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| |-+  March 2006 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  March 25-26, 2006, Harts Pass & Gourlie cabin
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Author Topic: March 25-26, 2006, Harts Pass & Gourlie cabin  (Read 3385 times)

Posts: 2088

March 25-26, 2006, Harts Pass & Gourlie cabin
« on: 03/27/06, 08:21 AM »

On Saturday, March 25, Art Freeman, Tom Janisch and I skied to Harts Pass and traversed over Slate Peak to Windy Pass.  On Sunday we skied Tamarack Peak and returned home via the old Barron mining road.  The inspiration for this trip was historical.  I wanted to ski where the last generation of "mountain men" lived during the Depression.

In 1936, the Leon Gourlie family built a cabin at 6200 feet near Windy Pass, on the southeast slopes of Tamarack Mountain.  They lived here year-round with their son Melvin until 1941.  The Gourlies made their own skis using materials scrounged from old mine buildings.  In summer they high-graded gold out of an abandoned prospect hole.  In winter they trapped pine marten, weasel and fox.  The nearest plowed road in winter was 18 miles away at Lost River near Mazama.

In February 1940, Florence Gourlie had to make an emergency trip to Wenatchee for gallstone surgery.  Her son Mel skied out to break trail and summon a dog sled.  As Mel was returning with sled driver Ed Kikendall, they came upon Florence a few miles up the road, skiing out under her own power.  The Wenatchee World headline on February 3 said, "She Skis to Scalpel." Doctors believed that she would not have survived if her operation had been delayed another 24 hours.

On September 11, 2001, I had the good fortune to meet Mel Gourlie.  Notes from our conversation are here.  Since Mel passed away a couple years ago, I have wanted to visit the country that he knew so well.

On Friday afternoon, Art and I drove from Seattle to Wenatchee, where we picked up Tom.  We continued to Mazama and spent the night at my brother's house.  On Saturday, we started skiing from the Lost River gate around 7:30 a.m.  Art, a recent convert, used skinny skins as I did.  Tom, who is so strong he doesn't need touring gimmicks, did fine with full-width skins and burly AT gear.  Including rest stops, it took us seven hours to ski twelve miles to Harts Pass.  Fortunately, snowmobilers had broken trail for us.

With better timing and weather than anticipated, we decided to continue over Slate Peak, rather than camp near Harts Pass.  The top photo above looks south to Art climbing above the pass.  The second photo looks north to sunny Tamarack Peak, with Tom on the crest beyond Slate Peak.  About 6 p.m.  we reached the Windy Pass yurt owned by North Cascades Heli-Skiing.  (NCHS ended their season a week ago.) To my surprise, the Gourlie cabin is still standing, just a snowball's toss from the yurt.  The entry-way (a recent addition) is collapsing, but the old cabin itself appears solid as a rock.  (The photo below shows Art in the cabin doorway with an inset from the February 10, 1940 Wenatchee World.) We camped nearby.

Light snow fell Saturday night and the thermometer dropped to 20F.  In the morning we skied up Tamarack Peak.  A group of snowmobilers had visited the area Friday.  I wonder if they come here when the yurt operation is running.  The south side of Tamarack had a dusting of new snow over refrozen corn.  Shaded aspects still had fine, boot-top powder.  Around 9:30 a.m.  we packed up and headed home, taking the old mining road down past Barron and up Slate Creek to Harts Pass.  We reached the car in about 4-1/2 hours, impressed by the country and by the hardiness of the pioneers.

« Last Edit: 03/27/06, 11:28 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged

Posts: 223

Re: March 25-26, 2006, Harts Pass & Gourlie cabin
« Reply #1 on: 03/27/06, 09:22 AM »

Nice trip and report, Lowell.  After getting rained out of the Pickets last 4th of July weekend, we spent it instead camped atop Tamarack Peak.  It's a fine, fine place to spend the night.  We hiked past the yurt and cabins you mention - I appreciate learning the history of the area.  Thanks.

Posts: 184

Re: March 25-26, 2006, Harts Pass & Gourlie cabin
« Reply #2 on: 03/27/06, 09:54 AM »

What a fine trip with a great story behind it.  It's a lovely area.  I can see why NCHS put their yurt in the area.  And why the hardy Gourlie family chose to live there for a time.
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