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NWAC Avalanche
+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2014 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  March 2014 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  March 23rd, 2014, Rock-Howard-Mastiff Traverse
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Author Topic: March 23rd, 2014, Rock-Howard-Mastiff Traverse  (Read 1891 times)

Posts: 5

March 23rd, 2014, Rock-Howard-Mastiff Traverse
« on: 03/24/14, 06:13 PM »

For some reason I cannot figure out how to add pictures with my posts... They all seem to be to large... I am not a computer wiz and if anyone could give me a pointer on how to do this that would be much appreciated!! But, for pictures and the full write up you can go here:

On Sunday, March 23rd, Jeff Tarshis, David Ratliff and I headed east of Stevens Pass to do the Rock-Howard-Mastiff traverse. The traverse covers 13 miles, 7,740 in elevation gain/loss and takes you to the summit's of 3 gorgeous mountains. The terrain in this area offers limitless options for skiing and would certainly be worth spending numerous days exploring.

The climb up to Rock Mountain was by far the hardest part of our day. We must have transitioned 4 or 5 times on the way up... skin, skin with crampons, boot pack, skin again... generally following the summer trail the entire way. Initially we had departed the trailhead at 7:20 am and the snow was still frozen in most places. This made ski crampons a necessity lower down. At around 3,600 ft (I don't remember the exact elevation) we encountered some remnant avy debris and above them bare slopes. We switched to boot packing for the next 200ft and saw an old crown, probably 3ft, at the top, indicating that the slope we just traveled up was likely bare because of a previous ground release avalanche. After a bit more heinous skinning we finally reached good consistent snow at 4,200 ft, around the start of the ridge that leads up into the alpine. From here forward conditions were excellent all day.

 We made our first ski descent for the day off the north face of Rock Mountain and traversed skiers right at the bottom ending up slightly below the notch separating Rock and Howard. We ascended to the top of this notch and then made another 1,000ft descent down to Crescent Lake. The snow conditions were great: boot top left over pow, hardly a crust underneath and well bonded. We found these same snow conditions all day (except at lower elevations). At Crescent Lake we took a quick lunch, enjoying the sun and solitude that we were being treated to on this amazing day.

 After our lunch was finished we began the 1,600ft climb up the south face of Howard. The lower section is a bit steeper, but there are plenty of routes through the trees. We saw some pinwheels and had a few spots sluff slightly on us, but nothing of concern. Once we made it through the steeper lower sections the rest of the way up the south face of Howard was gorgeous and provided us with a great opportunity to take in our surroundings. We descend the steep north facing slope of Howard before trending east towards Mastiff.

 The route up Mastiff is very easy and straightforward. We generally followed the ridge all the way, staying on the climbers right, and farther up just cut one nice long easy skin track that meandered through some wind beaten trees.

There was some wind on an otherwise calm day at the top of Mastiff and we made a slightly quicker transition. We began our descent by following the ridge of Mastiff southeast (ish) before dropping in on a more east facing aspect. The decision was made to follow the ridge before dropping because of a large cornice overhanging the face. This top portion initially skied awesome, before we entered a gully to descend towards Lost Lake. The gully was full of avy debris, but the skiing was still okay in some spots.

One final climb up the treed slope on the south side of Lost Lake brought us to the notch above Merritt Lake. From this point we were able to "ski" all the way back to the road and arrived at Hwy 2 around 5:20pm. To our surprise skiing was easily possible the entire way down. Conditions on the Merritt trail were much better then those found on the Rock trail.

 Of Note: The trip took 10 hours total. I think it can easily be done much faster. The initial climb up to the summit of Rock took us 4.5 hours because of too many transitions and a dropped pole incident (and rescue) that was my mistake. I would recommend touring the initial road underneath the power lines as far as you can. Once the touring becomes impossible because of bare ground, or to difficult, just boot all the way to 4,200ft. You will save time in the end. Also, the traverse itself is easy enough to navigate as you can see your next destination (peak) most of the time. However, without a GPS we certainly would have had a difficult time descending from Merritt Lake to Hwy 2. The summer trail at Merritt is completely buried. There were a number of times on the descent that we became slightly off route and corrected our heading.

 Thanks to Jeff and David for an awesome and safe adventure!
Jake the Brit

Posts: 362

Re: March 23rd, 2014, Rock-Howard-Mastiff Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 03/27/14, 05:17 PM »

That's a peachy cornice photo on your blog,
...saved you the trouble.

* P3230606.JPG (124.58 KB, 1000x750 - viewed 629 times.)

Posts: 892

Re: March 23rd, 2014, Rock-Howard-Mastiff Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 03/28/14, 07:43 PM »

Nice work and nice report. Thanks for sharing.
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