It was a great pleasure to finally ski with the illustrious Dan Helmstadter. Dan, fresh émigré from low-snow Colorado, was ready and willing to undertake whatever I suggested. So I made a plan. Dan skied Cooper Spur on Mt Hood the previous week, then made an attempt at NFNWR on Adams, so he clearly had ideas about the volcanos. An introduction to some of Washington's other alpine treasures seemed in order. It was easy to choose Cascade River Road.
Late last November, with the onset of the monsoons and incredible powder runs on Mt Snoqualmie stoking my fire for skiing, I meditated over Green Fred and hatched a plan. Here it is:
Cascade Pass → Cache Col → Art's Knoll → Hurry Up Peak → S Glacier → Yawning Glacier → Cascade Pass.It's a little jaunt around Magic Mountain, plus a bonus descent of Hurry Up Peak via the S Glacier; it's a Magic S-Loop; Hurry Up: It's da Magic SLoop. Several times through the winter I whispered my plan to conspirators: Who could resist a day pushing 10,000 ft and 20 miles, including four ski descents in one of the most scenic areas of the Cascades?
Dan and I left the Eldorado Trailhead at 5 am and hiked Cascade River Road. Thank you, NPS, for the foot bridges over the washouts. We booted continuous snow from the end of the road to Cascade Pass with two very short intermissions. Above Cascade Pass, there was clearly fresh snow on Mixup Arm. Hopefully not too much - or, hopefully it got zapped a little on Monday above the clouds while Seattle was still gray.
Climbing the roll after the traverse on the arm, the snow had been zapped, but there was still a lot of fresh under there. It felt as deep as two feet in places. I was really glad that the suface had such a great freeze after the clear night.
We skied some good corn and a little breakable crust to Kool Aid Lake. Then we skinned to Art's Knoll. Below Plan B Couloir by 11 am, we were actually ahead of my schedule. How did that happen, huh?
Jason and Sam's couloir looked great. Too bad that we didn't have time to yoyo Hurry Up, still concerned about a possible death by slurpee: a dangerous ride on a slush slide. Plan B Couloir is sweet but short. Dan really liked the views of Spider Mountain. We failed to notice anything near 55 degrees en route to the summit ridge. Let's give Jason and Sam the benefit of the doubt and say that it's likely to feature steeper sections in drought years.
The question of the day and the crux of Da SLoop: How is the snow on the S Glacier? Dan absolutely shredded the first roll and made it look like great corn on his Volkl Mantras. I seemed to break through the crust with every turn on my Atomic TMXs, but not too badly. I might have to try a pair of these fat skis. We played things a bit conservatively since the snow was about two feet deep under the crust, but the crust seemed strong.
S Glacier is a beautiful descent and the views with Trapper Lake are stunning. Nice pick, Skoogs and Andreas.
We skied a gully on skier's right to gain access to the lower cirque. There was still fresh down to that elevation. While traversing a roll, I noticed that the crust was no longer strong, so I gave it a good stomp and watched a big wet slide roar over the cirque cliffs below me. Then Dan and I had sweet corn turns on the older snow left in the slide's wake.
Over Alliteration Col (betwixt Pelton Peak and Magic Mountain) to the Yawning Glacier: no problem. A mixed bag of breakable and old down the YG, a very nice slowly rising traverse without skins to Cascade Pass, and a descent on very sweet corn from Cascade Pass: what a way to end the day.
We traversed far skier's left from Cascade Pass. I thought we were in a continuous snow finger that would get us through the cliffs. "All right Dan, let's rip." We both hammered the steep corn until - Hit the brakes! - we were right above a moat and a waterfall. Sidestep up, one finger over, and we hammered the corn to the road.
How do you like the Cascades, Dan? What's that, you want more?
As if that was not enough of a warm Washington welcome, the next day we made the inaugural descent of Cumshot Couloir, to this day still one of my favorites.