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Author Topic: May 2, 2004, Silver Star  (Read 4322 times)
Alan Brunelle
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May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« on: 05/06/04, 04:35 PM »

Boy,  I'll never do the 3 hour plus drive and attempt at 5K again! (and then 3hr plus drive home).   I had just the day to do this tour for the first time in eight years and I thought that I would test my conditioning on a day trip.  This is still the beautiful tour that I remember from eight years ago, but was remarkably different considering the lower amount of snow relative to time of year.  (8 years ago my wife and I did this at least several weeks later and found more snow in the trees and great corn over a very solid base.)  This year I had to climb 800ft. to start skinning and found only very deep mush the rest of the way.

I stopped just below the roll before the top headwall. I was so sleepy after my 4AM start from the Seattle east side that I fell asleep after a snack!  Couldn't motivate myself after that. Next time on a long road approach I will get there the night ahead and sleep in.

There was a total of 12 other skiers in several groups that I saw and they all seemed to be having a great time.  I heard that conditions above where I was was better.  A long way to climb for 800ft of vertical.  But those with the plastic boots and wider skis than mine seemed to deal pretty well with the mush.  

One hazard I hadn't encountered before were hidden traps that had developed on top of large boulders.  I do believe that the whole snow pack is completely unfrozen.  Very different than I have ever seen, except for limited areas or zones or extremely solar oriented slopes (such as the eastern side of Hidden Lake Peak).  Anyway these traps seemed to develop because the rock below the snow surface would absorb solar energy and thereby melt the slushy snow just above.  This would form very weak snow bridges.  I would be turning along just fine on a perfectly smooth slope when all of a sudden my skis would fall through and instantly I would be skiing on rock!  In any case I seemed adept at finding these and so did some of the others in the another party.  Other than this hazard the deep slush meant a broken pole for one individual.

In any case such conditions on a fairly protected north east facing slope seems very unusual.  I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I am not holding out so much hope for good late season skiing on Coleman or the Rainbow this year.

Oh, just heard that Chinook or Cayse pass opened, earliest in 23 years...... cause of warm dry weather.

Alan
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markharf
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #1 on: 05/06/04, 05:48 PM »

Sounds like you skied the worst snow on the worst terrain during the worst weather (low altitude, shallow snow over boulders, warmest weekend of the year).  What's more, you woke up too early in order to walk a long way through the woods to access it.  Bummer.

To me, things are looking much like last year, which featured normal snow up high, less than normal snow down low, and a ferocious drought which helped corn up slopes which are normally problematic, thereby making heroes of us all....at least until August or so, when there was suddenly no more skiing left.  It could certainly be worse.
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Paul Belitz
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WWW
Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #2 on: 05/06/04, 05:55 PM »

No skiing in August? I call boool-shiat:


Photo by Dave.  Grin

I've been skiing slop for a few weeks now, the snowpack hasn't quite consolidated into real corn by now. But I'm hopeful!
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markharf
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #3 on: 05/06/04, 07:06 PM »

Permit me to reframe my earlier, incautious statement:

Last year there was plenty of skiable snow in August and September, but relative to other years there was little of it, and its availability to those reluctant to hike long distances and climb suspect slopes on the Park Glacier was, shall we say, scant.  

Myself, I was satisfied with admiring your tracks a few days later while skidding around on the rather limited snowfields near The Portals.  Others crapped out completely and drove to Mt. Hood.  I think that this August and September are likely to be similar, but I'm perfectly prepared to be proven wrong.

I agree that this season's snow hasn't yet consolidated, although southerly slopes at middling altitude have seemed entirely serviceable the past few weekends.  There's always a delicate balance (think: recent snowfall, temperature, altitude, sunlight, aspect) between freshly-fallen oatmeal, unconsolidated slush, and heroic corn; the original poster seems to have guessed wrong on this occasion.

Enjoy,

Mark

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Alan Brunelle
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #4 on: 05/07/04, 03:32 AM »

I also hope I did not make this trip out as a total bust, in fact for me the skiing through the larch forest was great.  However even here the snow was bottomless in spots, maybe just a bit more cohesive than up higher.  The driving was a kicker though!  I have no problem doing as nearly a long drive to do lesser elevation gain, such as the Cutthroat or on Cascade River Road.  Just my personal limit I guess.

Also, the other skiers with wider skis seemed to have a great time, except for the occasional sucker hole and busted pole.  Lots of hoots and hollers!

I hope that your optimism becomes reality.  Given the time of year, I can't really say there is all that much snow up high.  But it is that state of the snow thats got me worried.  It is hard for me to imagine how the snow 5 or more feet down is going to refreeze.  Last year the lower than normal snow pack had what I felt a more consolidated frozen or even dry feeling to it.  This year it seem soggy, wet and ripe for fast melting.  I am not a snow expert, but it seems with a deeper frozen layer, water that trickles down during the surface melting during the day can at least partially be trapped in the lower colder layers.  This process would seem to extend the life of the snowpack.  Lots of clear nights would seem to favor that, but my guess is that those clear nights have not translated to the cold that should be part of the process.

Regarding snow levels, if I am correct, the areas of the Cascades that got more or less the heaviest snowfall this season were further south.  Taking that into account it is sobering that that snow at least at the pass level is going fast.  Hence that opening of the southern passes very early.

I'll just keep skiing until the snow goes.  But this year I will make a concerted effort to get to those areas I like a good month earlier than I normally would though.
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Jim Oker
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #5 on: 05/07/04, 04:34 AM »

I'm no snow expert either, but I think one big problem on May 2 was the lack of overnight freezing due to cloud cover at night for at least a few nights. It's amazing how well radiational cooling seems to do its work, and how deeply it can freeze the wet snow. The snow in the Teanaway area was wonderfully firm corn the weekend before (which had clear nights) but was fairly mushy except on the steeper west slopes on May2 - clearly not an issue of

Also, my sense is that the traps around boulders are due to TG snow that builds up there all season due to the warmth of the ground and the shallow snow (hence a sharp temp. gradient) - even in mid-winter one can find some lion traps around rocks on ridges, for instance. With the snow not freezing up for several nights, and with warm days, the bridges over this "rotten" snow start failing.

Any actual snow experts out there want to call BS on my take?
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Matt
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #6 on: 05/07/04, 08:39 AM »

  It was a little better on Saturday(May 1) it froze overnight.  The snow on the top was heavy sloppy powder as it had not been through enough freeze/thaw cycle yet for corn to form.  The lower slopes were very soft as it was really hot but very skiable.  I was on fat skis so it was fun Grin

IMO...the snow melt seem to be a month ahead and the consolidation seems to be a month behind.
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cascadesfreak
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #7 on: 05/07/04, 10:04 AM »

Likewise I think the snow may have been better on Sat. (I was skiing across the valley from Silverstar on the Birthday Tour)...I was amazed how much snow had melted already at Washington Pass (fortuntately there was still ample coverage on the B-day tour route).
I did Silverstar in mid-May a couple years ago and was able to ski all but the last 100-vert. back to the road.  Silverstar was also the first place I had encountered those hazards that BigSnow was referring to related to the boulders, on a separate climbing trip (via Burgundy col approach) several years ago in May.  I found these "traps" also formed around/over small trees/brush buried just below the snowpack surface.  I recall that it got quite annoying crashing through into a void next to a small tree every 10 steps or so  Angry  Glad I haven't seen those conditions since that trip  Smiley
--Chris
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Alan Brunelle
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #8 on: 05/07/04, 10:54 AM »

Speaking of Burgundy Col.  That little slot seemed like a great ski descent.  When I do get the time to spend an overnight in that area I think that a traverse to the col up high and then descent from the col would be a great descent route.  Just yo-yoing from the col down looked like it would be fun.

Alan
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cascadesfreak
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Re: May 2, 2004, Silver Star
« Reply #9 on: 05/07/04, 12:56 PM »

yeah, the Silverstar Glacier side of Burgundy col looked like it would be a great ski descent!  I might have headed that way the last time I was up there if we hadn't been skiing in a white-out  Smiley The long steep couloir on the west side of the col may be nice as well, but that side often seems to melt-out before the highway opens, at least the lower section, making skiing a bit difficult to descend all the way to Early Winter's Creek  Smiley  

--Chris
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