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Author Topic: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010  (Read 1613 times)
Teleskichica
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Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« on: 03/22/10, 09:07 PM »

“Hey, um, I’m on Shuksan right now and just wanted to let you know, don’t worry, I’ll make it...”
Ah... the best-laid plans are sometimes obliterated for the better.

Our original intent was a little loftier and more driving intensive, so when 8 o’clock rolled around and Tyler was just pulling into Bellingham, I still waiting in Tacoma, we made a quick, if not reluctant, redirect to meet up in Monroe and take it from there. Neither of us had been to Icicle Creek before, so we cranked up the tunes, drowned ourselves in a heavy dose of Red Bull and kept driving. Car camping reaches new heights of luxury in a Volvo wagon, sleeping not so much jacked up on caffeine...

Four hours later we embarked on our 7 AM "alpine" start quickly losing two hours as we putzed and dallied chatting with local climbers and toasting our tootsies by the campside fire. That gravel and dirt trail approach was not very enticing and Tyler nearly lost me to the crags as I rather hesitantly pushed aside my harness and Mythos, for Syner-Gs and skis.

The trail is bare for about a mile up the road at which point we could finally put on our skis and skin continuously. Pretty blasé traveling at this point. Things are a little more “exciting” once on the trail, if only for the fact it is more variable terrain with plenty of snow, and a very well cut in trail/luge track to follow. Our late start, leisurely lunch and a little forest gnome distraction put us at Colchuck Lake at quarter to four. Neither of us had ever been here before and were simply amazed by the beauty! There were a dozen or so climbers in the area and a handful of skiers, including three bad asses making their way down the triple couloirs. (Correct me if I’m wrong folks. I don’t know this area.) Inspiring to say the least...

We found a secluded campsite hidden by a massive boulder, dumped three-quarters of our packs and made a beeline Wink across the lake. The snow approaching the glacier was pretty disgusting. A heavy crust that sometimes broke and at other times was completely unedgeable. Tyler offered for us to turn around at the first bench, but I honestly wanted to see the view on the other side and had high hopes for something better somewhere up higher. Skinning was pretty ridiculous half way into our ascent and as much as I loathe skis on my back, boot packing was mandatory for the last half. The wind was howling and transported snow quickly depositing on the northfacing slope filling in the shallow boot pack and bringing in dark clouds that quickly sucked away the remaining daylight. We made it before true dark, hunkered ourselves down against the wailing winds and got a quick summit shot as we deskinned and clicked in bindings.

Here is where I am very sorry to say, my voile switchbacks failed me! I have had issues before with ice forming on the bar, but this time, the little nubbins that hold that bar down were frozen inside their case. (I don’t really know how to describe this better.) Thus, nothing would hold the bar down and the binding was left in tour mode. Oh scheisse, a few more expletives, a knife and the resolution to ski “heels fixed” somehow, inspired Tyler with a fleeting moment of brilliance: Just imagine Calvin pissing on Ford, or Chevy or whatever your nemesis alternative brand and you can envision Tyler, poised and ready in an effort to warm the binding enough to de-ice it... All you AT’ers, unfortunately, such measures proved unnecessary as the pins finally released, but I am really discouraged by this gear malfunction. Anybody else had this problem?

We skied down in very dim light that quickly dissipated into the blackness of true night. (No pictures for obvious reasons.) We weren’t the only ones though, as we turned back to view the rising peaks behind us and noticed more headlamps weaving and descending on the backdrop of faintly luminescent snow.

As for snow quality, the slope seemed bombproof and the first 500 feet or so were hard but decent. I think that quick deposit of wind drift snow made the ski down a little better than it could have been, giving us just a whisp of something to push around and “carve” in. Conditions worsened the lower we got with frozen avalanche debris and a heavy crust to negotiate, not to mention the lack of any visibility except the 5 feet illuminated by headlamp. Our final 500 feet were skied “by Braille” as we followed the skin track for reference.

Gliding across the lake was pleasant with the winds less prevalent, sliver moon to admire and dimly flickering stars gradually winking through the clouds. Warming beverage, hot food and a cozy camp topped off the day.

Precipitation came in the form of rain, ice and flakes throughout the night. Thus our inspiration to make any kind of early departure was ‘nil to none and we lounged our way through a grey backcountry morning, sipping tea, indulging in leftover dinner and anticipating the desired results of a slowly dissolving cloud cover. Around 10 AM we finally set out under sunny skies for the challenging, manky-snow return. Thankfully, it was not nearly as miserable as expected. The rain had softened the crust and saturated the rutted skin/boot track experienced the day before to a much more manageable consistency.

Thanks to backcountry karaoke, steady conversation and the anticipation of Leavenworth brats, we made pleasant time back to the car for a quick strip of the gear, clothes and skivvies for an even quicker dip in the Icicle River...



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« Last Edit: 03/22/10, 09:58 PM by Teleskichica » Logged

Livin' high on the cold smoke!
jeff_s
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #1 on: 03/22/10, 10:43 PM »

I have had issues before with ice forming on the bar, ... really discouraged by this gear malfunction. Anybody else had this problem?

the mechanism is probably somewhat different than on my G3 Ascents, but it has to perform the same function, so you might be able to alleviate it by doing something similar to what I did on mine. I melted some wax into the tracks the steel hook piece slides in and into the space where it grabs the underside of the toepiece. It seems to keep the ice from packing in as badly, but I haven't had it out in "acid-test" conditions of new snow with air temps a bit above freezing.

a quick strip of the gear, clothes and skivvies for an even quicker dip in the Icicle River...

I've been thinking we need a "Swims-All-Year" site. I swam in Rosario Strait in February and was tempted by Boulder Creek but resisted this month (I wimped out and opted for the hot springs instead). I used to swim in the Sound pretty much every month of the year, but that's not as impressive once you've done it and realize that it doesn't get much below 45 degrees even in winter...
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Jerm
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #2 on: 03/22/10, 11:33 PM »

It happened to me when they were new. I fixed it by squirting some TriFlow bike lube into the holes (per Voile's recommendation). So far so good, and they seem to get better as I use them.

If that doesn't work (it should), you can pull the base plate off the binding and stack some washers in where the return spring is to preload it and add more uumph to the mechanism.

Re: ice on the bar. I occasionally get a little sliver of ice where the bar rests on the ski, but it always flicks off really easily. The fact that my bindings have been doused in Tri Flow probably helps in this regard.
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chmnyboy
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #3 on: 03/22/10, 11:36 PM »

Thanks for sticking with the sticks instead of the rocks! All apologies for spreading myself a little too thin, but at least we were able to get a few nice turns in. The views were incredible, and it was great to see skiers up on the N side of Dragontail. If those skiers are reading this I do have some pictures of you, let me know if you want them.

Been meaning to get into this area for quite some time and this quick tour was a fun introduction for me. Chica, thanks for putting up with all my quirks (aka: flaws), hope my spotty logic and random thoughts weren't too much for the trip!

Quick note: I had zero issues with my AT bindings.

I've been thinking we need a "Swims-All-Year" site. I swam in Rosario Strait in February and was tempted by Boulder Creek but resisted this month (I wimped out and opted for the hot springs instead). I used to swim in the Sound pretty much every month of the year, but that's not as impressive once you've done it and realize that it doesn't get much below 45 degrees even in winter...

I'm a huge fan of the 4-season swimming forum! It'd probably be easier than this year round skiing gig...
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Stugie
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #4 on: 03/23/10, 08:07 AM »

The views were incredible, and it was great to see skiers up on the N side of Dragontail.

That might have been Dan H. and Jwplotz...they skied NBC and Triple Couliors...
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"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
Teleskichica
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Posts: 346


Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #5 on: 03/23/10, 09:31 AM »

That might have been Dan H. and Jwplotz...they skied NBC and Triple Couliors...

Stugie: I think you are right. Two climbers came by and while we were talking they said a "Dan-guy" was skiing down the triple.

Jerm and Jeff: (Been missing you Jeff!) thanks for the suggestions. I'll give the TriFlow a try. As for 4-season swimming, I'm sure there is a SwAY site out there somewhere...

Tyler: You and "your friends" are always welcome... even the wiley-eyed ornimals.

 Smiley

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Livin' high on the cold smoke!
Gary_H
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #6 on: 03/24/10, 11:25 PM »

Hey Holly,
Enjoyed reading your account of the Icicle Escapades, very well written. Chmnyboy is a great partner in the mountains, we've had a few "escapades" with him too  Wink

Gary and Jan 
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There is no such thing as too much snow............... Doug Coombs
Joedabaker
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #7 on: 03/25/10, 08:35 AM »

The red helmet compliments your jacket, nice touch.
If you ever need a partner in backcounty karaoke, I'm your guy.  Cheesy
And thanks for the heads up on the Switchbacks.
I'll drink plenty of fluids to always be prepared.
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Snow Bell
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Re: Icicle Creek-Colchuck Escapades 3/20-21/2010
« Reply #8 on: 03/25/10, 04:29 PM »

Sounds like a fun trip guys.

The cold water dip is a bit rough for my taste but luxury car camping in the volvo wagon sounds about my speed.  Cool
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