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Author Topic: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse  (Read 5255 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« on: 02/13/06, 06:57 AM »

 

The route from Deer Park to Hurricane Ridge is the classic ski traverse in the Olympic Mountains.  This tour is older than Olympic National Park itself.  It is one of the oldest high-level ski routes in the Northwest.  

The April 25, 1938 edition of the Port Angeles Evening News describes an exploratory trip led by Max Borst, caretaker of the Deer Park ski lodge.  Borst led fourteen skiers across the route in just 12 hours on April 24, 1938.  A 1936-37 ski booklet from Eddie Bauer shows a six-mile tour from Deer Park to Obstruction Point, suggesting that the route may have been scouted earlier.  

High-level ski traverses and descents were a new deal in the Northwest during the Great Depression.  The "New Deal" label is especially appropriate for the Hurricane Ridge traverse, because the route was facilitated by the work of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  In 1934, the CCC completed roads from the Elwha River to Obstruction Point and from Danz's ranch to Deer Park.  Plans called for connecting these roads by an exposed route over Elk Mountain, but it was never completed.  

In 1936-37, a small ski area was established at Deer Park.  This was the center of skiing on the Olympic Peninsula for twenty years, until the Heart o' the Hills road was completed.  The Heart o' the Hills road opened direct, year-round access from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge Lodge.  Ski operations moved to Hurricane Ridge in 1957-58 and Deer Park was soon abandoned. The Hurricane Ridge traverse has been largely forgotten, but a small number of local skiers continue to do the traverse each year.  



On Saturday, February 11, I met Alan Kearney, John Mauro, Alex Krawarik, and Alex's wife Summer at the Deer Park road just east of Port Angeles.  We found the road gated and barricaded for the winter at the National Park boundary.  We parked a car there and shuttled our other two cars to Hurricane Ridge.  Overnight parking is prohibited on top of Hurricane Ridge in winter due to plowing operations.  Fortunately one of the park rangers was willing to shuttle our drivers from a point three miles down the road where we could leave our cars overnight.  (The rangers prefer overnight visitors to call ahead to make these arrangements.)  

We began skiing the Obstruction Point road around 11 a.m.  Only a half-mile into the tour, Alex broke a ski.  This abruptly ended the trip for him and Summer.  I gave Alex my car keys (his car was parked on the Deer Park road) and we said our farewells.  

Alan, John and I continued on our way.  Day-tourers sometimes ski to Obstruction Point and back.  We followed a single skier's track to the end of the snow-covered road.  Near Eagle Point we could look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Mt Baker (upper left photo, above) and gaze south to endless ski terrain in the heart of the Olympics (upper right photo).  From Obstruction Point we traversed the south flank of Elk Mountain.  We stayed below the summit ridge because it was mostly snow-free due to the hurricane winds a week ago.  We camped at dusk (about 6 p.m.) on a 6500-foot shoulder east of the highest point.  

Our camp was scenic but very exposed to the weather.  Fortunately the night was calm.  We had some light snow and rain overnight and we worried about visibility in the morning.  Luck was with us and the clouds began to break soon after we started moving Sunday. It was a glorious morning.  The ranger had warned us about cornices east of Elk Mountain but we found nothing that couldn't easily be avoided.  This may not always be the case. In bad weather this exposed section could be difficult and dangerous.  

The slopes of Maiden Peak were blown almost bare.  A ribbon of hard snow marked the summer trail.  (The lower left photo, above, was taken between Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak.) We found both the best and worst skiing of the trip near timberline on the divide between Maiden Peak and Deer Park.  (In the lower right photo, John relaxes near Green Mountain.) We reached the Deer Park road around noon (having left camp around 7:30 a.m).  The slopes of the former ski area were largely blown free of snow.  I wondered if that was unusual.  

After a fast ski down the road to about 4000 feet elevation, we packed up our skis and walked about four miles back to my car. We retrieved Alan's pickup, stopped for burgers in Port Angeles, and made our separate ways back home on the Washington State Ferries.  

I definitely recommend this trip.  Due to the Deer Park road barricade, February may be the best month to do it, to minimize walking.  The route is very weather exposed and you should pick a good window and be prepared for all kinds of snow conditions.  I think it's a good idea to carry crampons.

More history: Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Mountains.
« Last Edit: 02/13/06, 01:26 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Jason_H.
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #1 on: 02/13/06, 07:46 AM »

Nice story. I've been wanting to ski in the olympic mtn's for a long time but haven't. It looks like a nice area.

The snow on Stuart's upper slopes were not nearly as full as in years past. From what I was told, the wind had blown much of it away (there was much, much more a few weeks ago). I was amazed to see how much the wind could affect a snowpack like that.  
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Pete A
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #2 on: 02/13/06, 07:51 AM »

cool trip....yet another one to add to the 'must ski' list...

..and the single picture split four ways....pretty slick way to maximize Charles' single picture rule. I gotta start doing that.

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ovrthhills
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #3 on: 02/13/06, 07:54 AM »

Lowell,  

I was just sitting down to write a trip report on our weekend trip to Eagle Point when, to my amazement, I read your report.  When we were shuttled down to our car, the ranger told us about a group going to Deer Park and when we reached the trailhead we met an unhappy fellow with a broken ski who said he was part of said group. Apparently his partner had hitched a ride with someone and had disappeared, causing him some concern.  After several calls by the ranger she was located safe and sound, albeit at the bottom of the road.  My wife, Sidnie, and I had thought about doing the whole traverse for several years and will plan on doing it this spring.  This time we were seduced by the north facing corn and stable snowpack and could only drag ourselves as far as Eagle Point before gravity took hold and we had to descend.  

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Dave_R
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #4 on: 02/13/06, 09:09 AM »

Nice report Lowell.  As I was looking up at the moon Saturday night, I was hoping you made a go of it.  You picked a great weather window.

-Dave R
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #5 on: 02/13/06, 10:29 AM »

For anybody interested in this trip, I'll put in a plug for thin skins.

I took an old Montana skin and cut it in half length-wise, creating a pair of skins each one-inch wide. I used these extensively on the gentler sections of this tour and they worked really well. Much better glide than normal skins but plenty of grip if you're not climbing too steeply. For the steeper, icy climbs I carried and used full-width skins and harscheisen.

Alan and John did great using full-width skins (those guys are tough) but I was really happy to have the thin skin option. The kick and glide is not quite as good as an XC ski, but in the conditions we had it was pretty close.

Two thumbs up!
« Last Edit: 02/13/06, 01:09 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
sheispiste
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #6 on: 02/13/06, 02:10 PM »

Lovely, Lowell,
Having traversed the entire Park in summer from Deer Park west, I know it is a beautiful place. To tour in winter... ahh! Thanks for the stories and views.
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any day in the mountains is a good day in the mountains
Telemon
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #7 on: 02/13/06, 02:21 PM »

   I frequently skied both ends of this traverse in the early 90's when my skiing was more XC and less Telemarking.We would often make use of the Appalacian shelters at Deer Park for overnighters and explore the surrounding terrain with our preschool children.We also camped in the basin west of Obstruction Point with our boys, sometimes in a little known cabin.We often talked about linking the two areas, but the closest we actually got to achieving that adventure was to hike the traverse about 10 years ago.

Bob Wiebe
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Git down, Brothers and Sisters of the Church of the Telemark..What do you mean it is a turn not a religion?
Jerm
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #8 on: 02/14/06, 04:26 AM »

"For anybody interested in this trip, I'll put in a plug for thin skins. "

The trouble with thin skins is they are a nightmare if you have to do a rising traverse in sub-optimal snow. Kelvin and I talked about creating a skin for wide skis with a strip of some lightweight material down the center. It might work just as well, or better, with simply a long hole cut out of the middle. I have lots more material left from my last batch of homemade skins, it's worth an experiment.
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Boot
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #9 on: 02/14/06, 05:13 AM »

Lowell, what are the peaks in the background of the lower left photo?  Nice pics as always!
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #10 on: 02/14/06, 12:17 PM »

Quote
Lowell, what are the peaks in the background of the lower left photo?  Nice pics as always!


If I read the map correctly, those peaks are about 2.5 miles SE of Obstruction Point (the end of the road) on the divide west of Grand Valley. The higher one right of center is labeled "Moose" (6753 feet) in the USGS Maiden Peak quad.

They look nice don't they?
« Last Edit: 02/14/06, 12:17 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
David_Coleman
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Re: February 11-12, 2006, Hurricane Ridge traverse
« Reply #11 on: 02/15/06, 05:07 AM »

As always, great pictures Lowell.  That looks like a fantastic area.  I'm ashamed to say that as a Washington native, I've never been over there on skis yet.

As a sidenote, I read your comment re: the N. Face of Spider (but can't login for whatever reason).  That was a tough pill to swallow for sure, especially considering how driven I was.  There is some sense of accomplishment in doing the loop, however. Group dynamics were definitely great - the 3 of us get along well.  Wink  
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