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| |-+  April 2007 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  April 18, 2007, HatcheryCr toward Big Jim Mountain
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Author Topic: April 18, 2007, HatcheryCr toward Big Jim Mountain  (Read 1617 times)

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April 18, 2007, HatcheryCr toward Big Jim Mountain
« on: 04/20/07, 11:10 AM »

David and I guessed that the Crest might equal gloom and poor snow, while the east side might equal sun and better snow, so we headed over Stevens Pass to Hatchery Creek to ski toward Big Jim Mountain, which is in the eastern Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It was definitely gloomy at Stevens Pass, with clouds on the tops of the peaks, but brilliantly sunny to the east of the Crest. We were able to drive the Hatchery Creek road about half way to the trailhead, stopped by snow at the fifth hairpin around 2300 feet. The rest of the road was mostly bare, but with deep snow patches. The parking area was bare, as was the first part of the trail, until it wrapped around to more northerly aspects. The trail was easy to hike until the bottom of the switchbacks around 4000 feet, where the snow was mostly continuous and blowdowns led us to boot straight up. The sun was softening the gladed snow, but under the trees the snow was dirty, bumpy, and hard. We got back on the trail and generally followed it to the 5360+ bump, where we took a food break, after which we started skinning.

It's amazing how dense the small trees can be in this area on northerly aspects, and the trail seems to know the most open route, so we skinned up the ridge on the general trail route. The forest really opened up once we reached the northeast end of the ridge (bump 6080+) that runs southwest across the top of the Fall Creek basin. There must have been a burn here in the recent past and there are extensive areas of silver forest, which meant that instead of the snow being dirty and bumpy, it was as smooth as if had been on an open slope. The silver forest was beautiful in its own way, the tall trees still having most of their fine branchlets intact and providing nice texture against the deep blue sky.

We skinned right along the crest of the ridge toward Pt. 7053 through snow that was nicely softened by the sun, with a few areas of shady powder that was drifted in up to 6 inches deep (skin wax was helpful). All was over a very solid frozen base. Snow that had gotten morning sun but was now in tree shade was already starting to refreeze. Larches started appearing as we made our way up the ridge. We got our first good view of Big Jim Mountain from along the ridge:

When we reached Pt. 7053 we took in the views: northwest along the ridge to Big Jim Mountain, southwest to nice looking snowy slopes of Icicle Ridge, and ~south to Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak in the Stuart Range (Colchuck Glacier looked like it had good coverage). We knew that we didn't have time to traverse the bumpy ridge to Big Jim Mountain, and suspected that northeast facing slopes off the ridge would be frozen, so we took another food break and enjoyed the views. Clouds were massed to the west and some were flowing eastward in the bigger valleys (Nason Creek, Icicle Creek), but they never interfered with our sunshine. We started skiing back along our uptrack on the ridge at about 3:30, looking for gladed runs down to the right (~south) that were still in the sun for some turns. We skied several short runs in these glades, sometimes fishscaling back up to the ridge so we could get more turns:

The snow was still soft in the sun and generally really nice for skiing, although I had a bit of re-learning to do using my joke boots (leather/fabric duckbills) for the first time in 6 months. David on a sunny glade run off the ridge:

Back at the 6080+ bump at the end of the ridge, it was nice to be able to see our skin track and know where to start down as the terrain has so little relief that it makes navigation tricky. There were three old snowmobile tracks in the snow here (well within the Wilderness Area). The ski down through the small (live) trees to the 5360+ bump was mixed. Slightly more open forest was nice (smooth and still a little soft), but at one point we got too far right into tight little trees with nasty snow. We almost made a big mistake at the 5360+ bump, passing it on the right instead of left and starting down the wrong ridgelet, but map and compass told us where we went wrong and we traversed back over to our tracks (it had become very hard to see our uptrack in the trees at skiing speed). We kept skis on down to about 5000 feet where the bumpy hard snow and difficulty in seeing our boot track made us give up. It was much easier to walk than to ski at that point. The rest of the return was just following the trail, although we had set up a couple of branch tripods at the steep switchbacks section on the way up, and these helped us descending the section where we had left the trail and booted straight up.

This area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness has a lot of very nice looking terrain and scenery, but accessing most of it would take more than a day trip. Some day...
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