The Honey Badgers join the CBSP
Chair Peak Circumnavigation
BC Ski, Circumnavigation with Cascade BC Ski Patrol
Bryant Pass, Melakwa Pass and Snow Lake South Saddle
Jan 15, 2012
Murrey, Kathleen, Brian, Andy, Pat, dicey, Joe, fwb and Zara
Weather: clouds and snow, low 20's to teens
Snow Conditions: Moderate Avy above 5000’ on lee slopes (east). Fresh 8-12” powder over hard crust.
Snow had been sparse for a while and a nice ice crust had formed. New snows covering and offering potential good turns. Saturday was working on the race hill and Sunday was time for some BC. Weather was cloudy, temps in the low 20’s and snowing. I’d been wanting for years to do a trip up Bryant Pass and also one over Melakwa Pass and around Snow Lake. My thoughts before had been hiking, just never seemed to happen. Today was the opportunity to do both and better yet by my favorite form of travel.
We had a leisure start at the north most Alpental parking lot (winter source lake trailhead). Eight skiers and one four legged companion (Zara) to keep us real. Six members were from the CBSP and two tag-alongs. Nice to have radio to know when the slopes were clear from the area patrollers.
Skinning and smiling
Left the trailhead (c3355’) at 8:40a, up the cat track past Snow Lake (1.2m, 40min, c3826) and zig-zagged toward the south into Pineapple Basin (1.6m, 1h15m, c4520’).
Source Lake area
Heading up to Pineapple Basin
A veer back NW under the east face of Bryant.
Some snow checking before heading up the steep col to Bryant Pass (2.2m, 2h20m, c5340’). On the way up I got to hear stories of a slide sweeping y fellow skier down the slope. Maybe I miss heard, but enough to have me keeping my senses aware. Track setter set out first as the group waited and watched, then my turn.
Pat checking out the pitch to Bryant Pass
Crossing under Bryant
Looking to be going every which way but up
The way up snow from a higher overlapping track would sluff and cover the lower tracks. In places it was like breaking trail all over again. The rest of the group set a higher rack to avoid some steep kick turning. Some found kick-turning on the steeps in loose snow not the best joy, others amused and some supportive and helpful. Most terrain was a 8-12” covering of fresh powder over a firm hard layer. A few spots thins with hard almost ice. A day to keep aware, snow was consolidating, but it could still easily sluff on a steeper pitch. At the pass winds were moderate and visibility null. Time for a snack and to rip the skins.
The final pitch up Bryant Pass
Kathleen crossing around the cornice –dicey close to follow
Lone ski… Melakwa bound
First down all I could hear was loud snow. I don’t like loud snow. That would be ice and a surface like that is for the racehill or hockey rink. I tried a decent more to the side to try avoiding the wind scored slope on the west side below the pass. Success finding some quiet snow. The quiet soon interrupted by yelling, Looking up a ski came flying by. I chased after as it ducked into the trees trying to be the first to the lake. Out into the west facing slope I found a ski track and below a nice K2 ski hanging on a berm ready to complete its record decent to Melakwa Lake. Owner and ski united, the group headed down laying sweet turns to the lake. 50 feet or so above the lake an interesting slope not holing snow on the ice. I went left to great success, but not able to tell the angle or when I was to be on the lake due to low contrast and lack of clear visibility.
At the lake (east end of Melakwa Lake, 2.7m, 3h, c4466’) we found shelter from the wind and had a lunch before heading north up past the upper lake and to Melakwa Pass. Chair Peak on the right and Kaleetan on the left rising into the clouds. Snow was deep in places due to drifted wind.
Passing Upper Melakwa Lake
We gained Melakwa Pass before 1:00 (3.7m, c5385’). Time to rip the skins again. Large groups tend to take more time than small groups, makes for nice socializing.
Deeper and Deeper
The pitch to Chair Peak Lake was deep in wind transported snow. Lower angle pitch and a cut produced nothing.
Zara having a shoulder deep powder day
And she figure eights
Pat Dropping off Melakwa Pass
Skiing was as good as it gets with powder flying. At time Zara disappeared, then black body and wagging tail flying in the fluff, then gone again. A traverse on the east side of the lake to a steep bluffy area.
Checking out the bluff off Chair Peak Lake
How to get down? The snow conditions didn’t give a confidence that the new snow would stick on the steeps and the variability of fluff to ice was not great for stable skiing. We ended up taking the creek gulley that cleaned easily. I exited skiers left (north) out over halfway onto the face under Roosevelt to head down toward Snow Lake. Heading over I was able to get past the half buried avy debris and into smooth deeper powder. Others tried skiers left of the gulley and some more in the gulley area. Maybe biased, but I think I had the line on that pitch. The final drop to the lake the group split. Skiers left through trees with good coverage and a final steep vertigo decent to the lake. Was hard to tell the direction, but when I wasn’t moving and standing I figure, must be on the lake (4.5m, 3h55m, c4009). The skiers right group made nice turns and avoided some obstacles left from last year’s snow –a moat and a pretty good sized sheer drop to the lake. Glad I missed that.
As usual, another good time to group up and celebrate –and don skins. Oddly a 5’ rise to get onto plane with the lake. Then flat travelling with a sucker hole and a little sun for a moment. The north side of chair peak was impressive. Near the summit a real climb and more east some good cols –some inviting.
Skinning up Snow Lake
Hey look! A sucker hole…
Approaching the end of the lake
0.9m later we opted for another social break at the SE end of the lake. One more pitch up for the last ski descent of the day. The day had been marginal visibility at the best and snowing. Another great day for a ski tour and not one for a summit bid.
Great views… taking a break on Snow Lake
I want more turns
I set a track that got varying comment up to the saddle (5.6m, c4430’). From the saddle a high traverse west up a little knob to rip the skins a final time.
Last skin up of the day
The summit of Chair was almost visible and on several flanks multiple ski tracks. It looked like an army had been busy harvesting the available powder. As we started down several snowshoers past. Again the group split in two. Half taking a tree line skiers right of the cliffs finding powder on ice. The other half traversing further west over a cliffy area and finding a good face that held a nice stash of snow (6.2m, 6h30m).
More views… well, it was tour day, not summit and peak view day…
All down, spirits high it was time for the cat track out. Glad that a few mentioned to watch for uphill slow shoers… A few ups, downs, zigs, zags, branch snags too close to private parts and my trying to hand hold a video camera… We grouped up for a head count at the end of the grooming making planes for Ski Après. The short road trek out was amazing the speed that tired Zara pulled out to keep up with then lay it on full speed to pass everyone and be first to the parking lot. She’s got the powder and the speed.
A great tour. Nice not crossing paths and feeling we were in an area without others around. It was just after 2:00 and the day still young. Not time to go though, we accepted an invite for beer, a hot pool and sauna. There is an advantage to skiing so close to Alpy ; -)
Thanks all for the great day and nice tour.
stats: 7.5m, 6h50min, 3480’descent/ascent
gear: Skis, avy gear and swim suit
Copyright 2012, FWB, all rights reserved