Apr 02 2010
After a sweet day on London Mtn Dan and Joe were planning on getting up Peak One. I had originally planned on doing Mt Helen, but after inviting Jackie along I decided that the South Face of Helen might not be the best place to take her. I figured there would be plenty of options on Peak One. The east ridge route flows down the mountain offering the safety of the ridge and other options to the north and south. The south east face is a steeper option should the conditions permit or there are numerous places to drop in off the north east side. Our plan was to travel together then split up into 2 groups higher on the mountain and go for our different objectives. Jackie had great fitness and kept up the entire way, that’s saying something as Dan just passed his AMGA Ski Guide Test.
At the last col before the spicy rocky face to the summit we split up. Dan and Joe dropped in here and me and Jackie pushed on to the summit. At the summit the wind was kicking and the storm that had been forecast for the afternoon was just behind Mt Holy Cross. We snapped a few pics and headed back down the ridge to negotiate the entrance to the ridge. At the corner I noticed a large avalanche debris fan. I was tripping, “Was that there before?” “There aren’t any tracks out of it.” Thoughts of getting down to assist in a potential rescue were running through my mind. Figuring out how to get Jackie down safely and with maximum speed were running through my head. In order to be safe we’d have to take the ridge the whole way. It would take at least 30 minutes. We would be of little help. Joe and Dan were on their own. I pulled out my cell and called Dan to see what was up. Just as I did the 2 of them came into view at the bottom of the debris fan. There was a sense of relief that was so great I felt as if I was walking on air, but we still had to get down as well.
The ridge went very well. The ridge allows you to inspect the snow on various aspects as you descend. There was evidence of serious wind loading and a lack of melt freeze consolidation on the north eastern aspects. The south eastern side was cornaluscious. We were both a little freaked so we skirted the trees for a while before entering the south east slopes. Finally we felt safe and met back up with up visibly shaken friends. The out to Miner’s Creek was a painful slog through isothemal mashed potatoes but it was a relief to be out of harms way.
I’m so glad that this didn’t turn out badly. Always remember to follow your safe travel procedures in avy terrain. Safe zone to safe zone skiing can keep you alive if things go wrong with your assessments. Also remember that the snowpack can be radically different just by changing the compass aspect a few degrees. This especially holds true this year where we have basal facets on almost all aspects. The only thing that will keep you safe is that great bridge offered by the melt freeze.
Jackie it was a pleasure getting out with you and thank you for the confidence you showed in me to get us out of there safely. Dan and Joe I look forward to our next trip and don’t beat yourselves up too much, you did alot of things the right way.
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