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Author Topic: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades  (Read 3616 times)
Kyle Miller

Posts: 635

A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« on: 04/26/16, 04:46 AM »

This season I have had the good fortune to travel around the globe and keep my feet moving in preparation for anything that the world throws my way and just like ski touring there has been quite a few highs and lows. This years adventures started in New Zealand where I had a 3 month stint exploring a range that I have been fortunate to get to know quite well. While some would say it was a great season compared to the last (twice the amount of snowpack) I found it quite difficult with the weather windows being small. Most of my time was spent on approaches to the approaches and little time was spent on summits but in the end was able to ride a few gem lines like the Warrior in the Armoury Range and the Sampson Couloir on the high Peak of Mt Rolleston.

Dropping into the Warrior

Riding off the high peak of Rolleston

I arrived in Japan on December 12th just two weeks after getting back to the PNW from NZ and was ready to get my powder legs under me but that wasn't meant to be. The pressure systems had pushed the moisture that is normally aimed for Japan directly to the PNW and while we watched the grass grow at my friends house I was getting messages and would see photos of the epicness at home but....the snow fell, albeit slowly. Luckily with a few seasons under my belt in NZ it took little in the terms of conditions to make the best out of everything. The season went on and I found myself exploring new and exciting areas as well as finding deep, dry Japanese snow along the way thought it was mixed with bamboo. I got into backcountry snowboarding for these two reasons so I would consider my season there a total success.

Where are those powder days?

Eh it's just another active volcano

A Traverse from Hyas Lake to Stevens Pass

I arrived in the PNW in the end of Feb and watched the freezing level hover between 5 and 6K but there was Cascadian Concrete to be had and I sampled all kinds of varieties of snow  waiting for a high pressure system to come in.Finally it did in the end of March and it was time for a multiday trip.With a bit of chatter back and forth I was able to get Jason Hummel on board for a ski traverse.

The traverse started in Salmon Le Sac where my great friend Boot shuttled us up to the Mt. Daniel trailhead and said our goodbyes as Boot and Jason (another one) skinned up Mt. Daniels and we went the opposite way for the Robins Lakes area. That afternoon we summited Granite Mountain at sunset and found that the North facing slopes were holding powder yet south facing slopes were slop and would be a challenge to travel in.

The Central Cascades are a bit burly

The next day we summited Trico peak before riding down to Lake Phoebe and heading north to a low col that allowed us to ride down to Talus Lake and finally skin up the SW shoulder of Mac peak, that afternoon we watched an epic sunset and camped on the summit . When we woke up we rode down the north slopes to Square lake and headed NE past Lake Wolverine and up another low col and summited Thor Peak before descending west and putting on the skins and traversing out to Trap Lake and joining the PCT and camping on the peak just west of Hope Lake.

Camp on Mac Peak

The final morning we rode down to Hope lake and loosely followed the PCT until arriving on the Col just east of Swimming Deer lake where we decided to summit the peak NW of it and ride down to Stevens Pass ski resorts backside from there we could have used the chair lift but decided to skin up and descended all the way to the ski resort base instead. To keep the adventure going we had to hitch hike from Stevens to Everett and from there we took a metro bus to West Lake in Seattle and the E line up to N Seattle where Ben Starkey was kind enough to give us a ride to Hummels car which was parked in North Bend. It was an aesthetic traverse filled with great scenery, skiing and adventure. Though I probably wont repeat it I highly recommend it.

A Traverse from North Fork of the Sauk to Highway 2

A week later the weather broke again and I found myself with a hard situation, I had bought plane tickets to A.K. but the forecast wasn't looking so great yet here it was calling for sunshine so the decision was made to cancel the tickets and attempt another ski traverse but this time Ben Starkey was down to join Hummel and I.

We started the traverse at the North Fork of the Sauk where you can drive within .5 of the trail head and walked on dirt until the switchbacks which we slowly and painfully skinned up in the heat of the day. I had expected us to travel much further but forgot how long of a slog it was and that night we barely made it to camp at White Pass just minutes before darkness after an almost summit of White Peak.

Photo by Ben Starkey

The next day we made our way slowly to the summit of Indian Head peak and descended the southeast slopes almost 3500 feet to the Indian Creek valley where we battled with finding a river crossing for the rest of the afternoon and set camp at the base of Papoose creek and within striking distance of Mt. Whittier. The next morning we made our way towards the summit and after a sketchy almost vertical climb of rotten snow next to a waterfall and the crux of the trip made our way to the sub summit. Our intention was to ride the south slopes but after Hummel dropped in it was official that it cliffed out and that we would have to choose another way down which was the SW slope to Cougar creek 3500 feet below. We exercised major sluff management as we were causing massive wet slides with every turn but made it down flawlessly and were able to skin up to Poe Mountain right as the sun set and called it camp for the night.

Heading to the summit of Indian Head Peak Photo by Ben Starkey

Looking back at our line off the line right off Glacier Peak down the avi swath on the right Photo by Ben Starkey

Hey Hummel you think this line goes? Photo by Ben Starkey

This is a good consolation prize.

This is a good spot to put up camp Photo by Ben Starkey

The next morning we hung around camp until 10 A.M. in hopes of drying out our gear and allowing the western slopes to soften but the slope stayed firm as we descended 3000 feet all the way to the Little Wenatchee River road barely making it past slide alder and instead of skinning out to civilization we went to Little Wenatchee Fiord camp and used the bridge getting into Cady creek. The rest of the day we pushing our way up the valley and at one point we just had to get our boots wet and deal with it before camping at Saddle Gap that night.

One more week and this line off Poe would be a jungle of alder Photo by Ben Starkey

May be sketchy but not as bad as going in the river Photo by Ben Starkey

Where is a bridge when I need one Photo by Ben Starkey

We woke up to clouds and knew that it was our last day of good weather so we really had to push it so we would descend and climb as much as possible compared to sidehilling which is Splitboard unfriendly and made quite a bit of ground loosely following the PCT and making a detour off Grizzly Peak down to Heather lake where we skinned up an awesome canyon to Glasses Lake and by the end of the day were camping on the shoreline of Lake Janus.

Almost there

Dropping toward Heather Lake Photo by Ben Starkey

The final morning we skinned over the Col just SW of Jove Peak and made it down to Smithbrook road as it lightly rained and like Nordic Ski racers climbed up and over Rainy Pass and rode all the way down to Highway 2 where we hitched to Stevens Pass Ski resort and enjoyed cafeteria food and waited for Ben's girlfriend Stephanie to pick us up. From there it was off to Gold Bar where we enjoyed Mexican Food and Margaritas. I expected this trip to take four days but it took 6 and because of the big vertical relief was easily one of the hardest traverses I have ever done. This traverse could be broken down to two separate traverses but I had always wanted to explore the Biblical and Poet ranges and it was an awesome way to do it. As you could imagine it took a week just for my feet to recover from this trip.

Photo by Stefanie Henkel

Photo by Ben Starkey

As of now I am in Lapland and getting my gear dialed for next week when I head north to the Lyngen Alps of Norway for a month of exploration and if all goes according to plan (which it never does) the biggest adventure I have ever done.

Thank you to the everyone involved in the trips in one way or another and the Cascades for teaching me about Navigation, aspects, different snow conditions and keeping a level head in the worst of conditions and also I was very grateful to have my Delorme which allowed people to see where I was going and to communicate through satellites which allowed me to get the forecast though we were in the middle of nowhere.
« Last Edit: 04/26/16, 05:52 AM by Kyle Miller » Logged

In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............

Posts: 826

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #1 on: 04/26/16, 07:24 AM »

Rad!!  Thats some spectacular terrain.. Glad i cloud help with the taco tuesday beta on the final ddeproach. Awesome to bump into you before you left for otherlands. have  a Good trip.  See you.. Somewhere.  Smiley


Posts: 113

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #2 on: 04/26/16, 11:21 AM »

what a season!

thanks for showing me around in japan (and shooting my favorite photo of the season... that volcano shot is going on the wall for sure).  i was quite sad to abandon the AK plans at the last minute, but damn the weather sure was perfect for that traverse, and in the end it was at least as memorable and cool as a week at thompson pass would have been.

it really is an honor and a pleasure to travel through the wilderness with folks who have developed such sharp skills for route planning and navigation.  that second traverse was quite an effort; it's hard to imagine you & jason had done the same during the previous week! 

hopefully in the next few days i'll finish putting together a little video of my footage from the trip.

here are a couple more photos that i liked...

kyle scrambles near the summit of indian head peak

a benefit of springtime travel is the abundance of flowing water.  just don't fall in!

climbing whittier

old growth creek bridge in cady creek valley.  this is how a few miles of travel can take half the day!

sunset and moonrise from camp on the summit of poe.

and of course, what better way to end a 6 day traverse than happy hour margaritas on taco tuesday!
« Last Edit: 04/26/16, 01:23 PM by bs. » Logged
flowing alpy

Posts: 1325

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #3 on: 04/27/16, 07:03 AM »

2 tails of awesomeness!

Posts: 200

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #4 on: 04/29/16, 12:07 PM »

awesome photos and adventures - thanks for sharing!


Posts: 110

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #5 on: 04/29/16, 01:15 PM »

Great report and adventures, Kyle, Ben and Jason


Posts: 812

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #6 on: 04/29/16, 01:29 PM »

Nice TR Kyle...and pics Ben! It's always fun to trapeze around these out of the way peaks.

BTW, for those that are interested in more, here's a story from my perspective that I put together yesterday:



Posts: 227

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #7 on: 04/29/16, 03:22 PM »

As usual just awesome -- lots of tricks there and a full PNW adventure.  The scene of climbing on the Metro Bus - -pictures??

Posts: 113

Re: A Tale of Two Traverses in the Cascades
« Reply #8 on: 04/29/16, 07:57 PM »

chamois, i think the blog post hummel linked too has some urban traverse scenes.

i put together a video with footage from the second traverse.  i'm still learning this whole filming and editing thing.  haven't mastered the art of short movies yet.  it's worth watching through the first song if you want to see the tomahawk.
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