It’s spring out there. The birds are shining, the sun is singing, the weather’s fine. But it just isn’t spring out on the Coast without a little bit of ski mountaineering.
We’re spoiled with big mountains out here, which keep their snow late into the spring (or all year round), and make for great springtime destinations on corn snow. For me, it’s not only a neat trip and something to mark off the tick list, but also a welcome break from too much running and a way to get in some endurance hours.
Last year, I tried to go down to Washington and ski Glacier Peak, one of the coast mountain volcanoes, with my friends Ian and Francois. We were foiled by finding out that, all indications to the contrary, the main access trail was washed out. This year, better prepared, we came at it from a different, longer approach. Faced with 7 miles in and 7 miles back on logging road before the trailhead, we brought along three mountain bikes and trailers (all on my trusty Tercel).
Well, it was a long approach. After messing about with the bikes for a while, we finally reached the trailhead, and found ourselves with another 9 miles to the pass, hiking in ski boots with skis on the packs. The skis finally went on near the top of a long set of switchbacks, but only just a bit before camp.
The morning broke grey, after a gorgeous sunny day on the approach. Soon after we began our approach ski, it began to drizzle. Snow conditions were poor and treacherous, and I, at least, still felt like I’d run a marathon two weeks before. Reaching the first ridgetop, we found ourselves finally looking at Glacier Peak – or at least the bottom half. The top was in fog, and the whole thing was a further 6 miles away.
For once good judgment got the better of us, and we turned around. A good thing, too – by mid-afternoon, the drizzle was a full-fledged downpour. Abandoning plans to camp a second night (after the summit), we returned to the car 12 hours after starting, looking like drowned rats.
Kudos, however, to 3 guys from the ACC, who made an epic day of Sunday, going from a camp at the base of the peak, summiting in the fog, and then getting all the way out safely!