Lane Peak Ski via Fly Couloir

 

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Ready to ski! (Photo Credit Haley)

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The view of Rainier

I started out the day as a bitch. Anyone can attest. Grumpy cat in true form. I had several friends going up Fuhrer Finger and Gib Ledges, I hadn’t been out in the mountains in weeks, I wasted my Saturday in the city, I was stressed about work and exhausted from the past few weeks and just wanted to disappear and despite my grumpiest efforts no two day trips came together. So there I was, at 7:30am, nagging everyone to hurry the hell up after lying in bed awake for two hours wondering if I should just go solo.

Somehow no one smacked me across the face even though I nagged for another 45 minutes, and then whined about getting breakfast, and then grumbled when Haley thought she forgot her beacon, and then sheepishly confessed that actually it was I, Eve Jakubowski, who had forgotten her beacon. I drove my own humbled ass back to the cabin to grab it and met them at breakfast where I finally relented to the fact that this was going to be a very slow casual day. So I enjoyed my Denver scramble and my cups of tea and the facilities with running water and took a deep breath. Skiied 4/22.
  • Distance: 3 miles? Not sure.
  • Elevation: ~1500ft gain (6012 highest point if you summit)
  • Weather: 50’s and sunny
  • Commute: 2.5 hours from Seattle
  • Did I Trip: I did not trip, but I did pinwheel
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Calvin crossing the meadows

We couldn’t figure out why everyone was booting it up the slope from the parking lot to the upper road until we saw a snow plow toss a fridge size snowball over a snowbank. Oohhhhhkay. We’ll boot up on the left too.

We walked the road to the forest, clicked into skis, and survival skiied down to the meadow while Tricia snowshoed around us. You only spend around 10 minutes in the forest, which surprised me. I expected to have hours of suffering because that’s how backcountry skiing works, you earn your turns with hours of suffering. And instead we were cruising through a meadow, took the last snowbridge across the creek, and boom we were at the bottom of the three couloirs. The Fly Couloir is the obvious one on the right. You’ll pass the bottom of the Zipper just left of a patch of trees about halfway up, and Lover’s Lane is still a mystery to me unless I’m looking at Lane from afar, but that’s okay because I’ll never ski that one.
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Here we come!

I started switchbacking up in the sun through a mix of slush and ice. The slush stuck to my skins adding who knows how many pounds of shit to my legs and the inability to edge on ice, so really a lose lose situation. I waited for Calvin to catch up to me to take the helmet and ice tool off my pack that I had neglected to grab before (rookie mistake), and started kicking steps up and up and up. The Zipper looked prime and untracked, and I was a little jealous we weren’t climbing that. I paused briefly for a selfie, savoring Calvin’s F bombs in the background because he hadn’t put on his waterproof gloves. I forgot just how satisfying breaking trail is. I was in the zone. I freaking LOVE steep snow. How had I ever forgotten?! Next thing I knew I was hitting sunshine and then topping out. I snapped a few pictures, explored the mini-couloir at the top only to determine I did not want to scramble the rest of it, and dropped onto the south face to see how far it would be to the summit. Far enough that I didn’t want to go because going uphill without skis was like wallowing in nipple deep slush and a recipe for disaster.

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Tricia about to top out

We had snacks and water and got ready to ski down. I flipped my boots into downhill mode and SNAP! I stared in disbelief. It had finally happened. My beloved Proclines had broken. Oh my god. I can barely ski to begin with, I can’t ski with one boot in walk mode the entire way. I took calvin’s extra ski strap and the velcro strap I had and jerry-rigged it so I had some semblance of control, but the range in those boots is so crazy it didn’t make much of a difference.

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Side slipping like a boss (photo credit Haley)

I side slipped for what felt like ages. On soft snow, until I hit the shade. Then one turn. Then side slip on ice. Then another turn on ice. Side slip on ice. Turn. Shit myself. Slide on ice. Mega wipeout. Head over heels, is my ski above or below me, were there rocks below me? No, right? Okay, good, I came to a stop with my ski amazingly only a few feet away, and looked up to ski I had skipped the hard part. Awesome. Thank god we didn’t go after the zipper. I had forgotten that I don’t know how to ski.

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Calvin forgot how to cross creeks

I was shaken, that’s really the first fall I’ve ever had while skiing. I clicked back into the skis, made one turn, then two, then three. Gave Haley my picket in case I wiped out again (you still have that Haley I know you do) just in time to wipe out again, and finally I decided to pop the skis off to walk to wider, softer terrain. Finally I put the skis back on, and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of it. To the point where I skinned back up to Haley and skiied down again. And then skinned back up to Calvin and Tricia (being ski-belayed by Calvin, which didn’t seem enjoyable), and skiied down again. With my one boot. Which I would always forget about until I had to turn left. Ugh.

We made it back to the gate just in time for closing, including a survival glissade (skis horizontal so you can glissade) back to the parking lot because everyone at the bottom was yelling DON’T SKI IT IT’S NOT WORTH IT. I’m not sure why, because the slush was so deep glissading was hard and walking was even worse. Like wading through quicksand. More swimming than walking. I was beyond happy to chug powerade back at the car.
Awesome half day, one of the best I’ve done. Definitely need to go back for a day with better conditions, non-broken boots, and the Zipper when I’m better at jump turns. Dare to dream!

Jim Hill Mountain Ski Tour

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Gaining the north ridge of Jim Hill

I think I can honestly say that this is the first trip I’ve had that was about the skiing and not the summit or the views or anything else. We debated many trips, but settled on Jim Hill, a peak I had heard about for years but never checked out. We saw it from Rock Mountain a month or so prior, and I had always kind of poo-pooed it thinking there were better things to do. But we needed a day trip, didn’t want to trailhead camp, did want sunny blue skies, and settled on the Stevens Pass area. Jim Hill it was. Skiied 3/25/2018.

  • Distance: 5ish miles?
  • Elevation Gain: 3400 (6400 highest point, we didn’t summit)
  • Weather: 40’s and sunny, 40’s and cloudy, 30’s and snowing
  • Commute from Seattle: 2hrs without traffic
  • Did I Trip: Some backsliding while skinning but no faceplants or tumbles
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Lanham Lake

We arrived at the trail around 8. Problem was, we had planned on starting up via Henry Creek, but couldn’t find parking anywhere and I was too lazy to figure it out so we just parked at the Stevens Pass Nordic Center and went up via Lanham Lake. Lanham Lake is a popular snowshoe, and we made quick work of the 1.5 miles to the lake. I stubbornly left my heel risers down as long as possible before finally caving and putting them up, only to have the trail flatten out. So I walked in basically high heels for another few minutes before putting them down, only to encounter another hill around the corner. I grumbled and put them back up again as Robert sang Jack Black parody songs behind me.

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Almost at the ridge!!

At the lake, we crossed the outlet stream to the east and started switchbacking up through the woods. It was a surprisingly steep skin trail. Whoever was ahead of us had great balance, or just determination, because it was a few inches of fresh snow on top of an icy crust. I was hoping the other side would be a nicer ski out, because I knew immediately I wouldn’t have fun skiing the trees down to Lanham Lake.

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Robert coming up the ridge

We got sneak peeks of the views to the south as the trees opened up, and finally I saw blue sky ahead! And rays of sun! Yes!! I whooped as I gained the ridge and broke out into snow covered trees and spectacular blue sky all lit up by the sun with the open slopes and glades below Jim Hill begging to be skiied. Oh my god. Robert hurry up. Look what we can do. I relented and agreed to have a snack, I can’t run on stoke and pride forever.

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Weather moving in

We followed the skin track up the ridge. To my dismay, weather was already moving in. We knew it was coming, but it wasn’t supposed to get cloudy until 11am, and no snow until the afternoon! Yet here was a wall of precip coming towards us. Ah, shit. Visibility deteriorated, I decided I didn’t want to tag the true summit because it was steeper than I had expected and the northwest slopes felt totally windloaded. We decided to ski back the way we came, and once we hit the ridge we’d drop into the north basin and ski out via Henry Creek.

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Visibility didn’t get too bad!

We transitioned to downhill mode and dropped onto the softest, lightest, most glorious powder I have EVER skiied. My sample size is small, but these were easily the best backcountry conditions I had ever seen. We carved two feet of powder, maybe more, whooping and hollering the whole way. It was an absolute dream. We went one at a time to be sure we liked the snowpack, and damn it was perfect. We came to a stop near another party, who was going back up for more. One more? Worth the hike? Hell yes!

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Neat textures up high

Since visibility hadn’t gotten as bad as we expected, we skinned right back up for round two. It almost got sunny (“partly sunny” is often how these days are described even though you’re mostly looking at the inside of a ping pong ball) but the light never got too flat. This time we started higher up and earned ourselves an extra 200ish feet of turns, and it was worth it so many times over. I dropped in first knowing Robert would catch up and we could just party run it (everyone at once instead of one at a time). This time we kept going to the bottom. From wide open alpine slopes to open glade skiing threading the needle between sparse trees to slightly more dense trees I mean seriously I wish this run had gone on forever. We finally hit the only patch of bad snow, which was sloppy grabby crust that I did not enjoy. But I still made it through without booting it.

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Robert shredding the north bowl. Two tickets to pow town!

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One more with moody clouds

And from there, we had some survival skiing (slide slipping on ice, dodging thicker trees, the works), some split-board-skiing (Robert’s actually quite good at it), some forest road cruising (soft and enjoyable), and a short highway walk (sorry mom) and we were back at the car just as it started to snow and visibility was officially shot. So on one hand, we had awesome timing. But on the other hand… we definitely could have gotten in a few more laps, and right now sitting on my couch I wish I was back up there. The sound of skis slicing through champagne powder is like the sound of rain on a tin roof. There’s just something soothing about it.