Skiing on Arrowhead Mountain January 19, 2001
Shortly past Deception creek, we ran headlong into the Stevens Pass traffic. It was stopped. Why? Chains were required and the police were enforcing it. There was a steady stream of cars turning around, even some large 4x4 trucks. At some point, Ed comes over and says he isn't carrying chains, so he'll turn back if they are requiring them for 4x4's. After half an hour, we reach the road block and the nice officer looks at my hubs and asks us if we are carrying chains, which we are, and we pass through. Ed feels like being honest though, and so doesn't lie about not having chains, and so he is turned around. We offer to go back with him, and do another low elevation tour (but perhaps not so low elevation as our original plan), perhaps out of Deception Creek, but he won't hear of it! He just wants to go back and ski a road with his dogs, and then maybe head in to work.
This is sounding pretty bad to Greg and I, so we heed his advice, and continue on over the pass to the large building that makes a lot of noise and is the starting point for tours to Jim Hill and Arrowhead mountains. The driving conditions are pretty good, all things considered.
Click on the picture for a Windows Media video clip.
At the large building that makes a lot of noise (and that has won a Good Housekeeping Award, so displayed on the front), there is only one other car. We walk over to the logging road and head up. There is not so much new snow here - hopefully there will be more higher up. We eventually enter clearcut land and start ascending more directly. Through a band of forest, and into a second, higher clearcut. Now we can see some glades high on Arrowhead, and we are able to ascertain the reason the mountain is so named - a large, arrowhead-shaped rock outcropping part way up the west face.
I don't want to bother about assessing avalanche danger now, so for the ascent, I suggest we avoid the steep-looking clearcut for now, and head up in the trees alongside. It's up through strenuous steep dense trees unfortunately. Tough for me, but not Greg with his "horscheizen" (I will make no attempt to spell that correctly - those are ski crampons for those who don't know). It takes too long, and eventually we arrive at a flatish spot in the trees a short distance above the clearcut, don't feel very motivated to continue higher, and so decide to take a run on the clearcut.
There's 8 inches or less of dry snow on a somewhat icy crust. The powder occasionally sprays up around your chest, but after last weekend's great skiing, this feels just mediocre. We are only mildly enthused. Plus, Greg skied this run like he had two left feet (hence the video above). There's a steep section of clearcut off on skier's right that merits attention, and so we begin skinning up a gentle bench in the middle of the slope. Soon we hit the trees, and traverse back towards the area above the edge of the clearcut.
But up close, the slopes above are very tempting, so I change direction and head up. Not too far to the Arrowhead - or so it seems. The snow grows deeper. The slopes grow steeper! Jeeper!s
The arrowhead was further than it looked, but that's good, because there's just more great slopes below us. We stop at the 5400ft level, where it starts to get a little too windy. The run down is
And thus begins another great powder day. The open lines through the trees are steep (35-40 degrees), with 12 to 18 inches of very dry snow, and this produces a good number of faceshots and silly grins. I think this is my most favouritest kind of terrain!
After 800 feet of orgasmic skiing, we hit the steep section at the top of the clearcut. I jump in, and quickly trip and take a tumble over some shrubby trees, and now I'm caught in my slough, on my back, head downhill, very much not in control of the situation. I plow through another set of shrubby trees and finally come to a stop.
Click on the picture for a Windows Media video clip of Phil and Greg skiing
I pick myself up, and then see a ski in the snow above me (my gear must be so light now, that I didn't even realize I'd lost a ski!). It's good to know the dynafit release worked when it should! Greg picks it up for me on the way down, and I see the fastex buckle on my retention strap is broken. It wasn't that spectacular a fall, it should have held up better than that? Anyway, I put my ski back on, and we move through this area carefully, the snow isn't very stable here (steep convex-ish slope).
We decide against heading any further down the clearcut, and traverse over to now nearly filled-in skin track (it's been snowing heavily for the past hour) for a second run.
The second run is equally, or perhaps even more, amazing. We're not used to such dry snow, and the terrain is steep enough that combined with the nice snow, you create quite a slough that travels around you. You'll zip around a thicket of trees, and see your slough filter through it and continue travelling with you.
We take it easy again at the steep entrace to the clearcut, and continue to the bottom, through semi-open forest to the lower clearcut, and finally to the logging road. We meet up with a group that just came out from Jim Hill Mountain. They also possess the guilty grins of a great powder day. And, they had Jim Hill all to themselves!