On the 19th, I had the day off the the sun was shining. I’ve wanted to ski the North Face of Shuksan for some time, and it seemed like it would be as good a day as any to go ski it. Sadly, I didn’t have a partner, so I left my SLR behind and relied on my cell phone to capture the action for the day.
I got an intentionally late start, not leaving the white salmon lodge until after 9. My thought was that the North face was, well, north facing, and could use some time in the sun before I got on it. While the ski down into the valley from the ski resort was corny and uneventful, the destruction higher up in the valley was jaw dropping.
As I made my way though the valley, I was traveling on frozen corn, what I wanted and expected. If the North Face was frozen, the avalanche danger would be low, there would be less of a danger of rockfall, and I’d be moving fast as I cramponed up the face. I planned to sit at the top and wait until the slope was soft and then ski down.
All was going according to plan until right after I switched to crampons and swung around onto the base of the North Face. First, as I was traversing a patch of frozen snow, the heel lever of my crampon broke and the crampon fell off my foot leading to an exciting moment and a hasty repair. Confident in my repair, I pressed on, but soon found that the North face had received a lot more sun and hot air that I had expected it to. The entire face seemed to consist of knee deep rotten snow. Hoping for the best, I pressed a few hundred yards further, but conditions didn’t improve, and given the exposure under the north face, I didn’t want to press my luck.
Ruth is looking good now.
Ready to go.
So, I turned around, skied a bit of nice corn, and headed back to my house. Not much of an adventure, but an interesting learning experience nonetheless.
In retrospect, in discussion with Allen, we concluded that because the line is more NNE than purely north (as I thought it was), it gets more morning sun than I was expecting it to get. Further, the valley may have been staying colder than one would have expected because of the cold air spilling off the hanging glacier. Oh well.
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