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| | |-+  April-May, 2011, PNW, An espy of winter.
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Author Topic: April-May, 2011, PNW, An espy of winter.  (Read 2097 times)

Posts: 11

April-May, 2011, PNW, An espy of winter.
« on: 05/16/11, 05:13 PM »

An espy of winter.

Its few and far between spring seasons when one can enjoy mid-winter like conditions through spring. At the beginning of this past April, I left the Outward Bound base camp in Leadville, CO after a winter season. I was excited for the promise of spring skiing in the Cascades. I had missed many of our powder days in Colorado. I had no idea that I was driving towards 6 weeks of powder skiing that would encapsulate any winter touring I would have done in Colorado.
Having spent the last few seasons in the Wasatch, I am admittedly a bit of a powder snob. Even a bad day in the Wasatch is the best day of the season in many other regions. While driving out, the friend I would be skiing with for the first 3 weeks, called to let me know it had been dumping in the Cascades. The avalanche rating had gone from low and moderate to high and extreme overnight.
After arriving in Seattle, we found it best to let things settle out for a few days, spending time on mellow tours that avoided anything steep enough to slide. Sticking close to Snoqualimie pass, the avalanche danger hit home after one slide took out a party and another a car on interstate 90. The reality of the instability the existed was more like that of a mountain snow pack, and not that of the coastal snowpack Washington is known for. However, the same conditions that brought a largely unstable snow pack, produced quality powder that even the snobbiest Wasatch skier would not mind skiing.
As my time in the Cascades went on, we found ourselves skiing around Kieth’s Hut in British Columbia. Again, quality powder condition persisted. As the snow pack began to settle out, we where able to ski steep lines and deep powder. At this point it was mid-April and I still found myself fully in the powder room!
From British Columbia our attention shifted south. Along the Baker Highway, Mt. Baker‘s Roman Wall, Heliotrope Ridge, Table Mountain, Mazama Bowl, and the White Salmon all became worthy objectives. Stability came and went with time, and powder condition continued well into the beginning of May.
I found myself wondering how long the mid-winter inter-mountain like snow would continue for. Unfortunately, by the 2nd week in May, spring began to take its grasp on the Cascades. The days of powder skiing where lost to the lengthened days of spring. Temperatures rose, day time highs felt almost summer like within the oven on top of the snow. While the spring like weather finally arrived, the Western-Cascades became inundated with storm cycles that would last for days, providing the smallest of weather windows. The Eastern-Cascades became a haven from the weather. A new friend and myself, made our way to Cascadian Coulior, skiing corn for thousands of vertical feet.
My final tour came out of a last minute desire to spend a moment with a mountain that has held my respect, and hate for sometime. Rainier. Any trip I have had to this Volcano has felt more like a nature walk than a true wilderness experience. With a storm entrenched on the mountain, I went to leave others behind, and take a day of touring by myself. From Paradise to Camp Muir, I made quick work. I spent sometime in the climbers shelter eating a lunch. When I left, visibility reduced to five feet. I found myself isolated, making two turns, checking the bearing on my compass, making another two turns, and rechecking the bearing on my compass. Great Tahoma was not welcoming me on this day. 60-80 mph winds set in. I found myself in the simplest of rhythms, turn, turn, check, repeat. For a few hours, the world ceased to exist. For me, the world comprised of myself, a pack, ski poles, two skis, and a compass. During the descent, as I took a moment to get some water out of my pack, one of my favorite quotes came to mind;

"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow. But of course, without the top you can't have any sides. It's the top that defines the sides."

The few hours I spent descending brought new meaning to what Pirsig had wrote. How often do each of take time to slow down, and notice some of the most basic things at work. When do we stop to notice whats far ahead, and see what is right in front of us. For many of us we do not take the opportunity to notice the small things. The small things we do for one another. The small life that exists even in the snow. Even worse, in our constant communication and inter connected world, we loose sight of what is happening right around us. When was the last time you stopped to look at the unique world that surrounds you up close?
In many respects, I did not gain sight of winter. Rather, an espy of my inner self. I ventured into the cascade mountain range to ski powder and explore a new line. However, I ventured into myself, gaining a new understanding of who I am and why I hold with great respect the value of our mountains and untamed, untouched wilderness.

Photos and video will be added to my website in the next week.

* DSC_0097.jpg (44.14 KB, 528x800 - viewed 721 times.)

Bryan Hendrick

Posts: 929

Re: April-May, 2011, PNW, An espy of winter.
« Reply #1 on: 05/16/11, 05:45 PM »

Fresh air.  Ping me if you're inclined to go sea kayaking.  dg

"Maybe we should ban hikers from anywhere that there is a potential threat to surface water?"   [courtesy Newtrout, 2011]

"Good for you for getting it and thank goodness I wasn't there with you."  [courtesy mikerolfs, 2014]

Posts: 78

Re: April-May, 2011, PNW, An espy of winter.
« Reply #2 on: 05/16/11, 06:58 PM »

Thanks for the post.  That Pirsig quote digs down to the kernel of the mountain experience.
If anyone is looking to paddle, I have a Pygmy Osprey Triple that's straining impatiently to reenter the water.
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