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+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2017 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  May 2017 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 27-29, 2017, Chiwaukum Traverse
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Author Topic: May 27-29, 2017, Chiwaukum Traverse  (Read 1367 times)

Posts: 66

May 27-29, 2017, Chiwaukum Traverse
« on: 05/31/17, 02:15 PM »

This tour has been high on my wish list ever since a trip to Scottish Lakes High Camp four years ago.  Looking south from McCue Ridge across the valley gives an expansive view of the stretch of high peaks that can hardly be seen from any road.  Though likely getting more attention since the Volken guide was published, this route is by no means crowded. On a gorgeous, clear 3-day holiday weekend we saw only one other party.

With the warm weather and lack of overnight freeze, we elected to do this trip from south to north. We climbed up semi soft slopes in the early morning hours, and then skied down steeper north facing aspects just as they were warming up. The route also traverses across many steep east-facing slopes with various objective hazards both above and below, so we aimed to be off these features by noon each day.

Saturday morning we started up Chatter Creek trail in warm sunny weather. Skis were carried 3 miles up the trail where we transitioned to skinning on patchy snow at 5200'. We carried skis again to get up the steep trail on the headwall in the valley under Grindstone. It was hot. Once above the cliffs, we were back on snow. The rising traverse on this steep southerly aspect was tedious and unnerving, given the soft snow and potential consequences should a slide cut loose. We made it to the pass around noon. With most of the day's elevation gain behind us we relaxed in the breeze here before taking our first short run down the north side.

We traversed to Lake Edna where we picked a sheltered spot to pitch our mega mid. Since we had the time, we dug out a kitchen and seating area to relax in for the rest of the day. The corn was overripe for afternoon turns, but we couldn't resist the urge to explore and take a quick run after dinner above the lake. Skiing without the heavy packs felt like flying.

Next morning's skinning started at first light to take advantage of cooler temps. We traversed high by Cape Horn and lost little elevation getting over to Ladies Pass where the only other party we saw had elected to camp. We wished we had camped here too as it was a windless night and the views from this spot are some of the best of the entire tour.

We gained the summit ridge of Snowgrass at 8am just as the sun graced the spectacular north/ northeast slope, which was begging to be skied. Before dropping we discussed our options to regain the ridge line to get back on the east side of the range after skiing the north face. All visible lines appeared to involve scrambling over steep loose rock. However, we ultimately found a snow-filled couloir not seen until dropping down to the moraine below.

Conditions were perfect for skiing the northeast face of Snowgrass. There are rock bands in the runout so a fall would have been serious, and these aren't easily visible from the top since the slope gets steeper towards the bottom.  This was one of the steeper lines I have skied and made more spicy given our heavy packs and how far away we were from any assistance should we get into trouble.

Once down the basin on the north side of Snowgrass we booted up a steep couloir and crossed back over to the east facing slopes. The traverse continued to near the summit of Big Chiwaukum. There are two north-east facing couloirs near the top of Big C. The one closest to the summit proper is steeper, narrower and had exposed rock in places. I'm fairly certain that this is the famous big line that gets the attention. However, it didn't look too inviting for this day and so we passed. The second northeast couloir looked more forgiving up high, but the runout was full of avy debris.

We continued northward to the pass above Cup Lake. This was another tasty north-facing slope and the skiing was fantastic. We made camp on a knob between Cup and Larch Lakes and napped while enjoying the views of this amazing place.

The next morning we made quick work dropping across the Larch Lake valley and booted up McCue Ridge. By 8am we were standing on point 6602, looking down the gut of the Swauth. We dropped into this steep north-facing avy chute and found good skiing for 1500 feet or so. Then it became more technical, picking our way down among the rock and carnage of tree drebris that the big slides dump down this slope. We booted down for a couple hundred feet and traversed through the trees east to avoid cliffs at around 5000'. The snow then became skiable again, where it delivered us right onto the old logging road at around 4200'. We were able to glide down the road for a couple hundred yards before our luck ran out and the alder took over. We stayed with the road for a bit then made a hasty attempt at cutting switchbacks through the steep, heinous second-growth forest, which didn't save any time. Lower down the road was in better shape with less vegetation blocking travel. Of note, a month prior I had skied the Swauth. It took less than an hour on continuous snow to get from the top back down to the car. Today it took nearly 4 hours due to the lack of snow covering vegetation on the logging road.

All in all this was a really fun trip! We were so glad that the weather, snowpack, time off work, and solid partners all came together to make this happen. It would be cool to do this again, maybe mid-winter, and take an extra day to explore more of the amazing lines we didn't have time or the legs left to ski.

« Last Edit: 06/01/17, 09:45 AM by garrettww » Logged

Posts: 138

Re: May 27-29, 2017, Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 05/31/17, 07:15 PM »

Hey Garrett,

Thanks for the report.  Nice work.  I love that area!

Perchance, you didn't see any wolverine tracks, did you?


Posts: 66

Re: May 27-29, 2017, Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 06/01/17, 11:40 AM »

Lots of goat tracks, but there may have been some wolverine mixed in there too.
« Last Edit: 06/01/17, 05:42 PM by garrettww » Logged
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