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| | |-+  April 14th, 2007, Chair Peak Circumnavigation
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Author Topic: April 14th, 2007, Chair Peak Circumnavigation  (Read 1513 times)

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April 14th, 2007, Chair Peak Circumnavigation
« on: 04/15/07, 11:59 AM »

Yesterday we took another crack at the Chair Peak Circumnavigation following Martin Volken's route. Two previous attempts were aborted due to poor visibility on Chair. Although we encountered the same conditions yesterday, we put it together and were rewarded later with improving weather and some nice turns, making for a great tour.

We set out from the upper Alpental lot under rainy skies yesterday and skinned up into the clouds and fog on the north slopes of Chair. We considered taking the low route by skiing the Snow Lake divide down to the lake and heading across the lake [which we did last week on the way to Mt. Roosevelt, giving us an opportunity to scope out the upper slopes of Chair, the funnel, and Melakwa Pass]. Taking the north slopes route seemed a little more challenging and we had time, so we enjoyed a couple of hours picking our way along in the milk glass conditions with frequent stops to re-check compass, maps, guidebooks and GPS. Finding the funnel wasn't ultimately that hard [I'm finding that when M.V. says "obvious" you can trust him]. We considered it for quite a while before dropping in. As we expected it was loaded with soft, wet chunder and rocks, mostly on the western cliff side. We had watched a couple of small slides run into the cliff side of the funnel last week. So we stayed away from that business as much as possible, skiing under the knolls to our right. We did scoot westward just above the lake, crossing the funnel's apron. Once again we were treated to an impressive rock and ice fall from the cliffs above, which launched a heavy sluff that ran right across where we had just skied. It is definitely not a place to linger! So, although Volken recommends staking close to the cliffs on the way down, you might reconsider that advice if you are passing through later in the season. The snow seemed much more stable and less debris laden on the other side, and less of a landing zone for rock and ice from above.

The weather had improved by the time we took a break on the lower slopes of Mt. Roosevelt, and we decided to push on. Melakwa Pass was one of the more interesting places I've passed through in my ski touring experience. It seemed both huge and small all at once, and it much more of a bowl than I thought after looking into it from last week's vantage point on Roosevelt. Cornices at Melakwa were huge, and we skied right up through a gap in the center of the pass [if you can tiptoe on skis, I was doing it]. From the pass, Melakwa Valley then spread out below as sun and deep blue skies appeared through the clouds, lighting the lakes and the lower slopes of Bryant. With our path lit up before us, we dropped into the valley and found the best skiing of the day. The slopes above Melakwa Lakes were wind scoured and the snow seemed much colder, and we all enjoyed great turns in fast and smooth conditions.

The skin up Bryant was less than fun as the new colder snow was seperating easily from the soft wet layer beneath, so we all suffered a great deal of lateral slipping in the skin track. I ended up doing a little boot packing after sliding out and losing ten hard-won feet. Not pleasant, but the sun at our backs felt good. By the time we reached the Bryant col we were under clouds again, and we decided to take the couloir route. Carefully. Once we were in, the skiing was fine, though I was glad to not be on tele skis like my companions. Heavy, wet, sluffy chunder was the order of the day on the lower slope, although those first dozen turns in the steeps above the couloir were something to savor. A challenging and ultimately gorgeous day.

I'm happy to finally contribute what I hope is a worthy TR after a couple of years lurking and learning.

Cheers, Robert

* melakwa_pass.jpg (99.92 KB, 600x800 - viewed 329 times.)

* upper_bryant_couloir.jpg (99.61 KB, 800x600 - viewed 335 times.)

* noll_bryant.jpg (95.98 KB, 600x800 - viewed 328 times.)
« Last Edit: 04/15/07, 01:40 PM by robbal » Logged
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