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+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2017 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  May 2017 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse
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Author Topic: May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse  (Read 2070 times)

Posts: 196

May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse
« on: 05/11/17, 07:59 AM »

With the snowpack looking good in California, Tyler, Dave and I had plans to head down there for a spring tour but a deteriorating weather forecast led us to bail on that plan and look for a Plan B in our area where the weather forecast was on the brighter side. We opted to do the Chiwaukam Traverse over a four day period. As in prior years, Plan B worked out quite nicely. Here are the photos:

The story and conditions

Day 1: After dropping off a car just outside the bible camp on the White Pine Road, we headed up the Icicle Creek Road where we were able to easily drive all the way to the Chatter Creek Trailhead. We started up the trail on foot, reaching continuous snow shortly after the summer trail crossed Chatter Creek around 4400 ft. and put on skis a few hundred feet above that. The basin above there is well filled in and we skinned up the pass at the head of Chatter Creek without problems in full on spring conditions. The north side of the pass was a different story as we found chattery, icy snow and increasing winds and cold temperatures on our way to Lake Edna, our first night's camp. The basin is well-filled in with snow and the lake still well-frozen with little in the way of dry ground or running water.

Day 2: After waiting for the snow to soften a bit, we headed up a short ways to the pass just northeast of Cape Horn. The north side of that pass was still frozen pretty solid from the cold and high winds the night before. We made a descending traverse to the northwest to about 6,000 ft before climbing up to the large east facing basin running between Ladies Peak and Snowgrass. Along the way to the next big pass, we dropped our packs and headed up to the summit of Snowgrass for some views and some turns on nice corn snow. The basin is well filled in and the traversing was quite easy as things softened up pretty early in the morning on the east facing slopes. After our side trip, we headed over to the pass that would take us down to Lake Charles. We crossed the ridge further to the east than the pass described in Martin Volken's book. In good conditions, the pass would have been fine. In the conditions we found, it was miserable descending to the lake on either super firm/icy smooth surface or rock hard chunderfest in avy debris from old slides. Night 2 was spent at Lake Charles which was also well-frozen with no running water and little bare ground showing.

Day 3: We awoke to warmer temperatures and a mix of sun and high clouds and after giving the slopes time to warm up, we climbed up and into the high basin east and above Lake Charles and traversed all the way around below Big Chiwaukam. As we did the previous day, we dropped our packs and skied off some point on the ridge in great corn snow before heading over to the pass above Cup Lake at about 7400 feet. Unlike the previous day, the north-facing slopes above Cup Lake were much softer. We traverse down and out to our left above some cliff bands before making a nice descent to the lake. From there, we skied down the basin from Cup Lake to about 5600 feet before climbing steeply to the pass between Middle Chiwaukam and McCue Ridge at about 6600 feet. From there it was an easy ski down to our last camp at an unnamed lake in the basin above the Scottish Lakes. We spent the afternoon skiing up to the top of Mt. Baldy and getting in some late afternoon turns.

Day 4: Before heading out, we spent time skiing the east facing slopes above camp between Baldy and Middle Chiwaukam. By 9:30AM, the corn was perfectly ripened and skied great. A few nice runs under our belt, we headed up to the top of Mt. Baldy and from there descended first on foot and then on skis to a spot on the ridge where we could easily descend the northeast facing slopes into the White Pine Cirque. We opted not to take the other common exit route -- the Swath Couloir --
 as it was no longer in shape for skiing. Down in White Pine Cirque, we stayed to our left coming down through the basin to avoid steep cliffs on the right side, then cut through the thicker, older trees until we could get in the lower basin and across the creek to its east side From there, we climbed up a little out of the creek bed and then walked down about 400 feet where we found the old logging road. We were able to keep skis on for until a little below 3000 feet in elevation on the road and then walked the rest of the way to the car.

Still plenty of snow up there and with more on the way, this route will likely be in shape for a while if one is willing to carry skis on the front and tail end for a little while.

« Last Edit: 05/11/17, 08:40 AM by iluka » Logged

Yet another trip I've skied up something I can't ski down!

Posts: 155

Re: May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 05/11/17, 11:02 AM »

You guys nailed the weather! Beautiful pictures.

Posts: 66

Re: May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 05/14/17, 08:53 PM »

Awesome job, great timing with the weather! I'm curious why you opted to not ski the Swauth. About a week before your trip we found great conditions. Do you think the warm up around May 4 caused some big cornices to drop? Thanks again for the TR!

Posts: 196

Re: May 6-9, 2017, Chiwaukam Traverse
« Reply #3 on: 05/14/17, 09:17 PM »

Thanks for the comments! We saw old tracks the entire route... were those yours?

Tyler and Dave got a look at the Swath the night before we skied out and didn't think it was in shape any more. Ty was also keen to ski down into White Pine Cirque which was still in good shape. It's an impressive basin.
« Last Edit: 05/14/17, 09:26 PM by iluka » Logged

Yet another trip I've skied up something I can't ski down!
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