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Author Topic: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')  (Read 40359 times)
MW88888888
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December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« on: 12/09/05, 03:28 AM »

Day 12
12-8-5
Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278)
Vertical skied: 3,178
17 degrees and 50" base at 3,100.

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I had to come back for more.  On Wednesday, 12-7-05, I had climbed up to 5,400' on Snoqualmie mtn, and then the 8 am bell rang and I had to go back to the car.  The snow was 4 days old, but the cold temps had kept it a fresh foot on top of a good base.  It was soooo good.  I had to go back, and this time I would be more prepared.  I left my house at 4:45 am, backpack packed.  I was ready for a summit bid.

Well, kind of.  At 5:15 am I left the lot and realized 300 vertical feet up the mtn that my nalgene full of coffee was still in my car.  Conditions were crystal clear, the route paved ahead and I was loath to turn around.  I pulled up next to a small, convenient waterfall near the trail and had filled my belly with mystery water flowing from the ground.  It was very good.  I hope I don't die, I mused, and I continued up the trail, belly sloshing from overfill.  For the rest of the trip I scoop handfuls of snow and let them melt in my mouth.  I have plenty of granola bars but without water they are very unappetizing.  I stomach two on the whole trip, but adrenaline and cheer fuel me for the duration.  That and powder snow.

As the morning darkness draws to a close and the stars begin to go out, the red and orange dawn brightens the snow-filled world.  Then suddenly: BOOM! from across the valley.  BOOM! again, and I scan the horizon.  I can see the cars on I-90 are all stopped and realize the planned Avy control work has begun.  I feel very exposed on the open slopes of the mountain, as if the next round will explode at my feet as they do work on Snoqualmie mountain.  But this is folly.  I can here work being done on ALpental as well and no shots would be fired my way.  I hoped.

I plodded on, the skin track I had been following disappearing in fresh wind drift from time to time and I reach my previous day's highpoint.  I feel kind of bad about plodding up the skin track, but my actions are covered under many codes of the Skier's Bill of Rights, including: I) I am solo, so the fastest, safest route is the only option. II) Does a snowshoe destroy the skin track for good?  If no, then continue, III) First man up the hill gets to decide which trail is for snowshoes and which for skiers IV) I must keep close to the trail everyone will be using (if anyone ever shows up, that is), because of I), so stick to the trail already set.  Conscience clean, I sweep into the final summit snowfields.  The two skiers who set the track went down the Slot Couloir (and reported slim conditions, but ski able) so the upper snowfields are virgin powder fields.  The wind has affected the snow a little more than Wednesday, but the upper foot is still untracked delight.

I summit at exactly 8 am in the spectacle of a clear sky blemished by only red and orange streaks and the show of the Chair Peak chain across from me reflecting the horizon's good cheer.  Only Sky and Telemon's tracks leave from the small summit peak and I follow them down into the trees.  Soon enough I'm into the untracked sections and am dancing in the open snowfields, throwing powder left and right.  The pack is not the 100" I'm used to and I take a core shot near a rock band - thank goodness I waxed up the "C" board for this trip.  I make good but cautious time down the upper fields and enjoy my favorite section in the slanting dawn light, laying a second set of turns next to the ones from Wednesday.

Further into Bailout Glades the tricky sections near the lower cliffs are still dicey exploits with 50" base, and I'm once again glad for the "C" board.  I try a new way and am rewarded with nice turns down the final forest glens.  I make it back to the car at 8:40 am and am on the road to work.  5,500 VF of powder skiing mid-week.  

In the past two days of Dawn Patrols I have seen no one until I get back to the parking lot, ironically busy as people prepare to ski Alpental.  No one is the wiser.  

Skiing a big peak solo?  Foolish?  For sure.  I really should stop doing that.  I really should.  But then again, I should stop driving my car.  Oh well, this, too, is a reality I am at peace with.
« Last Edit: 12/09/05, 10:09 AM by MW88888888 » Logged
Randy
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #1 on: 12/09/05, 05:47 AM »

Stylish -- glad you didn't get nailed by the Avy barrage.

FWIW -- It's possible to check with the Alpental Ski Patrol about whether they plan to shell Snoqualime Mtn.  Probably a generally good idea to meet and greet the Alpental Pro Patrollers anyway if you plan on doing much touring in the Alpental area -- even if you never plan on buying a ticket.
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jt
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #2 on: 12/09/05, 05:56 AM »

I've got snow envy. We missed the good stuff on Red Mt.'s west face by about an hour and a half or so. Should've been up before the crack of dawn or bailed early and got it while the getting was good.
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jt
Jim Oker
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #3 on: 12/09/05, 07:25 AM »

Hmm, if driving your car is this dangerous, I don't want to be your passenger. Lessee - along on avy path during control work w/no water. Poetic words notwithstanding, that seems sketchy.
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wolfs
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #4 on: 12/09/05, 08:44 AM »

The Phantom itself has never really concerned me in anything but the most extreme conditions. It's the product of what literally is a hundred-year slide that isn't likely to just happen on some random backcountry day, and it's since grown back enough little trees to provide at least some anchoring.
The upper slopes do make me a little more nervous though, especially when they get a little cliff constrained. While overlooking from Alpy I've been eyeing a line recently that basically goes up the Phantom path but then once around 4700 traverses in larger trees to meet the shoulder the summer route is on, which might provide less objective hazard for the ascent. Definitely longer though, has anyone ever tried it?
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Aaron_Riggs
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #5 on: 12/09/05, 09:01 AM »

If you're talking about the shoulder on the looker's left, way up above the Phantom, I've been up (and down) that route lots of times. I go up the Snow Lake trail maybe a 1/4 mile and then turn right and basically tour up through the trees all the way to where it opens up around 5k. The bottom part is always the toughest because it's so steep, but then you can just hug the tree line all the way up. It's a good objective if you're not going up to the true summit but want to run laps on the upper ridge (looker's left.)
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MW88888888
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #6 on: 12/09/05, 10:56 AM »

Jim - all very valid concerns.  Luckily all signals were green or I would have bailed. 1. no water - on wed I needed little b/c of cold. prior knowledge of conditions - green.  2. in avy paths - not really.  most of that was all in my head, but tantilizing, isn't it?  Skiing isn't gin rummy 3. I'm a pretty safe driver, but being in a car isn't like playing gin rummy either, is it? 4. avy danger looked pretty good when I timed it.  again the training run on wed helped a lot in making the decision to go despite my setbacks.    
« Last Edit: 12/09/05, 11:04 AM by MW88888888 » Logged
Tony_Bentley
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #7 on: 12/10/05, 03:37 PM »

You shouldn't feel any guilt. I think the guilt was felt  when the trail was being made and only the trailblazers around to enjoy the goods.
« Last Edit: 12/10/05, 03:39 PM by crackbolter » Logged
TeleRoss
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #8 on: 12/11/05, 07:24 AM »

Quote

Skiing a big peak solo?  Foolish?  For sure.  


When did Snoqualmie Mtn. become a "big peak"
Huh
haahahahahhahahahahahaha
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Paul Belitz
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #9 on: 12/11/05, 07:53 AM »

OMG you went for a two hour tour without water.

OMG you went up a densely treed mountain in low avalanche conditions, alone!

OMG you were across the valley from a ski area where patrol was dropping bombs.

OMG I'll never ski with YOU!

C'mon folks, sounds plenty reasonable to me.

Nice writeup, MW, I enjoyed it.
« Last Edit: 12/11/05, 08:10 AM by pbelitz » Logged
powscraper
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #10 on: 12/11/05, 09:14 AM »

I thought this kind of crazy stuff only happened in Colorado.  This guy must be some kind of Rocky Mountain Badass coming to poach all our big lines, while the rest of us cower in our basements digging pits in our mashed potatoes, and the ski areas try to explode away all of last year's losses with their surplus ordinance.
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Jim Oker
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #11 on: 12/11/05, 09:38 AM »

I guess it may come off as wimpy geekdom to the true hard men out there to point out that people may reasonably draw the line differently on risks. Nevertheless, since there are also newbies reading the boards and likely taking inspiration from them, I'm willing to come off that way now and then.

Paul - you likely have learned that skiable trees are little protection from slides, and in fact provide an excellent "puree" function for bodies, unlike open slopes where you may have the good fortune of not suffering trama beyond the churn and suffocation before your hopefully unburied and non-imaginary partners can dig you out. I read of a guided heli group in "safe" Selkirks trees they'd skied for years that was turned to small body parts. Of course, the Phantom is pretty open and continuous, with nice cliff drops and other impact hazards in case of a slide. Risk level is just one question - consequence of being wrong is another. "What would happen if I were on a slide on this slope - how deep will the snow pile, what kind of terrain would I be swept through?" Asking these sorts of questions was one of the most memorable lessons I took away from Gary Brill's level 1 class several years back.

A few years back, I recall reading about some folks caught in a slide on Snoqualmie, in conditions that I think weren't rated much more hazardous than the past few days. I think the report was unclear on location - I'd imagined it being around the bend closer toward Lundin, but am not sure.

Paul - nice work on cycling the peak in 2 hours - I am clearly not worthy.
« Last Edit: 12/11/05, 09:43 AM by jim_oker » Logged
Meadow_Skipper
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #12 on: 12/11/05, 02:14 PM »

Coffee in the backcountry is very European. Nice style. Nice TR.
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THE_MAN
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #13 on: 12/11/05, 03:46 PM »

Hey MW8888, I thought I was THE MAN around here.  Welcome to the big boys club, Stanley!
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Charles
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #14 on: 12/12/05, 05:02 AM »

It seemed like there was a pretty good discussion going on here, and I'm not sure what the point is of the later sarcastic posts. In his first post Jim raised some good questions. MW88888888 acknowledged this and outlined his thinking. All very useful even if one does not think that a 3000+ foot run qualifies as a big peak, and I don't think that anyone here should have to try to justify raising the questions Jim did. Unfortunately, as we have been recently reminded, people get injured and die playing on the snow in the Alpental valley.

Quote
...there are also newbies reading the boards and likely taking inspiration from them.

This is a fact that is sometimes easy to forget. This forum is available for viewing to everyone on the internet, and not all of our visitors have extensive backcountry experience (or even much at all). Isn't it in the best interest of the backcountry skiing community as a whole to discuss issues like the ones Jim raised?
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MW88888888
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #15 on: 12/12/05, 05:44 AM »

Yes, Charles, I agree, these questions are very helpful for people to ask.  I applaud Jim for raising the questions that were in my head as well, because it may not seem like it from my TR, but the decision to go on was a challenging one.  I won't go into the details on how I came to accept the challenge and go for it, but I did weigh the risks.  I was comfortable with my decision.  Still am.  I have a two-year-old daughter that needs my support.  And dieing in an avalanche is very low on my to-do list.  That, and dieing in a tree well, or broken femur, or - geeesh, don't get me started.
« Last Edit: 12/12/05, 05:45 AM by MW88888888 » Logged
watsonskipsmith
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #16 on: 12/12/05, 06:12 AM »

good discussion! thanks to all for reviewing the issues i was wondering about after reading this report!

these were the features that jumped out at me after reading MW8888's solo adventure:

snow 4 days old
cold temps
fresh foot on good base

"simply had to go back"

forgot water (coffee)

avalance control in the valley

some evidence of wind activity near summit slopes

"i really should stop doing that"

but it is clear after reviewing the reponses that what is "green" for some is "red" for others and it is hard to assign risk/value if you are not there.

but even if we put all the avalance debate aside, if you ski alone without water, a minor mishap like a tree well or broken binding can ruin more than your day!  
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Tony_Bentley
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #17 on: 12/12/05, 06:17 AM »

Charles,

It might not be in the interest of the board members to discuss the issues. Those who posted on this topic are experienced enough to make decisions that are independent of the collective thoughts of safety in the backcounrty. Independant thinking is I believe what keeps us from being part of the statistic. Nothing can help the fact that accidents will happen regardless of either experience or wisdom.

Perhaps the message that beginners need to see is not learned here as much as all of the obitutaries that have been a result of inexperienced skiers and snowboarders venturing out of the resort boundries without the proper experience and wisdom.
« Last Edit: 12/12/05, 07:14 PM by crackbolter » Logged
powscraper
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #18 on: 12/12/05, 07:17 AM »

For the record I just wanted to say something funny, and have no other reason to respond to this thread, except that MW8's rich prose aroused my imagination.  

But I do think that peoples' conception of the avalanche potential at Snoq. Pass was exaggerated during the last system.  I know it's been a year or two since we've seen any snow, but just because it snows, does not mean avy potential is high.  The amount of snow that fell could have produced dangerous conditions, but it didn't.  In contrast to Mt. Hood, where there actually was evidence of instability.
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Jim Oker
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #19 on: 12/12/05, 11:49 AM »

username - I certainly took your post in that light. I will admit to feeling at least a teeny bit defensive in response to Paul's post but got over it in a few seconds decided to take it as an opportunity to simply put out a few more thoughts. I like to question the "hah - you're just being overly conservative!" bravado-inspired decision-making in the group dynamic on trips I take, and so carried that spirit to this board as well. I like groups where no one feels berated or somehow lesser for expressing concerns, even though I'm often the one saying "this is OK to do, guys, let's go for it!!"

I got out last weekend and skied some steep slopes up in the Snoqualmie area (fun!! I think Sky described the quality of the snow in the steep trees well in a post this past week), so was certainly not huddled in my closet or anything. As Watson notes, skiing w/o water and being alone are perhaps the more iffy issues (though it sounds like the control work with undetermined location added an interesting edge to the day). I talked with some Colorado search and rescue guys from Gunnison once, and asked them what were the biggest contributors to winter SAR activities, and they said hypothermia, which they felt was most often exacerbated/accelerated by dehydration. Even if they were dealing with broken femur or whatever (e.g. last weekend I watched two partners end up upside down in some of the lion trap style tree wells we have going in these early season conditions), things most often started unwinding from these factors, then the judgment goes due to the hypothermia, and then the real fun starts. My personal choice has been to carry lots of water, and for the rare events where I bc ski alone, I choose fairly conservative lines to reduce the chance that a small slip leads to the bad sort of unwinding of events the SAR guys talked to me about. What was green for MW would not have been green for me - the Phantom, particularly in current conditions, is not my personal idea of a route with plenty of safety buffer. I'm not judging him - his skill level as well as risk tolerance may be way beyond mine, I'm just sharing my own line.
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MW88888888
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #20 on: 12/12/05, 03:12 PM »

Thanks for clarifying, Jim.  I think we see eye-to-eye, then.  

Just for the record, I did not climb or ski the Phantom.  I looked at it, but it wasn't for me.  Indeed, I much preferred the trees as the snow quality was best when protected from the winds.
« Last Edit: 12/12/05, 03:30 PM by MW88888888 » Logged
Jim Oker
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #21 on: 12/12/05, 04:28 PM »

Ahh - somehow I assumed, perhaps from the phrase "the tricky sections near the lower cliffs," that you were on the phantom, but don't know the routes and names on Snoqualmie that well. Still sounds outside my personal solo zone.
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rockytraum
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #22 on: 12/16/05, 04:27 AM »

Wow-debate-its about time.  I've seen some seriously risky behavior posted on TAY that gets nothing but admiration.  Its about time safety issues were discussed.  

Bummed however to see sarcasm and ridicule appear in the shire.  Maybe Snoqualmie ain't so big, but it sure could kill you.  

Nice though to finally see more than just envy of someone with big cojones.  Good work.
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TeleRoss
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #23 on: 12/16/05, 07:22 AM »

Big cajones, give me a fucking break dude....It's Snoqualmie Mountain.  It's right next to the road.  Its 6000' tall.  Sure it can kill you but so can just about anything if you're a big enough moron.  
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powscraper
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Re: December 8, 2005, Snoqualmie Mountain (6,278')
« Reply #24 on: 12/16/05, 08:36 AM »

big cajones are an objective hazard.
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