I just returned from an amazing 6 days on the Bailey Range Traverse along with Ross from Montreal. An additional member of our crew unfortunately had to bail at the last minute due to illness, but hopefully will be back to experience one of the best alpine traverses in North America.
We started at the Sol Duc trailhead, ascending into the alpine past Heart Lake, up onto the High Divide. We shared a camp perched above a terrain feature called the Catwalk with a volunteer ranger and a family of goats.
The next day we crossed the Catwalk and passed through a camp known as “Boston Charlie’s” as we ascended onto the west shoulder of Mt. Carrie. Rather than follow the standard route from here which consists of sidehilling beneath Mt. Carrie, we took the high line over the summit.
From the summit of Mt. Carrie we descended east on a glaciated ridge feature formed by years and years of consistent wind patterns, passing beneath Mt. Ruth, and up a steep headwall that in a good snow year would typically involve steep snow climbing in early August. This year it was melted down to glacier ice.
Anticipating this section, I was psyched to have brought along a 19cm ice screw which came in handy for drilling V-thread anchors. 3 short pitches (30m) of 45° ice and snow put us on the lower angled glacier above, where we popped through a notch in the ridge.
From the notch, we had a beautiful descent into the Stephen Lake basin, where stopping for a swim in the lake was very tempting on this hot day.
We contoured around the basin, ascending 1200′ of steep snow and scree to the ridge, where we were able to set up our tent a couple hundred feet beneath the summit of Stephen Peak.
The next day we cruised on the ridgeline from Stephen Peak to Upper Ferry Basin with the occasional sections of scrambly bushwhacking. In Upper Ferry Basin we ascended past many beautiful lakes and tarns to the true crest of the Bailey Range, passing beneath Mt. Ferry and Mt. Pulitzer.
From Mt. Ferry to Queets Basin is one of the most fun and awe-inspiring sections of the traverse. The views are dramatic and constantly evolving. Travel for the most part is straightforward, following the ridge crest, with sections of steep snow and glacier travel mixed in.
Beyond Bear Pass we dropped into Upper Queets Basin and set up camp in a killer location next to a beautiful alpine tarn.
That evening provided one of the best sunsets of the trip.
Day four is one of the navigation and sanity cruxes of the route involving a contour to the base of the Humes Glacier, through steep, densely vegetated terrain, avalanche paths choked with slide alder and downed trees, and game trails that appear and disappear without warning.
Once on the Humes Glacier it was easy climbing to Blizzard Pass.
A steep descent to Camp Pan, and we were comfortably situated on the Mt. Olympus Massif, in one of the more dramatic camp locations in Olympic National Park.
The next morning we dropped to the Hoh Glacier, ascended through Glacier Pass, down the mighty Blue Glacier, and onto the lateral moraine.
We spent our last night along the Hoh River and had our car shuttle ride waiting for us at the Hoh Visitor Center on day 6 (thanks Dave!).
- Aesthetic Lines. The ski descents themselves are even more impressive than the summits.
- The Country. Chile is a land of otherworldly landscapes, interesting culture, and incredibly friendly people.
- The Corn. There’s something about Southern Hemisphere corn that’s extra buttery (corn snow that is).
- Light Backpacks. Most international expeditions involve hauling heavy loads. Not really the case on this trip. Three out of four of these peaks we ski with day packs.
- The Proximity. The relative spacing of these four mountains could not be more perfect. Less car time, more skiing.
- 4 Volcanoes in 10 Days. Many expeditions are lucky to climb one mountain in 10 days.
- Young Volcanoes. Villarica’s summit crater is a boiling cauldron. Llaima last erupted in…2009!
- Araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees). Combined with the volcanic lunar landscapes, these add to the prehistoric nature of the subalpine landscapes, and you get the sensation you might run into dinosaurs at any moment.
- Pisco Sours. The perfect cap on any ski day.
- The Timing. September is an amazing time to be skiing, and a healthy dose does wonders for your patience level, awaiting the Northern Hemisphere winter.
We still have a few spots left on our Sept 20-Oct 1, 2014 program. Learn more here: Chile Volcanoes Ski Mountaineering Expedition
The NW Couloir on Mt. Johnson in The Needles first caught my eye three years ago from the Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park Traverse. With the level of certainty that a distant grainy photo has to offer, combined with a rapidly melting snowpack, expectations were low. My better half thought she might be getting sick on the approach which was confirmed by the next morning. So she kept it chill.It’s about an 800′ descent off the back of the col at the head of Surprise Basin, and a quick skin around the corner puts you at the base of the line. Looking up from the bottom it didn’t look obvious. Snow conditions were firm and aluminum crampons and a piolet were quite handy. Lots of front pointing later I was at the top of this amazing 1,200′ foot line. Two short sections would require down climbing due to a rapidly melting snowpack, but not much more coverage is needed for it to go cleanly.
The next morning I cruised to the summit of Mt. Deception via the NE Chute and was dropping in by 8:30am. The line was in bad shape with a monster garbage runnel down the middle (a 10′ foot deep trench) but still seemed skiable along the edge with a little precision required in the choke.
Partway down the upper section, into view came another party of skiers from Seattle and Portland booting up. I was surprised I hadn’t heard any yelling or cursing from them as I sent down wet sluff on the upper turns. Lucky timing. I assumed they’d gone up the normal route.
I hit the pause button my descent to let them cruise by. Out of the chute, the rest of the face provided great turns along the skiers right side.
Currently the trail into Royal Basin is pretty much snow free cruising in tennis shoes to the Lower Meadow. Things are melting fast up there but there’s definitely another couple weeks of spring skiing to be had.
After a hazy day in the clouds while approaching, the weather opened up and we were able to summit on May 21st. Mt. Baker was exceptionally clear with moderate winds. Thanks Mike for great climb! Some photos…
Check out photos from a May 12-21, 2014 Mt. Blackburn Ski Expedition with partner guide service Wild Alpine. Our team didn’t have the window to ski off the summit, partially due to weather and partially due to a low snow year, but we still managed to get in a significant amount of ski exploration in this zone from two different camps on the mountain. Another awesome mission to the Wrangells.
Despite the ridiculously warm temps, the Mt. Angeles north side tour was the perfect way to ring in the month of May: up to Victor Pass and the SE Ridge to the East Summit, down the prominent north side line, up to the col above Klahhane Bowl, a sweet long east facing run into the bowl, back up to Victor Pass and down to the road. Thanks Josh for a great day! A few photos…
Check out photos from another fantastic trip on the Wapta with Dennis, Terry, Marianne, and Katy. Winter snow conditions, a deeper snowpack, some incredible weather, some challenging weather and whiteout navigation (an important part of the Wapta experience), powder skiing, great hut chilling, heated poker games, and a summit of Mt. Gordon.