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| |-+  April 2005 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  Asgard Pass/Colchuck Lake - April 23
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Author Topic: Asgard Pass/Colchuck Lake - April 23  (Read 2678 times)
Spin Fast

Posts: 77

Asgard Pass/Colchuck Lake - April 23
« on: 04/26/05, 08:05 AM »

Figured now was the time to check out some tours in the Enchantments, so after a friend recommended (although had never skiied) Asgard Pass, two of us decided to heed his advice and go exploring.

Arrived at the Colchuck Lake trailhead just before 7:00 am, packed the skis and headed out for what we assumed was going to be a long day (we were right about one thing) There was a small amount of snow at the trailhead but not enough to skin. So up we went...

The trail climbs up to Colchuck Lake in approxitemately 4 miles. Although there was snow the majority of the way, it was very dirty and would have been a struggle to try and skin. It was evident very early on that we were going to be dealing with some wet and slushy conditions as even at 8:00 in the morning the snow was softening up very quickly.

After about 2.5 hrs of hiking we arrived at Colchuck lake and realized immediately why this area is so popular - it's beautiful. Dragontail peak and Colchuck (peak?) are dominant players up here, towering above the lake. There was probably about a foot or two of snow still present near the lake, although the lake itself, despite being frozen seemed to be thawing out very quickly (we later heard that someone fell in a week or so ago)

It was at this point that we could see Asgard Pass, or so we thought. (picture coming soon) The question was, do we cross the lake or bushwack around it...we ran into a group of three who had just been walking on it but to be honest it just didn't seem very safe. With skis on, we decided being dry was more important then time, so we bush-wacked around the lake. Almost two hours later we arrived at the bottom of the Pass. Snow was now very soft and temps were hovering in the mid-60s...we had been hiking/skiing for almost 6 hrs now.

But 2000 vertical feet above us, crunched between two massive peaks, rose a picture-perfect 35-40 degree slope of spring pow. With no signs of recent (read today) avi acitivity we followed an old skin track to the halfway point, the end of a morain overlooking the lake and peaks back towards Icicle Canyon.  

With clouds moving in and the clock reading 2:00 PM, we decided this would be our stopping point for the day. The spring thaw was in full effect, with snow cascading off the surrounding peaks. Skins that a rain drop I just felt?...we managed 1000 undisturbed feet of super-soft spring powda chowda. It was a blast. We arrived back at the lake, and after just seeing a group of 7 snow-shoers cross the lake, decided to just bee-line it across. It took us about 5 minutes to get back to the trail (what took us 2 hrs earlier in the day)

Overall it was an awesome place to explore and was wondering the entire way back down to the car, why more skiers aren't up here. Total trip time was almost 11 hrs, ski time about 20 minutes (down that is - maybe I just answered my own question) Let's do it again! Pictures coming soon.

A couple notes: there was plenty of snow to ski above the lake but I imagine it's melting out very quickly with this warm weather. Also, we actually ended up skiing the chute between Dragontail and Colchuck, NOT Asgard Pass. Best way to ski this would be to do an overnight, sleeping at the lake and then heading out very early in the morning.  

Ian Mackie
Art. Adventure. Advocacy.

Posts: 78

Re: Colchuck col/Colchuck Lake - April 25
« Reply #1 on: 04/26/05, 09:07 AM »

I skied from Colchuck Col yesterday in surprisingly pleasant conditions.  The primary objective of the trip was to climb Colchuck Peak via the N. Buttress Couloir.  However, this climb would also give me a chance to baptize my new skis.  At last I possess a pair that is fat enough to keep me afloat.  Until this season, my backcountry skiing experience has been limited to a few trips to Muir and the Tattoosh; this year I bought some used Dynafit boots and bindings, but my skis are pretty narrow for Cascade crud.  This fact was driven home to me on my tumble-fest of a descent from Big Kangaroo with skykilo in March.  Clearly if I intended to ski the backcountry, I needed different equipment. Maybe, I imagined, with these big, fat TMX's I will be able to redeem myself: maybe I too will call myself a backcountry skier.

Since my partner Alex did not have skis, I didn't do any skinning on the ascent.  Temperatures were quite warm, the snow soft and isothermal at the lake and above.  We had to abandon our climb of the N. Buttress couloir due to wet avalanches, probably snowpatches sliding off various rock ledges and funneling into the gully.  We descended back to the moraine and I took a first few turns on wet slop into the glacier basin.  Pinwheels were manifold but there was no slab activity.  
Next we booted up to Colchuck Col.  Though temps felt to be about 75 degrees hot, in the treeless shade of Dragontail the snow was still frozen hard.  It did not promise to be easy skiing.  At the col, I took a nap while Alex went to the summit.  As luck and the earth's rotation would have it, during this period the descent route came into the sun.  The first few millimeters of crust softened up, which was enough.  For the upper third of the descent my turns barely made visible tracks.  Further down, the surface softened to 2 or 3 inches of mashed potatoes.  I was able to ski all the way to the lake and hit only a couple of buried rocks.  A lake crossing is ill-advised at this time, however, as the ice is beginning to crack in the center.
The contrast between the new skis and my previous pair is, well, like the contrast between a descent where I fall every third turn and one where I don't.  If one run is enough to know, they perform equally well on hard and soft.  Although the hike in is not a short one, I found it well worth the haul.
« Last Edit: 04/26/05, 09:14 AM by normanclyde » Logged

Posts: 122

Re: Asgard Pass/Colchuck Lake - April 23
« Reply #2 on: 04/26/05, 09:23 AM »

Thanks for the info. I wanted to ski up there about a month ago, but the weather wasn't cooperative enough to make the drive and subsequent hike worth it.

I love my TM-EX's! On many more than one run in all types of conditions, they have performed awesomely. They handle ice, slush, powder, glop, nasty breakable windcrust, and everything else I've thrown at them. Skis that let you hit it with confidence are a definite bonus.

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