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“A long trek up Hwy2, and down, and up, and down, and…””

Jim Hill (6765', p2085')

Via BNRR ventilator /FSR 678

Jan 6, 2013

Carla Schauble, Nikolia Popov, Chris Schaening

Weather: Sunshine, 28-30F, Low wind low, brisk on ridge



Carla has had several attempts to Jim Hill.  The last pitch is more a real climb and conditions can make it a bit dicey.  The snow this season has been phenomenal with generous fresh tracks to be had day after day, and week after week.  A good report had us aiming to head up for my first time.  Maybe summit, but definitely some fresh turns.  Well, it started out as a let’s summit.  Then things morphed.


I was working at Stevens Saturday and afterwards a Bday celebration in Leavenworth (that’s up to Stevens and down the east side, one up one down).   Plans were a buzzing all very last minute.  How to get Carla up there if I was on the other side of the pass?  Easy enough, Niko loves to ski and I was sure he’d like to join our last minute trip.  Email sent and we were on.  Four to go –sweet how plans drop into place.

A slight hook, another text message, bring rope…  Dang, gear was on the other side of the mountains 2 ½ hours away and it was getting late.  Worked out since I didn’t feel like car camping in 20F temps on the eastside even with the drive time savings.  So… I found myself late at night going back up over the pass and back down (two ups, two downs).  Home after midnight, cleared downhill gear from car, loaded rope and pro…  Sleep …


More surprises

Slept in til 6am and we all met c7:30 in Munroe.  Niko volunteered to drive, sweet again.  Sunrise as we headed east, much traffic for Stevens Pass, down the backside and we parked at FSR 680 a third of a mile west of the BN Ventilator Shaft.  This pull off is best with all-wheel drive.  Plowed, but an angle and every time here there has been snow coverage. Two other vehicles with one group starting to head out.  It took me very little time to realize that my skins were not in the car –DANG!  Options discussed…  Summit gear would be left.  If I made it back, there’d likely not be time for a summit attempt.  Niko was nice to offer the use of his car.  They’d head out and I’d drive back to Munroe, get my skins and catch up.   Let’s add to that tally, up over the pass and back down the west side (3.25 up and 3.25 down). Get skins, pass on one speed trap on the summit and back to FSR 680 (4.25 up and 3.5 down in 28+ hours).


Parking note

Last year we parked near the ventilator.  The plow driver stopped to tell us if we parked there the car would not be there when we got back.  I know others have not had an issue, but I now park a third mile west at the FS road (680) that is plowed out for parking (and access to the BN portal area).

Which track is theirs

All quiet at the car, seems the other group left trekking poles leaning on the tow hitch.  They’d gone up and west, so not sure of their route or destination. 11:50a (c2930’)  around two hours behind the group.  Would I find them and get some skiing , or catch them on their way down?  I crossed the road and glided down to FSR 678 directly across from the BN tunnel Ventilator shaft.  Easy to follow the skin track and surprised to in only a couple minutes to come to a new well snow covered clearcut.  I have a distaste for clearcuts, but at least it would make a good ski.  Two odd skiers went by on my way up the first cut.  Then followed the road past Henry Creek and at the clearcut swath east of Henry Creek followed the tack switching up the delicious foot plus deep powder.  Even in the thrill of knowing of nice pow turns to come, I had to stop and let the heart rate settle often.  Not much recent uphill trips and I was feeling it. 


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Looking north from new clear cut (2012)                                                                                Log pile at top of east clearcut


Top of the clear cut on the east side a large spikey tree debris pile.  Near it a warm thermal hole melted through the deep snow.  Directly above the pile the road again (1.2m, 12:30p, 3670).  Tracks going east and down and tracks going west and up.  Which to follow.  I voted for south and up, soon to spot some arrows in the snow with an F.  Thanks Carla!  A few minutes and the road ended (1.4m, 12:38p, 3782).


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End of the road                                                                                                                                           Woods traversing


Now a downward track through semi dense wood, past an opening more woods another opening with an elevation drop, more woods and opening into a scraggly lower basin (1.9m, 12:50p, 3828’).


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The lower basin


The Basins

Pretty basic here, head up the basin, west and southwest, cross some covered mini creek gulleys and switching up and left.  The trees were a foot or so in diameter and more sparsely spaced.  The snow was beautiful covering the smaller trees and bright.  The cloudy day was bright with diffused sun.  After so many weeks with dark clouds, this was a nice change.  I could see where the saddle should be to my right c5450 and ahead it appeared the trees opened to an upper basin.  About this time (c5600’) I saw a figure hiking up the ridge that hung above the basin.  I gave a hoot, but no response. 


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Looking west to the North ridge saddle                                                                                            First look up into the upper basin



Almost instantly, a figure skied by the opening.  Unmistakably it was Carla, then another –Niko stopped to take pictures while Chris skied down.  How was that for timing?  Nice to see everyone (nice I went up the right direction : -) and good to see all smiles. 

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Carla appears with perfect timing                                                                                                                     Niko and Carla decide another lap is a good idea


Very little arm twisting was necessary for them to take another lap (2.9m, 2:00p, 5710). 


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The upper basin, summit far left


The track led due west to gain the north running ridge.  On the ridge (3.0m, 2:08p, 5710’) there was a good view of the broad upper basin (sweet : -).  The clouds shrouded the top of the mountain, so limited visibility and flatter light than down lower.  The ridge walk was cold with a brisk breeze compared to down lower.  At just over 6200’ (3.4m, 2:30p, 6296’) I caught up to a group of four Mountaineers that had come up via the Lanham Lake route getting ready to make their second lap of the upper basin (Paul, Ann, Anna and Brian).


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View of summit (right) from the flat of the ridge (top of laps)


Solo on up

Carla had gone up higher earlier, but expressed disinterest in the upper conditions.  Niko was still on his way up, so I kept climbing.  Stronger wind, berms and occasional views of the double summit and saddle between.  Below the east peak I headed west to find hollow spots near the rocks.  Aiming west of the saddle I traversed a steep slope over a rib to a flat bump below the east ridge of the west peak.  I was above the height of the saddle, but this was the stopping point for skis (3.7m, 2:55p, 6674’).  Some venturing led to deep snow with a firmer layer over top.  Some pillows would allow gaining the ridge proper, then there was a wind-swept pitch with some rock exposed and that E word, exposure.  I could see why Carla wanted a rope.  I had left ax and crampons in the car.  Within 30’ and so close, but not a safe bet to go further. 


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Jim Hill summit from the NE


A last glance at the upper route and I turned to my skis.  Skins ripped, goggles on, far below I heard Niko give a yell (3:06p, 6674’).  I responded, grabbed my poles and dropped east off the pillow heading down in the flat light and limited visibility.  A couple spots the pitch came up and a couple of berms to catch air on.  Luckily, at the 6300’ lap top spot the visibility was better below.


Back tracking

Niko and I leap frogged down to Carla waiting at the bottom of the upper bowl (4.3m, 3:11, 5514’).  Just over three hours to near the summit and only 5 minutes to ski one sweet soft, rolling powdery delicious pitch.  Yeah, worth it…   Chris had started down earlier, so we kept our eyes open for him. We worked our way down catching amore turns weaving within eyesight of the up track.


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Carla post powder                                                                                                                                Chris patiently waiting in the lower basin


Then a north traverse to another open pitch above the lower basin.  The lower basin was more choked with alder than I remember, still good for turns.  Chris was waiting half way down the lower basin and below him we could see the other group of four crossing some covered creeks at the bottom of the lower basin (5.4m, 3:33p, c3770’).


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The other group of four at the bottom of the basin creek cross                                    one of the clearings skinning up to the logging road –happy campers (skiers)


We all met as we put skins on and started the short track back to the logging road.  Back tracking through woods, opening, woods, small opening, woods and road (5.8m, 4:00p, c3782’).  Back to the skiing –Yippee! Skins ripped and stowed our group headed out gliding down the road.  I waited for Paul to get to the road to tell him the route out.  They’d come in and the out route was new to them.  Down the road smiling that this time there would be open turns to come.  Dropping off the road at the clearcut and wove my way down the nice long pitch.  The snow was nice, not as nice as the upper basin, but still nice. 


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A few final turns


The clearcut intersected the logging road leading back to cross Henry Creek.  A short stretch of uppish on the road then a leftward down traverse of the bottom of the lower clearcut and a stop to look back and smile on a nice day skiing.  Back at the highway (6.75m, 4:09p, 2863’) we put on the skins and trekked up the south side of the highway with a careful road crossing to the car (7.2m, 4:20p).  Would be a bummer to not be careful with all the cars coming downhill from the resort.  They’d not be expecting a skier staring up the road like “a deer in the headlights”.


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A third mile up the highway to the parking area


What about Mr H

After all the driving and leaving things behind, I had relaxed.  The day would have been much nicer and relaxed without the excess driving and ascending with everyone else.  Not to mention being able to get an extra lap in.  As it was, I was happy it went well.

Oh, total ended up being 4.5 times up and 4.5 time down the pass in 34 hours.  That I’m not proud of.  Having buddies that like to ski fun runs, that is something to be proud of.  Mr H. did come along keeping a low profile.  I think he was in good behavior wishing he’d had more laps, though not saying being nice to me for on mixed up day. 

Thanks Mr H for not rubbing it in.

Thanks guys for the fun!


And thanks for reading.  Happy trails,




TH to ridge: 3.7m, +3818’/-70vert, 3h8m

Ridge to car: 3.5m, +70-3818’vert, 1h14m

Total: 7.2m, +/-3888vert, 430m


Gear:    Skis, skins, poles, car


Map (Interactive):

Description: Jim_Hill_13_0106


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