A Deep, Snowy Winter in the Northwest

It has been a great winter of cool temps here in the Pacific Northwest. It all got started in early December. The snow and cool temps have been really consistent. From resort riding to backcountry travels, the fun has not stopped.

I rode Mt. Baker the first Sunday it opened. We had great snow, but it came with low visibility.

We rode Stevens Pass the day they opened the backside up for the first time of the season. My camera was dead before 1pm when it opened. Maybe some things are better left undocumented, left to our memories.

Alpental opening day, like the others, did not disappoint. We ended up getting first tracks down International. Again, undocumented.

And then there’s touring. Here are some photos and video from our tour out Commonwealth Basin across from Snoqualmie West.

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Tour up Commonwealth Basin

Hope your’e finding time to enjoy the snow!

Splitboarding in the Crystal Mountain Backcountry

We made it out to Bullion Basin for what possibly could have been a very wet afternoon. We had received some snow the week prior, but it warmed and rained on Saturday.

We arrived to the trailhead parking lot around 8:30 am. Stumbling out of his car, we saw Kyle Miller and his buddy stumble out of their camper van only to confirm the rainfall they had seen Saturday. The freezing level had risen to nearly 6,000 ft. on Saturday and saw quite a bit of rain. After conversing with Kyle for a bit, he showed us the sweet K2 Aspect boot coming out next year. The boot looks dope. Kyle put them through the ringer this past year (150 days on ’em) and they still seemed to be doing well.

We then began up the trailhead traveling on switchbacks through the forest. The trail clearly had seen a bit of rain over the past couple days and was icy in spots. One area required a short boot up a steeper pitch. The weather was all over the place on Sunday. In the time we spent traveling up the switchbacks up to the basin, we saw heavy overcast with low visibility, followed by snowfall and sunny skies.

Bullion Basin Tour

As we started to climb out of the basin up to Bullion Peak the sun broke again giving us clear views of the loose wet pinwheels that had moved prior to our arrival. This was the only sign of avalanche activity we had witnessed throughout the day.

Bullion Basin Tour

After reaching the Bullion Peak we decided to ride the same stuff we were looking at on the tour up. This would get us some great turns we could clearly see and allow us to see how the snowpack felt while riding. After taking a short lap down from the peak it was clear a rain crust had formed on all aspects below 6,000 feet. This kept us making shorter runs, keeping to the upper elevation.

Bullion Basin Tour

We headed our way back up and took a lap down Union Creek. Once again, on the tour up we saw just about every type of weather the day had to offer. Overcast, high winds, snowfall and bright sunshine. The turns down Union Creek were great until again, rain crust at about 6,000 feet. The new rain seems to have stabilized recent storm snow, but doesn’t make for the turns we all love.

All in all it was a great day for some exercise and fun in the mountains with friends.

It’s also worth mentioning, David and I both were dealing with issues on our Karakoram Flip-Speed Risers all day long (not the first time). We both love the new design of these over the old and think they’re easy to switch between different climbing modes, but we’ve had nothing but reliability issues with them while climbing. Mine actually broke in half this tour. David’s replacement pair (2nd he’s owned) kept failing him as well. Flipping down to flat while they should still be in climb mode. Hopefully the crew at Karakoram will shed some light on this and we will get something on the blog if they do.

Happy trails!

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Splitboarding near Stevens Pass

I took my friend Mel up to the Yodelin area at Stevens Pass. We’ve been getting hammered with snow in the Pacific Northwest this December and I wanted to get her into a zone with lower consequence considering it was her first time out on her splitboard.

Splitboarding @ Yodelin, Stevens Pass

We got up to the nordic center around 9 am. The parking lot was about halfway full, but it seemed to be with only families sledding and wandering around the base area. We saw only 2 other touring groups throughout the day. The first group was two skiers skinning up about the same time as us. We saw one skier skinning up solo as we were leaving. I wouldn’t recommend riding solo based on the amount of tree wells in that area (I always ride with a partner). Yodelin appeared to have seen about 10-20 people touring the days prior based on the previous tracks.

Splitboarding @ Yodelin, Stevens Pass

We were able to reap some great rewards. The snowpack felt very stable. We saw no slide activity in the area. My biggest concern with Yodelin would definitely be the tree wells. We saw and battled many that got very deep in areas. Keep your partner within viewable distance, which can be hard in the dense trees.

Splitboarding @ Yodelin, Stevens Pass

We stopped after our first short lap to do some beacon training. It’s the first time I’ve done it this season, and I highly recommend everyone brushes up on this each year, or major trip. In every group people are of varying abilities and you always want to be sure you feel safe with your partner(s).

Splitboarding @ Yodelin, Stevens Pass

Happy trails and enjoy the deep snow we’ve been blessed with this season out west!

Splitboarding @ Yodelin, Stevens Pass

More Photos

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Preseason in the Mt. Baker Backcountry

Someone definitely got the memo that Mt. Baker on Sunday was getting POW. We arrived around 9am to an already halfway-full upper lot. It was filled with 200+ backcountry enthusiasts eager to ride some powder. After last season being such a wash in the Northwest, stoke levels were very high.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the snow conditions highly favorable. There was great coverage starting well below the upper lot. By the time we got to eying up our first drop near chair 1, we were happy to find the snow depth was easily waist deep. One needed to find steeper lines on Sunday because it was deep and heavy! The snow was pretty typical of the Pacific Northwest, a classic Baker storm. Keeping to steeper faces was key for the day, if not you’d often find people digging themselves out from burying their tips. TIPS UP!

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After a lap near chair 1 we headed out near Artist Point. Here the sun was starting to break through and produce some amazing light. Even with the breaks in light, dropping in just below Table Mountain the light was still very flat once you got dropped below the ridge line. Flat light and heavy snow were some of my biggest concerns for the day. Some small sluff slides had been set off in the area by others, but nothing too alarming. We will have to see what the future storms bring over the next couple weeks. Layers of rain could be a concern as we move into late November. Lets hope this great dump of snow stays around for a bit!

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Touring Naches Peak

Our touring group got up to Chinook Pass around 9 am. We scrapped our original plan to try and attack the Sheep Lake Couloir due to very minimal coverage on southern facing slopes (not sure why we thought that might work). We had no idea how you would even begin the approach from Chinook Pass let alone even if we could expect snow after what would have likely been 1,000+ feet of hiking dirt and rocks.

We instead decided to lap the northern facing slopes off Naches Peak. Starting out from the parking lot at 9:30 am we toured in light base layers. Lots of sun screen was a must… and I did not abide by that must. I’m paying for it tonight. The snow starts right at the parking lots and no hiking was required. The snow right from the get go was surprisingly soft with a very thin, weak crust layer about 6″ below.

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

When we got to the base of Naches it was clear Friday was a lonely day, based on the few tracks we saw. Today, Saturday, was the opposite. We saw about 50+ different people out touring near Naches Peak. Northern aspects were great for making turns in soft, light snow… something we’ve known little of this season.

Skin tracks were heavily traveled. As the day went on snow began to melt and freeze in the skin tracks making them slick. There were a lot of blowouts on the skin trail, damn splitboarders. Side hilling became challenging as the day went on and setting a solid edge was key.

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

Coverage all around is low, but we had next to no base damage on our gear, even after 5 laps with filled with airs and power turns. Throughout the day clouds kept trying to hold, but the sun would burn it off before visibility could become a problem.

On the drive home we encountered some rain shortly after passing Crystal Mountain Resort.

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Wing Ridge Splitboard Adventure

January 22 – January 25, 2015

A trip with 11 fellow peakers into the Wallowa Moutains of Northeast Oregon through Wing Ridge Ski Tours.

Pre Day 1 – January 21st

We took off after work and headed to Eastern Oregon. On the way we saw a bad ass wolf (maybe a coyote… not as cool) feasting on some kill (maybe scavenging) in the road. Spirit animal or #wolfselfie? We got into our hotel accommodations after midnight and headed to bed for the short amount of rest we could get ourselves.

Day 1 – January 22nd

After signing our waivers in Joseph, OR with a pleasant man working at Wallowa Alpine Huts, we drove into the Salt Creek Snow park, arriving around 11am. We packed up our gear, cracked some champagne and headed out on the skin track.

Salt Creek Sno Park

Conditions were easy on the way up. There was a mellow skin track which must have been set by a guide previously. The track led right to our hut. At the time, only one other had traveled the same track, a good sign in hopes we’d be one group of few on the ridge. We arrived at the Wing Ridge Huts around 12:30pm.

Wing Ridge Hut Trip

The accommodations were as expected. We had a cooking hut, 2 bunk huts, a toilet area, a wood splitting area and a sauna hut. Each bunk had room for 6. We were stocked with a healthy supply of fire and cooking provisions.

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After settling in, the first group of peakers headed up the ridge around 1/1:30pm. We didn’t take the most direct route up, but it was pleasant being in trees without having to bushwhack like we often do in the Cascades.

Wing Ridge Hut Trip

Shawn pushed the ridge almost to the peak between Salt Creek Bowl and 1st Bowl. David forgot his GPS at the hut, so we didn’t track this mission. We dropped into 1st Bowl on a northern aspect. I got first drop, almost getting taken down by some rocks just below the surface of snow, right near the entrance on the wind-blown ridge. Turns in the bowl were great. Not blower, but deep enough to make us all yell out with stoke. We took the north face of 1st Bowl into the tree line below, and headed back to the hut system. Despite a short day of turns, we were ready to eat.

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Dinner followed. Our group had night one of cooking duties. We cooked chicken stir-fry. The crew was greatly satisfied with our meal. We cooked way too many noodles, but hey, we didn’t leave anyone hungry. Washing dishes without a proper wash basin proved to be interesting. The crew wrapped the night up with a game of Oh Hell. We all got a good nights rest in our toasty huts.

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Splitboarding The Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie Mountain

March 21st, 2014 the #peakoftheweek crew decided it was great conditions to tackle The Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie Mountain. We woke up early trying to beat as much sun as we could on the skin up. The conditions could not have been better. There seemed to have been a group that toured either earlier that morning or the day prior that got tracks before us, but throughout the whole day we saw no one. It was perfect and exactly what us office warriors needed. After a day of great pow turns in the sun, we headed for the best corn dogs on this earth. They were even better after a great day of touring. Hope you enjoy.

Filming: Brian Behrens & Shawn Bishop
Editing: Brian Behrens
Music: Mungo Jerry – “In The Summertime”
Recorded with GoPro Hero 3 + Black Edition

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Lunch stop

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Looking back up

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Exit notch

Crossing the South Fork

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Splitboarding Near Rock Mountain

Last Friday, February 28th, 2014 we set out on a splitboard tour up Rock Mountain off US2 in Washington. This was a first attempt for the #magicblack #peakoftheweek crew. The tour began with some mellow switchbacks, as most tours often do. After about 3 switchbacks we began a steep accent up a ridge near the middle basin of Rock Mountain. We observed a several wet slides that had happened within the last day or so. We kept as close to tree lines as we could, trying to avoid the wide open, steep faces. I’m not quite sure what came over me, but I blazed the steepest skin track I’ve been on to date.

Rock Mountain Tour - 02.28.2014

With hearts beating fast and breaths deep, we reached the top. The warm snow was quickly cooled as we lost daylight and winds picked up on the ridge we just ascended on. Selfies and beers were had before we suited up for a fun decent. The snow for about the first 2,000 yards was crusty on top, hard to make turns in, but seemed very stable. Once we got back to the steep open faces, the crust layer softened and the turns got way more enjoyable.

Rock Mountain Tour - 02.28.2014

Overall it was a great tour. Next time we have to arrive earlier at the trailhead if we want to make it all the way to Rock Mountain… we have our eye set on you buddy 😉

Rock Mountain Tour - 02.28.2014