25 June 2015

Why Skiing This Summer Is Going To Be The Worst

It's been warm - and we got no snow this winter. The snowpack in the Olympics was7% of normal this year, and the Cascades barely fared better with 18% of average (source). This means conditions on the mountains already look like late August, and it's only mid-June. Two weeks ago I would have said it feels like we're 6-weeks ahead of schedule with the snow situation, and now I would say it's more like 8-weeks. It's gotten so bad that even Whistler Mountain is making snow this summer to save the Horstman Glacier.

For practical application, a story: a few weeks ago I took a Wednesday off to "ski" on Inter Glacier. Theresa and I were looking to "enjoy" some of the "spring corn" we've been reading so much about.

We left Seattle and drove to White River Trailhead and were hiking by 8:30am. Two years ago in June I had skis on my feet for skinning after 20 minutes of walking. Last year it was 40 minutes. This year we made it to Glacier Basin Camp by 9:45am with zero snow on the trial, then continued past the camp to about 6800' on the summer trail where we hit snow and could finally skin. That was 2+ hours this year vs. 20 minutes two years ago.

How to become a kick-turn expert.

Theresa forgot her poles, so we both had one and learned quickly that kick-turns are difficult - although not impossible - with only one pole. She was much more graceful than I, and I ended up face down in the snow on more than one occasion.

Due to the whole pole debacle and needing to get back in town for evening plans, we decided to head right above St. Elmo's Pass towards the Russell Cliffs and have lunch. In all it took 4 hours to get to about 8500'. Just three weeks before it took 4 hours to get to 9700'.

Heading toward Russell Cliffs. I've never seen so many rocks here before.
Lunch with a view of the lower Winthrop glacier.

We had some lunch and enjoyed killer views before the skiing. We looked for a long time at the lower portions of the Winthrop Glacier, which were just completely chewed up. We could see tracks much lower on the glacier than you'd normally see this time of year, leading the way to the base of the Liberty Ridge climb.

Th Upper Winthrop Glacier.

Then it was time to ski! I'm not going to lie you - it was terrible: crabby, gloppy, sticky. Schmoo. I don't know if you can even really call it skiing, but we did get  about 1500' of turns and that's good enough for me to count 44-months of Turns All Year. Even though we hiked 6 hours (4 hours up, 2 hours down) to ski for 10 minutes, it was a damn good day. #TeamTutu is always stoked to get outside.

But I don't recommend starting TAY this summer if you're hoping to do "skiing". It's going to be rough.

On a sad but related note, KIRO TV came to my work two days later looking for information on climbing Rainier. A climber had gone missing on the Liberty Ridge route, and his body was later recovered. It's really rough out there right now friends - please be careful. Full news story here.

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