Skiing the Duff

Alison Kilroy finds snow and breaks trail

Sunday April 26, 2012

The WCN crew: Alison Kilroy, Dawn Mueller, Heather Mirczak, DianeHennessey and Nancy Kim

When we  pulled the plug on the WCN Baker Backcountry trip due to weather, thoughts turned to a tour on the sunny side, Blewett Pass.

We arrived at the Tronsen Meadow trailhead, just north of the pass, at about 9:30am. The road (FR 7240) was bare and perfectly drivable for a short spell. From the road, we scouted Diamond Head in the distance and spied some paltry patches of white. I wouldn’t characterize the snow conditions as poor since technically one needs snow to have any sort of snow conditions.

Optimists at the trailhead see the snow somewhat there, not all but gone.

Everyone was game to stay in the sun and pack skis for recon. The tour’s prelude is a labyrinth of x-country ski trails and forest roads, but we were armed with a detailed RD by for the Diamond Head East, aka Windy Knob, tour. Note, however, that the usefulness of a good RD is directly proportional to the number of times one consults it. For some reason, we preferred to look at our altimeters, take compass bearings and consult the topo rather than read simple directions such as “take a left at the marker tree.”

Diane Hennessey rejoices at the ski conditions.

Lunch with the elk

On one of several false starts, we contoured east toward Haney Meadow on a thin, icy ribbon. Impatience to gain more elevation got the better of the group and we decided we were off route. So convinced of our navigational error, we didn’t bother reading the RD and promptly about faced only to discover we were traveling in the right direction. After an hour and a half of skiing through needle duff and skunk cabbage, passing through pretty stands of red osier and ponderosa pine, we decided to have lunch, abort the tour and salvage the day with a dusk patrol skin up Hyak.

Olfactory field identification of scat

As we ate in the sun, our conversation was punctuated by a primal counterpoint of rutting elks. Rutting elks? Yes, gentle but dubious reader, the elk rut is a fall event, but let’s not quibble. It weakens the narrative. The sharp, high pitched bugles weren’t merely alarm calls—they were the territorial vocalizations of bulls. Clearly, we needed to finish our meal and high-tail it back to the cars where snowpatch-chilled lagers awaited.

We left skins on skis for the drive to Snoqualmie Pass. It wasn’t raining at Hyak, so we climbed the slope and played “Name that Peak” at the top before a quick descent of corn and mash.

Alison, Dawn, Nancy and Diane with view of Gold Creek Valley

Heather Mirczak about to drop a knee


2 responses to “Skiing the Duff

  1. I used to say visibility is overrated on ski trips in the beautiful NW. Now I say snow is overrated! Never had so much fun skiing on pine needles, moss, and ice!

  2. TOO funny! I don’t know whether to be glad I wasn’t there, or not!!

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