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Author Topic: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF  (Read 3995 times)
Charles
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December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« on: 12/20/05, 06:12 PM »

Vince and I wanted a cutting-edge, hard-core, full-on ski trip with easy access and good snow, so we naturally chose Snoqualmie Mountain as our destination. Discussing our plans on the drive up I-90, however, we decided that "Little Snoq" wouldn't be enough of a challenge, so we changed our plans to ... Silver Creek. We were able to drive to within about half a mile of the trailhead on machine packed snow. The east wind was whipping snow around as we fishscaled along the forest road to the trailhead, where the gradient steepened and we started using skins. There were about 6 inches of snow at the 2400 foot trailhead - enough to skin up but surely not enough to ski back down - nicely packed by long departed snowshoers.

The snow deepened to 1-2 feet, depending on tree cover, as we climbed up to the lip of the hanging valley at 3600 feet, where the snowshoers had turned around. On the climb up there was breakable crust in the few areas that had gotten sun, but mostly the snow was cold, dense, and loose. The wind was blowing pretty hard for the first quarter mile as we skied up the valley and had even created some very thin wind slab, but beyond that the wind was just a roar from up above. We generally followed the trail to where it crosses Silver Creek, then followed our instincts in finding good leads through the mostly open old-growth and occasional dense stands of trees. Even under the trees the snow was good, with just little bits of ice mixed in with the old powder. A little more coverage would have made travel easier given all of the fallen tree trunks, but tedious sections were infrequent. There were lots of animal tracks in the snow, including some kind of moderate sized belly dragger that left an interesting pattern.

Here's a shot of Vince somewhere in the woods on the way up:


Where the gradient steepens a bit (read: potential turns on the way back) near 4000 feet, and the valley climbs toward the meadows at the valley's end, we began to encounter more and more ice under the trees. Out from under the trees and in glades the snow was still great, so we decided that maybe this area had been above the inversion level at some point, leading to lots of tree drip which had now frozen. We reached the beginning of the valley-end meadows shortly before our turn around time of 2:00, and skied hard to make it as far as we could. We got to about 4800 feet, just a little short of the meadows that would give us a view of the mystical Silver Creek Pinnacle. It was still pretty cold, but the wind had died down considerably from the morning.

A quick snack and we were off, gliding down our tracks through nice snow in the meadows. Where the meadows ran out and the gradient steepened, we tried to avoid turning under the trees with their nasty snow and instead hit the mini-glades of nice snow. This mostly worked. Once we got down a little lower there was lots of fast gliding in and out of our tracks, with a few chances for turns here and there. After all of that excitement we still had 2+ miles and 300 vf to reach the lip of the hanging valley. Not much gradient, and in addition lots of little ups and downs since we couldn't go right down the stream bed. We were really hoping that the fishscales would be able to get us up all of the little climbs on the way out, because having to use the skins would not have been fun or efficient. As it turned out, the fishscales did work well enough, and so we got lots of nice glides on this section too. We had just enough time to climb up a couple of cold powdery glades along the way and get 3 or 4 linked turns in the awesome snow.

Back at the lip of the hanging valley we were able to ski/work our way down the general route of the trail to about 2800 feet before the snow got too thin, leaving us a short hike back to the trailhead and a quick ski back to the car. A nice trip which for some reason always turns out to be more tiring that I expect it to, and from today's weather reports, maybe the last day to enjoy that two week old powder.
« Last Edit: 12/20/05, 06:12 PM by admin » Logged
Jim Oker
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #1 on: 12/21/05, 04:13 AM »

I don't know, sounds scary. You might have slipped a ski tip under a hidden log...
Wink

Way to keep up the spirit of the quiet tour, Charles! I wonder if the "belly dragger" was an animal dragging another (presumably dead) animal? Would that fit what you saw?
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skykilo
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #2 on: 12/26/05, 08:06 AM »

Charles,

I'd like to hear more about your decision-making process.  Did you take any precautions between using the 'fish scales' and eating your next snack? Huh  I wouldn't want to see you catch Salmonella.  However, this is unfamiliar equipment to me so maybe my thinking's just not quite right.  I just want to understand.

I think I've had more close calls with logs than just about anything else.  Tripping, slipping, getting skewered, catching a tip, YIKES!

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Jim Oker
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #3 on: 12/27/05, 04:27 AM »

 Smiley

I'm with ya on the logs, Sky. One of my only two ski injuries of note (as in needing some pro medical attention, both were at lift areas, by the way - perhaps something about risk calculations when there's a clinic a short slide away) was due to log-impact while being one turn too greedy for freshies in the trees. Kinda cool in a way - I saw I was in trouble, butt-planted, but had gone just a little too far so one of my arms smacked against a log. PAIN!! I put my weight on the arm to see if it was broken, but it took the weight ok. I pulled off my shell and saw that my inner layers were wet with blood. Turns out my upper arm had rammed a pinky finger sized branch nubbin which didn't damage any clothing, but popped a nickel-sized hole in my skin. I was insured and could heal but the clothing couldn't, and I was unemployed, so it worked out well. My wife, buddy, and I enjoyed peeking through the hole as the doc at the busy Crested Butte clinic pulled it around with forceps to see if the fascia had been broken (no, thankfully). So with a few stitches and a bottle of antibiotics we headed off into the San Juans for 4 nights with no further incident (save for some amusement in depth hoar filled tree wells).

I know of a guy who badly broke an ankle slipping a tip under a log. Yikes indeed.

It reminds me of the conventional wisdom  that most mountaineer deaths are in the car on the way home(don't know if it's true but it's plausible for a few reasons - exhaustion and letting your guard down). Also, most woodworking injuries happen during long, repetitive, "rote" tasks rather than the tricky, seemingly risky jobs where your fingers are close to the whirring steel. Risk management is an interesting game.

And don't get me started on risks with fish scales.
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Charles
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #4 on: 12/28/05, 04:57 AM »

Jim and Sky: Jarvis Jelly

A little known fact is that JJ is not just an awesome skiing aid, but an all around multipurpose backcountry solution for just about any problem which might present itself. It's nanotube technology ensures that these common concerns you have expressed (with the exception of the serious hazard relating to the drive home) become just figments of an overconcerned mind. Vince and I took the precaution, as we do on each and every ski trip (even ones much less hazardous than this), to liberally apply JJ to all exposed surfaces, of our ski equipment and of ourselves, before we took one stride away from the car. Hence, fallen logs (visible or not), tree trunks, tree wells, branch stumps, etc., were simply not an issue - we couldn't have gotten into trouble with them even if we had tried. I do, however, appreciate your concern, and in recognition of that concern, a large bottle of JJ is now in the mail for each of you (please read the disclaimers on the label before using).

Regarding the "belly dragger" tracks we saw, maybe Vince will chime in here - he's the real tracker. I guess we thought that it was just one animal, perhaps long and low, that was sinking in 3-5 inches as it walked, thus causing its belly to drag. We could see faint linear patterns in the slight trough where the belly would slide that looked like they could have been made from fur sliding across the snow. Unfortunately we were still a ways from the car and had to keep pushing to make it back before dark, so didn't stop for very long (and I neglected to take any photos).
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skykilo
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #5 on: 12/28/05, 06:07 AM »

Are you sure it's kosher to send that through the mail?

I eagerly await its arrival.  With a name like Jarvis, it's got to be good.
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Charles
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #6 on: 12/29/05, 06:05 AM »

Joking aside, I think it is an interesting question about what the relative dangers are when skiing. There probably aren't very good stats for this overall. Skiing at a lift area seems to introduce a significant hazard of collision, with other skiers and with hard objects. Overall, driving would seem to be one of the most hazardous activities that the average person does, and driving while tired would seem likely to increase the hazard. But I wonder how this compares to the hazards of injury/death from avalanches, encounters with flora (including tree wells), encounters with fauna (eg allergic reaction to stings - not a big worry in winter but different in summer?), equipment failure, etc. It would be nice to have some numbers so that each person could make decisions based on the relative risks, but those numbers probably don't exist. Insurance underwriters would seem to be a good source of this kind of info, but then I think back to when I was looking into life insurance and one of the questions was something like, "are you involved in any hazardous activities?" As I recall, some specific examples were given, such as skydiving, scuba diving, small plane piloting, but when I said "yes, I drive a car" the person didn't seem to think that was either relevant or funny.

PS - if you two don't receive the bottles of JJ within a few days, we'll have to assume that Homeland Security intercepted them.  Wink
« Last Edit: 12/29/05, 06:08 AM by admin » Logged
ron j
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #7 on: 12/29/05, 07:23 AM »

Quote
...PS - if you two don't receive the bottles of JJ within a few days, we'll have to assume that Homeland Security intercepted them.  Wink

"bottles of JJ"??  
Um.. ah, Charles I thought we agreed...
after that last "incident", we were ONLY going to ship JJ in the more explosively stable Gel form, shipped only in the padded and insulated, hermetically sealed, bomb proof shipping boxes?? Huh
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: December 19, 2005, Silver Creek, Wenatchee NF
« Reply #8 on: 12/29/05, 09:01 AM »

Quote
Overall, driving would seem to be one of the most hazardous activities that the average person does, and driving while tired would seem likely to increase the hazard. But I wonder how this compares to the hazards of injury/death from avalanches, encounters with flora (including tree wells), encounters with fauna (eg allergic reaction to stings - not a big worry in winter but different in summer?), equipment failure, etc.


I've thought about this a bit lately. I can't think of any friends who've died in automobile accidents. But I can think of lots of friends who've died in recreational accidents. While selecting slides for my brother's memorial service I found pictures of a half-dozen friends who died in the mountains. The number of people I've met who later died in recreational accidents must run to several dozen.
« Last Edit: 12/29/05, 11:09 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
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