“Mr H dreams of Birthday cupcakes”
Sally Portman’s Birthday Tour
Washington Pass, North Cascades Highway (opened April 16, 2013)
April 17, 2013
Gordy Skoog, Susan Ashlock, Vicki Lord, Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather: High clouds, temps hovering over freezing
Yeehaw! North Cascades Highway is scheduled to open Tuesday at 1am! Then is snowed, it dumped Friday eve and all day Saturday. Avalanches, warm... not good for BC skiers. Would the NC Highway still open? Monday eve, a brief note... Birthday tour Wednesday? Hmmm, I have a lot of work and taking a day off would be tough. So much for that.
Eating at me, the weather forecast is not looking good for the weekend. Upper 30s to 40F and snow at Washington Pass. BUT, BUT... Wednesday is partial sunny til afternoon. I'm more than tempted. News flash... Highway is open. Email comes in -B'day tour... I'm in", another "I'm in". A few quick emails and so there are four of us in. All happy to have understanding bosses and schedules to shift a few things around. A few more express interests and others are un-able to get out of work -and some out of town. I have to make up the time as well. A late day of work, a quick packing and too much time finding that I've misplaced my WA Pass map. Pretty straight forward and the others will have maps.
Let the tour begin
We meet to carpool at 6am. Some confusion on where Ashway P&R is and in the end a 40 minute late start (for four of the five). It's a three hour drive to Washington Pass. I email Gordy that we're running a little late -hope he gets the message. Then a big surprise. Tomorrow is Vicki's Birthday. No wonder she was so quick to want to do the tour. We stop in Marblemount and Susan finds a cupcake we can use as a B'day (cup)cake. AND she already had birthday candles too.
Driving up the highway all was quiet. Marblemount like a ghost town, all the restaurants closed, no cars on the road. Sign of work was a street sweeper near Diablo Lake -dusty, cough, cough... Past the mostly drained Ross Lake (1520'), still no cars, no snow. Past trailheads, past East Creek trailhead, no snow... Finally, around mp148 there was snow -WHEH! A little dugout for a few cars at Easy Pass (and the first car). A little dug out at Rainey Pass, Bridge Creek fully cleared (no cars). Before Blue Lake two vehicles in a small plowed area, and at Blue Lake in the sunshine enough cleared for six cars and filled. Now what? On to WA Pass rest area. At the pass pull out about 5 cars. We readied and Gordy came over. If we'd walked over 50' to check out the other group preparing, we'd see that Don's cousin was there. I'd wondered if Fred would be up skiing. Saw him at the end of the trip. The standby plow driver drove up for a little chat. He was on call in case anything decided to slide (besides us).
A car dropped for shuttle (had to dig out a parking spot) and we were finally leaving the cars at 10:30. South across the highway and followed a track in the woods west and south. The surface very firm. tough for traversing. We passed two snowboarders, then out into the open avy path up and right of the spires.
The morning sun now behind growing clouds. Up and up. Another group of two skiers working their way up. Just after passing SEWS a solo skier chugging straight up the hill. They stopped at the south SEWS saddle shortcut while we headed up toward the huge cornice on the east ridge of Blue mountain. The last 20' or so was sketchy. Gordy braved a sketchy kick-turn and topped the ridge. The rest of us booted the final stretch.
Having to boot the first ridges final 20’ (Gordy made it on skis). SEWS and Liberty Bell in back
Great views and now a cold breeze on the ridge. Here was a choice. Head on down the south facing slope or back north the way we came. The basin we came up was good in the protected areas (from solar) -north facing and trees. Elsewhere was a little crust. What would be to the south. Will the sun have baked it? We stripped skin and I soon found I couldn't slide. A quick wax job and we were off leap frogging down nice powder. A little more than halfway down the snow changed to a bit crustier. We gave it a shot for a bit, then traversed left across some hard rubble avy paths.
The low point of our traverse we joined the Copper up track. Less wind yet cold, a good place to take a lunch break. Mr. H came out when he sensed candy.
Above us the skin track branched right and left. Right toward the gap at Copper Mt. The left a further north col that we hoped would have some good snow. As we stopped for lunch we saw a group breaking trail on the left far above. A bit of pondering, right, left, left, left, right, left... I went right then they decided left. So left we went.
Rising almost to the north col, with Copper BM to the south
Topping the upper basin we saw two at the Copper saddle. Heading up left (north saddle) we saw the last skier getting ready to drop in (2:05p). Nice of them to set a track for us.
The sun broke through a few places adding contrast and changing the scenery with great cornice and shadow play on Stiletto.
Susan topping out and Vicki the B-day girl
We took our time at the saddle, stripped skins, a bite and drink, then one at a time dropped the easy gulley.
Chatting before dropping into the gulley from the saddle Vicki cutting nice big turns with Wallaby in the background
Left solar affected, right powdery. Down then left under a cliff. I waited as first Vicki, then Gordy linked turn and turn after turn. Oh, I hope they leave me a track : -) Susan and Carla rounded the bend and we all enjoyed the turns on the wide open easy pitch.
Gordy proving there is more snow than we expected Vicki down lower where the snow is getting wetter
We traverse left under the cliff again and skied openings in the trees. Good conditions till almost the bottom of the basin. A few of the gulleys had avy debris, so stayed in the open treed area. At the bottom a skirt under the larger avy swath. A tricky ending with a giant ditch plowed to catch a further slide from hitting the highway. We waited and waited. Had we lost Susan? Nope, there she was in the trench waiting for us. At the hairpin, Fred recognized me. He was with the group that had preceded us on the last north saddle gulley. The party was not over yet. Again Mr. H came out as Susan set up the cupcake buried under candles.
The rest is the normal stuff. Well, maybe not the normal. After some hob knobbing at Washington Pass we said god bye to Gordy and a small distraction to check out the snow on the new grand sign in the middle of nowhere for the NC Park. I do have to say I liked the older modest ones more than the new expensive one. Is the snow on it real?
The festivities not over yet. After collecting cars at the park & ride we made a stop at Mod Pizza for food. Mr H’s keen sense of food and fun had him awake and ready for munchies. Gotta’ keep a close eye on that guy.
Great to ski and catch up with everyone. A great group and my first B'day tour. Happy B'day Vicki!
Thanks everyone for the tour.
And… Happy turns!
Stats: 5.1m loop, +3200/-3450vert