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| | |-+  May 8 2005, Ruth Mtn. (Mt. Baker backcountry)
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Author Topic: May 8 2005, Ruth Mtn. (Mt. Baker backcountry)  (Read 2882 times)
markharf
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Posts: 624


May 8 2005, Ruth Mtn. (Mt. Baker backcountry)
« on: 05/09/05, 05:42 PM »

Our party of three found very reasonable conditions on Ruth Mountain Sunday. Contrary to my own pessimistic predictions of rain, deep, unconsolidated slop and endless misery, there was instead good skiing, excellent conversation, and that magic combination of late-day start with a return just before dark. The Hannegan trail is almost entirely snow-free to the meadows as usual; once on the snow, the bootpack wanders inefficiently here and there, and skinning directly to the pass from this point would surely have saved some time. There is plenty of snow above, but the crevasse systems on the glacier (which I've never actually seen except in late-season photographs) are already telegraphing through the snowpack, suggesting that evasive measures will be necessary later in the season. The glaciers on Icy Peak and around Nooksack Cirque are very broken up.  

The threatening gloom failed to thicken into more than widely scattered showers, and actually lifted during our descent offering views of endless, pillowy, sunlit slopes against a background of Jagged Ridge and the Nooksack and Price Glaciers. We skied northwest off the summit in preference to the standard descent route, finding near-perfect pre-corn for the first thousand feet: an inch or two deep on an incident-free base. Then, a band of slight crust which, when I tried to traverse onto another aspect, turned immediately into 6 inch deep slush (although this, too, provided excellent turns to those willing to maintain forward speeds to approximately NASCAR standards). Above 6000 feet the snow refused to slide under any circumstances. Below, wet sluffs were limited to top few inches of snowpack, reliably releasing at ski cuts on slopes over 40 degrees. We skied to about 4300 feet in the valley, for a run of almost 3000 feet.

On the way down, one of our party, apparently subject to an insufficiency of common sense married to an excess of 20-year-old hubris, left our chosen route without first telling us and entirely vanished from sight. When he failed to appear, we two stood around waiting, discussing, wondering, and assessing for a while, then found a vantage point from which we could make out tracks leading into un-scouted cliffs, copious fresh wet slide debris....and, fortunately, tracks leading out the bottom. Our friend then proceeded to ignore our agreed rendezvous and headed down the Ruth Creek valley bottom on spotty snowpack. We, of course, were forced to follow, somewhat hobbled (here I speak only for myself) by advanced age and gathering irritation. Eventually, having concluded that we were unlikely to catch him, we thrashed our way uphill through the usual steep, slippery mosses, malevolent devils club, and downward-sloping alder thickets to the trail....where we found him, a mile or so later, waiting patiently.

Clearly, spring is here: a reasonably consolidated snowpack on all aspects, crevasses apparent but still nicely bridged, and wet, hissy sluffing on steep terrain. Oh, and more of that magnificent late-afternoon light streaming up the west-facing valleys, backlighting the fresh greenery, making the landscapes glow and the rock faces gleam.
« Last Edit: 05/09/05, 06:48 PM by markharf » Logged
gusk
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Posts: 84


Re: May 8 2005, Ruth Mtn. (Mt. Baker backcountry)
« Reply #1 on: 05/10/05, 03:04 AM »

Great report, I've been itching to head to Ruth since the endless sunny days prior to  that last major dump of the season.  Sounds like I gotta get there fast.
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JibberD
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Posts: 608


Re: May 8 2005, Ruth Mtn. (Mt. Baker backcountry)
« Reply #2 on: 05/10/05, 12:11 PM »

Dang, those 20-something whipper snappers will make things interesting every time as they meander up and down along the learning curve.

Nice, descriptive report of the snow conditions.
« Last Edit: 05/10/05, 03:45 PM by JibberD » Logged

-Doug O
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