield, I ditched my skis and boots and cruised up to the summit to enjoy some great views and the perch all to myself.

The run down was great though too short. The first series of turns was steep enough to require some attention given the small cliffs that had melted out below the fall line, but the snow carved like butter and the sloughs were inconsequential. By the time I was back at Snow Lk. my fasting and lack of water hit me with leg cramps, a wandering mind, and slow pace. At the outflow to Snow Lk. I chugged some water and felt immediately better. Back at the ridge above the lake I remembered to traverse west and found a few more fun turns down to Source Lk. then chugged it on out to the car.

All in all, an okay trip with the endurance I was looking for. Better than watching the rain fall from my living room wondering what was missed by not getting out.

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