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“Jack and Phoebe swim in the snow””

Kendal trees and lakes

Feb 23, 2013

Carla Schauble, Anita, Ted Mueser, Brian McKain and Nicolai Popov.  Plus Phoebe and Jack.

Weather: snow ¾”/hr, upper 20’s, low visibility




Winter is still here and it dumped again.  All week dumping created heightened avy danger.  The forecast was bouncing a bit, but still our plan as with others going out was to play it safe.   A few offers to get out, but no mention of place or time to meet.  Another to go to Crystal.  I knew that would be a great time, but solo driving the 2hr40min each way was a no go for a day trip for me.   I also figure Crystal would be packed (found out later it was).   Carla, Anita and Ted were planning on Kendall Trees.  Hmm, was just there, but should be great skiing.  Niko also joined for this trip.


SnoQ crux –road crossing or boots, what boots

Snow on I-90 and cars darting in and out at high and differing speeds.  More scary than skiing a narrow run prime time at a resort.   A long line of cars already parked along the wall at Snoqualmie.  The normal dodge cars fresh off the freeway across the road and head north under the overpass.  A mob of at least 20+ snowshoers with two rangers were heading into the trailhead proper.  We went direct up after crossing the underpass.  Skis on we started our trek. A single trail well packed heading up Commonwealth Basin.  At a break we were passed by a group heading in, but not knowing the area or were they were going.  Then a solo snowshoer saying his “regular 2 hour trek”.  I noticed his fine quality Costco snowshoes and poles.  Feet twisting sideways each step.   Heading in I hardly noticed that we were gaining altitude.  Past the cliffs Sergio and I had cut right at last time.  Past the creek crossing and past the cliffs we followed the solo track up.  The snow was falling and off the track it was deep.  We ascended at a casual pace, dogs trying to get a free ride on our ski tails.  No down tracks yet as we worked our way up the widely spaced trees on the gentle slope.  I could hardly wait to hopefully ski down through this.  The trees cleared on our right at the huge Avy path.  One track went right into it and we followed the one left staying in the trees.  Soon some down tracks and a skier coming by.  Seemed like we had only been at it a short while when we emerged at the top of tree line at the bottom of the open field below the summit of Kendall Peak.  Familiar from a trip a few weeks ago.  This time we’d be staying low, no big adventures. 


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Can we ski

On the traverse to the right (south) I found a good open spot to dig a quick test pit.  I dug down about 130cm to a firm crust layer.  A shovel shear took some tugging and the layer at the crust moved –but not easily. There was a layer a third of a meter down, but the snow wasn’t moving easily.  I took the time to fully cover the pit.  Not something I’d want to ski across later.  Would be like running barefoot in the park loaded with dog cr  At a patch of trees a group was de-skinning and ready to ski down.  I followed a track up through the trees another couple hundred feet while the others de-skinned.  A check of the snow again looked okay and I put in over a dozen turns to the group.  Then we floated down in sections the edge of the old avy field hugging in and near the trees. 


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Ted and Anita fluffing out                                                                                                  Carla floating


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Happy skiers                                                                                                                          And the dogs are still working down the hill


Another group blazed by, it was like rush hour.  We waited for Jack and Phoebe.  The snow was so deep they could not bound and looked like they were swimming down the pitch trying to keep their heads above the surface.  Another pitch down into the trees til they tightened. The skiing was superb.  Didn’t sink deep, but it was like feeling silk and floating.  There is a heaven on Kendall.  Another group of 9 was coming up as we re-skinned.  I recognized Forest in the lead.  A few his as they passed and soon we were on our way up as well. 



Lost skier

This time we took the track out to the north edge of the avy field.  Back at the de-skin spot in the upper tree stand Brian was there with a solo skier.  Seems he had lost his buddy somewhere between there and the ridge.  Brian and I set out to look for the lost skier.  There was some avy debris up and right between us and the SW ridge.  First was to investigate it.  Up the same track from the first run, a little higher than I was comfortable with.  We traversed the top of the avy/slough zone and could see no entry/exit tracks.  Stopped in as safe a spot as possible we worked out a plan.  Our group was coming up behind us and we asked if they’d seen the other skier.  We planned for one of us to cross to the other side from anchor to anchor and see if any entry/exit ski tracks.  Then we’d head down doing a beacon search.   Some issues there with the hazard of being in search mode if something let loose.  About this time Anita called out that she’d spotted the solo skier go by.  WHEH!  Reverse track and head down a safe route.  We paired up and had some good turns.  Ted had been hoping to catch up with Brian, so all had worked out.  We dropped to the southward traverse track and skinned to the SW ridge.  Anita’s new tour skinless skis worked good til the track increased to too high an angle.  Into the trees and the track worked up. 


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Carla, Jack and Phoebe traverse to the ridge to drop to the lakes


Time to be careful as I crossed a steep section to the open SW ridge looking into the Kendall Lake basin.  No sign of the lakes, but they were down there somewhere.  I ventured slightly off the ridge and dug another pit.  I was going for a shovel shear.  The crust layer was very steep in this local (38deg). I went down about a meter and a half.  Both sides cleared of a 30cm column.  I started cutting the back.  33cm down the column sheared planar (RP) and rapidly.  Scary!  There was a 1+ cm deep layer of 2-5mm grauple.  Cutting further the block sheared and collapsed again at 75cm.  Holy smokes!  I didn’t even get to try the shovel part.  Everyone was there as I filled in the hole.  We discussed the findings and that the area was most likely very unstable and a no go for the open areas.  We’d try leap frogging down the ridge proper then at the lower angle dip into the wood and to the lake. 


The story of Niko

The part I haven’t mentioned yet was Niko’s predicament.  As we were booting up at the car he realized he had left his boots at the park and ride.  Oops!  Not like I haven’t forgotten stuff before.  He drove back to get them and was to follow or track up and meet us.  Seems he’d decided to come up the Stump Run side instead and was taking longer than the well-trodden Commonwealth track.  We’d thought we’d run into him on our earlier lap.  A few phone calls and we figured he was close on the Knob ridge heading toward us.  Good timing that we saw him as we were ready to head to the lake.  I went down the ridge to Niko, while the two other pairs headed to the lake.  Nice skiing, though low angle and not the premium of the first laps.  There was a snowshoe track dropping down to the lake and the ski felt a little more terrain lumpy.  I popped through the woods to find the group taking a break on the lake.  Nice scenery, even without sunshine.  We’d had spots of the sun popping through, enough to wish I’d pulled out my sunglasses.  A break to enjoy and remember how beautiful it is in winter. 


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Lake break                                                                                                                                             Dogs like Niko


Kendal Lakes - interactive pano

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Brian lead the way up from the lake to the ridge where I’d met up with Niko.  And up to where we dug the pit.  Oh, more important info  as we chatted I was informed after I left the pit area the hill let out a very loud whump.  Yikes!  This was a day to be conservative.  What were we doing heading back up?  We stuck to the ridge and at the pit confirmed travel plans and headed down the treed opening in pairs, then meeting at the edge of the woods for the dogs to catch up and then the traverse north. 


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Heading back up the ridge to go back north


Phoebe was smart to drop to the up track and was able to run on it full speed.  Jack on the other hand went down and wallowed.  Waiting at the top of our last drop into the trees, I thought we’d lost Jack.  Maybe he stopped to visit another group we saw.  There were groups scattered all over the place and many with dogs.  Quite the dog-straction.  Also scattered were numerous open pits.  Come-on people, cover them up.  A little snow over them and they will be like pit traps littering the slop.  Another downfall of skiing in such a heavily used area.  Back to the trip… Jack finally showed and we leap frogged down the trees.  Beautiful easy slope with fluffly light snow and well-spaced trees.  Still very deep for a dog so we waited for them to catch their breath. 


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Below c3600’ the consistency of the snow was wetter and stickier, it had been much warmer lower.  A few of us went a little low to the north and caught the snowshoe/skiers track back down the creek.  A few up spots, but nothing painful.  It’s a long traverse down Commonwealth Basin.  At the area were the elevation drops I waited for everyone and the dogs to pass to run the sweep.  Phoebe seemed to have energy and Jack was starting to drag.  The once single and small track that we took in was now deep, wide and had multiple branches.  Amazing that you can see fewer people on the trip than it is obvious were visiting.


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Commonwealth Creek


The final major crux

At the end of the trail we bundled up our skis, dogs on leash, headed back for the walk up the road.  This can be the most dangerous part of the trip.  All happy from the good skiing it would be too easy to forget about the traffic and the drivers maybe not seeing a walker along the heavily snowing road.  And a reminder to some that crossed early.  If you cross early you will walk right in front of the cars fresh from the Snoqualmie autobahn (I-90).  A walker is not what most drivers would expect to look for at that point.  We negotiated this crux of the trip and succeeded in another great snow day outing.

Thanks to all for letting me join for another fun day in the mountains.

Life is good, very good : -)


And thank you for reading.

Happy trails!



Stats: xhxxmin, xxxm, +/-x, in 4 laps


Gear: BC ski gear (skis, poles, transceiver, shovel, probe, snow study kit…)






Copyright 2013, FWB, all rights reserved