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We went to look at the north face of Buckner. Hiked the road again, and headed up the Boston Basin trail with a bunch of food and metal things. I think the Sahale approach is superior considering all the overhanging alder on the BB trail snagging the skis on our packs. We exited via Sahale Arm and I think it would have been just as efficient (and more scenic) to approach this way and wrap around onto the Quien Sabe from there. Even after the winter route melts out it seems that you could leave the Cascade Pass trail at the top of the initial switchbacks and start skiing shortly thereafter by cutting the corner behind Sahale Arm.
We built a plush camp in the warm afternoon sun complete with a couch, dining table and a toilet. The sunset was acceptably scenic and the stars even better. In the morning, we reluctantly followed the guidebook route from Boston/Sahale col. I don’t think this is a viable route in winter conditions due to steep snow and overhanging cornices. We downclimbed and booted up a gully to directly access the notch where a short snow traverse puts you onto the Boston Glacier. While not trivial, this seems like a reasonable route. Sharkfin Col or the westernmost notch east of Boston Peak may or may not be better alternatives.
Ry-Whi didn’t like the stakes of the next snow traverse and T-Cup was not feeling well. We should have eaten some food and taken a look as sometimes that is all it takes to get the mojo back but I guess we weren’t feeling the magic. As soon as a nap at camp was on the table it kind of just fell apart. So we went down. As consolation, we headed back up to ski the west face of Sahale but it didn’t soften so we skied back to camp and back to the road and walked back to the car. We got some good corn turns and more impressive views on the way down.
I feel overdue for a successful “big” trip. It has been difficult getting partners on the same page as far as goals and motivation are concerned, let alone getting schedules and weather to align. It is hard to find a balance between pushing toward a goal and being content to just be out in the mountains. Both are important. I see our motivations and risk tolerances evolving season by season and I’m getting better at being less disappointed when a trip doesn’t work out. Still, failing to prepare properly or giving in to laziness are reasons for bailing that leave a bitter taste in my mouth. But I guess that tension is what climbing is all about. We will have to try this one again too and hopefully the momentum swings back. At the very least, not a bad place to spend the night!
Chinook Pass 4/4: Naches Peak
Washington Pass 4/7: Whistler Mt. Couloir
Cascade Pass 4/9: Yawning Glacier
It felt great to finally get out and accomplish something a little spicier for a change. You can drive easily to the trailhead right now. We chose to wear shoes on the intermittent firm snow to the meadows which ended up being very efficient. Most of the group was tired from too much skiing already so we started at a leisurely hour and moved at a leisurely pace. As a result, we dropped into the couloir later than we should have. Colfax is a fun little summit and the visibility was as good as it gets. We could see from St. Helens into Canada and the San Juan Islands were easily identifiable. New snow over rain crust and strong solar effects made for some significant wet sloughs in the chute. In addition to starting a little late, 5 people is a bit awkward for steep skiing. It is difficult to keep everyone in safe zones and makes for a lot of waiting. We found ourselves baking in a solar oven getting pelted by falling rime for much longer than I would have liked. Despite the inefficiency, the couloir was filled in enough (10 ft. wide at the choke) and the bergschrund was filled completely. It was a fun little ski mountaineering objective and not all that steep. We skinned back up to our uptrack on the Easton and skied about 1k’ of inconsistent but softened snow which transitioned into the best 3k’ corn run of my life! We were all skiing together at high speed slashing berms and airing off rollers while the sun reflected off the Puget Sound. Balance restored to the universe.