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| | |-+  Feb 8, 2014, Silver Peak Basin, Fishscales tour
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Author Topic: Feb 8, 2014, Silver Peak Basin, Fishscales tour  (Read 1652 times)

Posts: 9

Feb 8, 2014, Silver Peak Basin, Fishscales tour
« on: 02/09/14, 04:29 PM »

Finally we got some snow!  We took advantage of it and had a nice tour up to the Silver Peak basin.

We headed up from the base of the Silver Fir chair at Snoqualmie on our lightweight back country gear (or heavyweight cross country gear, whichever way you want to think of it.)  We were planning to buy a nordic ticket and get a ride up the chair.  But we were early and they weren't open selling tickets yet (even though the chair was spinning) and we had skins, so we stuck them on and headed up. 

Weather was cold (in the teens, I'd guess) and the sun was out in the morning, though it got gloomy later in the day.  Snow on the lift-served slopes was nice and relatively dry (for the Cascades) - a few inches of fresh on a firm base. 

We veered off left below Silver Fir chair and headed up to the warming hut (Union Station, I think it's called.)  Then we followed the road curving around to the right, with I-90 down below us and Granite Peak across the way.  Slogged all the way up to and through Olalie Meadows (the clear cut area).  Then to the upper corner of the meadows (windy!) and around the corner into the lower bowls of Silver Peak Basin. 

There was very firm hard packed snow filling the basin.  We didn't dig a pit, but just probing with ski poles, it was clear that there was a hard slab layer with softer stuff underneath.  But we judged it very stable, since the slopes aren't that steep and the concave shape put that firm layer under compression.  Still, we were a bit nervous about heading out into the center of the bowl, so we hugged the left flank as we headed up, thinking we might try to gain the knob within the trees on the left side.  However, that turned out to not be a good strategy, because there was significant wind loading over there resulting in deeper, softer stuff, with some definite slab conditions in spots.  So we traversed back out to the right and gained the knob on the wind-scoured firm surface of the bowl. 

By now we'd lost the sunshine into a grey Cascades sky, and the wind had become fierce once more.  Sheltered beneath some big trees we removed skins and snacked and drank tea from the thermos.  Even in the shelter of the trees it was brutally cold, so we made it a short stop and headed down.

Now, I'm sure there are plenty of skiers who could rip it up in those conditions, even on my ancient lightweight backcountry gear, but as for me - well suffice it to say I left a few impact craters in the snow on the way down.  Conditions were tricky, some spots were buttery powder over a nice firm base, but then there were the hard windscoured spots, then the deep soft spots, then OH NO the breakable crust - and down I'd go.  Even my partner, who is a much better tele skier than me, was struggling and wiped out a couple of times.  I have to admit I was going "Yes!" when he fell - just because it made me feel vindicated that the conditions were tough.

Getting back around the corner into the meadows above Windy Pass, we got a good derm-abrasion facial scouring treatment that I won't forget in a hurry.  Wow.  Now I know why that area is called Windy Pass!

I let my partner talk us into taking the long loop back - down the Nordic trail road towards Hyak, then turning off up the steep trail to the left, back up around Mt. Catherine.  I'm out of shape, so by that point I was feeling pretty well thrashed, and the last couple of miles felt like a forced march.  Finally we hit the downhill, and flew back down to the base of Silver Fir and our car. 

Just a little local loop in the hills above the ski area, but it felt like quite a good adventure!
« Last Edit: 02/09/14, 04:36 PM by clymbon » Logged

Posts: 1379

Re: Feb 8, 2014, Silver Peak Basin, Fishscales tour
« Reply #1 on: 02/09/14, 05:29 PM »

One of my favorite tours.   Let's hope the breakable crusts gets well covered this week.
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