II. James

By:  Sam
September 3, 2009

The only person however who’d give me a definite answer on something to do right away was a guy from TAY named James who said he would pick me up from the airport and that we’d figure out some place to go ski. After chasing the sunset across the country I landed in SEATAC and after some worry about weather he’d be there or not, James showed up in his old Plymouth van. James can be a rather overwhelming guy, but I was way too tired to really notice it when I first arrived.

After sleeping in his roommates room we got our stuff together, checked the forecast, found out it wasn’t looking very good and decided to head up to the North Cascades highway to try and ski some stuff at the head of Swamp Creek near rainy pass. It was an area that James hadn’t been before and we were hoping to get up a peak in the area, but we didn’t really dodge the weather as we’d hoped.
I soon discovered that being cold, jet-lagged, super tired, and hiking around with no view in boots that are horribly miss-fit is not an enjoyable way to spend a vacation. I did ok the first day, but bonked super hard the second day, my boots were cramping up my whole legs and I was just too tired to function. We aimed for a peak, and didn’t get it due to some route finding problems but in the process I ran completely out of energy and started getting hypothermic. I spent the afternoon sleeping in the tent while James skied around the area checking stuff out. The next morning we hiked out several miles on dry ground back to the van.

– Home sweet hell for two nights of adjusting to my new surroundings.

-Approaching the base of the climb

-About where we topped out, we were looking for a snow filled gully to the top, but it just wasn’t there. It turned out we’d gone up the wrong couloir from the start.

– The ride down didn’t look to bad though, we’d gotten almost 6 inches of heavy snow the night before.

– A sobering sight across the valley.

– The view back up the head of Swamp Creek, the grade is the PCT.

When I took my feet out of my boots I could hardly walk on them and I couldn’t feel the entire outer side of either foot. It was extremely frustrating, the boots were new, I got them molded, but they just didn’t work and I wasn’t motivated to ski at all. It was pretty dumb of me to try new gear on a big trip also. So we drove the rest of the highway over to the east side and did some tourist style sight seeing. And camped at a beautiful campsite up a forest road in Winthrop. The next morning we drove back to Seattle, and roamed around the city for a while looking for a good boot fitter. I can’t speak highly enough of Sturnavans, they saved my trip by punching out the plastic on the side of my boots and making them wearable again. They only charged $30 bucks and promised to work on them in the future for free if more work was required. That’s a lot more than I can say for Alpine Shop in Burlington Vermont who charged me $100 to just mold the liners. In retrospect Alpine shop’s prices are practically criminal. As compared to the service I got at Sturnavans. Anyway, after getting my boots worked on we went down to lake Washington and helped James’s uncle refinish his sailboat for a few hours. While we were down on the water the clouds lifted and I got my first real view of the mountains from the city in the form of a spectacular view of rainier over lake Washington. My feet still hurt, but I was starting to want to ski again.

– A view of the Liberty Bell on the way back West to Seattle.

– The view of Rainier from the boat.

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III. Chinook Powder

Read about the author:   Sam
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