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NWAC Avalanche
+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2008 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  November 2008 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  Nov 16, 2008, Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacle
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Author Topic: Nov 16, 2008, Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacle  (Read 2710 times)

Posts: 104

Nov 16, 2008, Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacle
« on: 11/18/08, 11:01 AM »

LJT (Alpenho) and I met early Sunday (11/16) morning and discussed potential options for the day…Rainier was out due to road closures, so Mt. Baker it was.  We arrived at the upper lot around 9am under partly cloudy skies and warm temps (mid 40s), with two other parties close behind.  We started out on foot towards Artist Point, and were able to start skinning about 100’ beyond the Lake Ann trailhead.  We followed an old skin track (most likely from 11/15 based on previous TRs) towards Ptarmigan Ridge.  The skin track we were following stopped about halfway between Artist Point and the junction with the Ptarmigan Ridge trail, where it appears the tracks owner ascended the flank of Table Mt. and skied down into the valley.  We broke trail the remainder of the way along the ridge, with a few short carries, and creek jumps. 

We decided to head towards Coleman Pinnacle, as the weather was cooperating and we were eager to see if the cover was sufficient to get in some significant vertical.  We broke trail to the pinnacle, across a thin layer of soft wet snow on top of consolidated, which made breaking trail on the traverses slippery but manageable.  We arrived at the base of the Pinnacle, checked the time, and decided to skin up as far as possible, ditch the skis and climb the Pinnacle.  Alpenho posted a more descriptive rendition of the short climb on  While on the summit we saw a couple parties near Table Mt., and another further along the ridge. 

We descended from the Pinnacle, grabbed our gear and followed the ridge west to another prominent point, where we ate lunch and contemplated skiing the snowfield on the north side of the ridge, essentially making a circumnavigation of the Pinnacle, however, the snow looked bulletproof, and we remembered seeing large cracks in the adjacent snowfield when we were here in October, so we opted to ski the more inviting, sun-bleached south side of the ridge towards ‘Goat Throat.’  The descent was great, again a very consistent thin wet layer on top of consolidated made for great turns, and with enough speed to easily traverse the large bench to the top of ‘Goat Throat.’  At this point in the day ‘Goat Throat’ was in the shade, however, we found the top pitch to be pleasantly soft, and the lower portion was beginning to harden and was a bit grabby.   We also noticed two large, deep holes in the snowpack, on either side of the lower pitch.  At the bottom we donned our skins and started the arduous ascent out of the valley up to the ridge, where we de-skinned and took another ~700’ run down and across another valley, cutting off a long portion of the ridge traverse.  The return to the car was essentially the same as on our way out, although, there was significant melting in spots making for longer carries and interesting creek jumps.  We did cross two very small wet/loose slides that occurred off of Table Mt earlier in the day-this was the only evidence of instability all day, except for the occasional pinwheel.  We descended the road as far as we could on skis, and then walked the remainder under the stars, making it back by 5:30.  All told, about 2000’ vertical skied, a great day!     
If you look closely you can see our skin track below the Pinnacle (climber's right), and our descent tracks along the ridge (climber's left)


Posts: 366

Re: Nov 16, 2008, Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacl
« Reply #1 on: 11/18/08, 08:07 PM »

Those tracks you saw were definitely mine.  Glad I could at least break trail for you part of the way.  Also glad to see my "Goat Throat" name seems to be sticking.

Sounds like the stability was better for you than I.  My early turnaround was caused by large numbers of pinwheels and sinking in well past the boot, leading to a fear of wet slides.  Yes, the snowpack was pretty shallow overall, but the snow conditions made me think that seeking out deeper snow was a bad idea.  Good to see you had a better time out!

If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you don't do it next year.

Posts: 104

Re: Nov 16, 2008, Ptarmigan Ridge, Coleman Pinnacle
« Reply #2 on: 11/18/08, 08:26 PM »

The tracks were much appreciated!  There was probably some substantial consolidation between your trip and ours, even though only separated by a day, as we did not experience any sinking.  The two small slide paths we saw on the flank of Table Mt. were no more than 6 inches deep and 2-3 feet across.   
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