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| |-+  January 2013 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
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Author Topic: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit  (Read 2895 times)

Posts: 10

January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« on: 01/14/13, 11:44 PM »

After getting a couple laps in at the Herman Saddle on Friday morning before class, Eric, John and I discussed plans for skiing something bigger on Saturday. Initially deciding to go up the Sulphide, plans changed Friday night and it would be just Eric and I skiing the White Salmon. We arrived at the fish parking lot gate around 4:45am, with the gate closed and a broken padlock on the ground below. Not wishing to be falsely implicated, we left the car by the Raven statue and hoped it would not be towed.
We had attempted this route before and made good time down the logging cut, across the creek and up the north side of the debris field. We crossed some tracks at the bottom of the cut but broke trail from there on out. More accurately, Eric broke trail from there on out and I helped a little. I suggested to head up the steep treed gullies on the south side of the drainage instead of the normal route, which was an inefficient mistake, but we made it work. Finally on the actual glacier we encountered snow that varied between breakable crust, dense soft powder and bulletproof with almost no visual indication of what to expect. For the most part, it was not bad for upward progress and we only needed to bootpack one steep section before arriving at the notch leading to the Upper Curtis at around 11:30.

We ate lunch there and were out of the wind and in the sun, but didn't linger for too long, now finally realizing we had a good shot at getting to the top. Skiing across the Curtis we checked out the hourglass and another steeper ice route to its south, both of which seemed fat and in good condition, but neither of us are much into that stuff so ymmv. We booted up hell's highway and finally got a good look at the summit pyramid. I had been holding out hope that if conditions were right I would be feeling up to skiing it, but my legs were making slow work of the very moderate track up the Sulphide and I was definitely feeling the altitude. When I caught up to Eric at the base of the pyramid I confided that even though I had talked it up the day before, skiing off the top was probably not the best idea, and we stopped for a break. The scenery all day had been truly spectacular, but the panorama from up there was breathtaking. Glacier, Rainier, and the Olympics were all out in force and the scene (plus some chocolate peanut caramel clusters that Eric broke out) gave me a second wind. As Eric started booting up the chute I strapped the skis on my pack and broke out the axe. We made it about 30' shy of the summit before needing crampons. I left my skis there and was very glad to have a whippet and an axe for the short section of steep ice/rime guarding the summit ridge. How Eric managed it with just an axe I do not know. The view from the top was extraordinary and the staggering exposure up there cannot be overstated. By the time I had made it back down to my pack and clicked into my skis, Eric was at the bottom of the pyramid. I was able to make a few jump turns, till the chute narrowed down and the snow became gritty rime. The crux was negotiated by side-slipping a foot at a time with axe sticks to provide some security and it wasn't exactly skiing. Below the constriction the snow improved again and the jump turns became relief turns at the bottom of the pyramid.

Elated with having skied a line that's been in the back of my mind for a while, I opened it up down the sulphide only to have the variable snow grab my ankle and send me over the bars for a mini yard-sale. With everything intact, and my ego back at a somewhat reasonable level, we cruised back down Hell's highway and skinned up the Curtis with the sun getting level with Mt. Baker. The snow improved significantly on the White Salmon and after skiing cautiously at first, it was apparent the snow was much more consistent on that aspect and we were rewarded with a couple thousand feet of dense, fall-line powder.

We chose to traverse high underneath the hanging glacier so we could avoid fumbling around through the debris chunks and made it down to the creek after doing a bit of funky side hilling and gully crossing. At this point it was time to break out the headlamps and Eric brought out a mini bottle of champagne as we put skins back on and ate some more of those chocolate clusters. The skin back up to the ski area was probably the craziest track I've ever followed, but we didn't have to put it in (huge thank you to the brave souls that did) and due to the champagne we were mostly laughing about it instead of crying. Made it back to the gate around 7:30 and to our relief the car was still there.

Incredibly grateful for the perfect weather, safe passage and a ski partner that sets tracks and expectations to ridiculous heights.

Posts: 340

Re: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« Reply #1 on: 01/15/13, 07:31 AM »

We saw your headlamps from the parking lot, then later in the morning saw you two across the valley approaching Winnie's slide on the upper white Salmon. When we found that the NW Couloir was not "in" we briefly considered heading over to the White Salmon but decided that it would have the same variable boot snag due to a similar aspect.  Guess we were wrong!

About the skin track out: I know who put it in (not my party), and there was much cursing involved.  If you followed a left after the first bench to a boot track, i put in that hate-filled 200 yards. If you followed it right, it continued to be the other guys. If you laughed at waist deep holes in the track at the steep, that was me trying to boot up, and not making it 2 feet.

Booting in the trees is the way to go.

Posts: 323

Re: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« Reply #2 on: 01/15/13, 09:07 AM »

nice !

Lytt til erfarne fjellfolk!

Posts: 322

Re: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« Reply #3 on: 01/15/13, 10:45 AM »

Nice work!

Posts: 190

Re: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« Reply #4 on: 01/15/13, 11:14 AM »

nice trip, fellas!
we skied the NW Couloir on the 13th, will try to get some pics up tonight, if any turned out.
as we grunted up that skintrack (thx) i kept wondering if it wouldn't be more efficient to boot in the trees in those conditions--thanks for confirming my suspicions, Jonn-E.

Posts: 16

Re: January 12, 2013, Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon-Summit
« Reply #5 on: 01/16/13, 08:42 PM »

Mini champagne! awesome.

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