Snow wasn’t great, but it sure felt good to be sliding again! We climbed out of the ravine and up few hundred feet, just in time to catch the sunset…
and then a bit of a whiteout made things interesting on the way back to the truck.
We met up with the Splitfest Crew down at Chair 9 to finish off the day with some pizza, a few cold ones, and talking gear for the rest of the evening.
Day 2: To our surprise we awoke to blue skies instead of rain. After meeting up at Chair 9 to sort out demos
and trip plans for the day, our group (Russell, Jim W, Mattia, Issac, Esme, Bryce, and I) set out for Helitrope Ridge. A group that had left a little before us had sleds to shuttle them in the 3-4 mile approach to the trailhead, a luxury we did not have 🙁 So our fearless plan, drive in as far as we could on the snowpacked road and skin the rest of the way. This decision in hindsight would lead to the culmination of a “type 2” fun day. For those who don’t know the “fun” scale, per Jim W., there are three levels:
- “type 1 fun” : fun while participating
- “type 2 fun”: some boarderline type 1 fun moments, but really only fun when you recount the story
- “type 3 fun”: not fun anyway you look at it…
So we rallied our way within 2 miles of the trail head, packed our bags, and headed out
about 1 mile in, we could see our objective the top of Helitrope Ridge and clearly visible were the massive crowns from the past avalanche cycle.
Upon arrival at the trailhead we decided on the longer hiking trail approach rather than approach up the main drainage due to the massive avalanche path down the middle. The evidence of the slide path from the recent cycle were front and center.
The trail meandered through the woods, over numerous gullies and slide paths as it traversed it’s way up the ridge.
As we rose above treeline, the Coleman Glacier came into view. We stopped for a quick bite and to dig a pit to look for signs of instability. The snow from the night before had formed a clear wind slab layer about 4”-6” deep on the lee slope and another layer about 24” below that. The game plan was to stay on the ridges away from lee slopes and on lower angles.
As we ascended higher, the clouds and fog socked in, not a complete white out, but visibility was far from good.
We opted to stop on the Hogsback instead of continuing to the top of Helitrope Ridge, due to the changing weather. Our goal was to drop into the main basin, but all hopes were dashed when signs of cracking appeared as we approached the ridge. We aborted the main line and started searching for a safe route down riding from safe zone to safe zone. We ended up descending the main slide path that we had crossed earlier in the day, as we felt it was the safest since it had already slid in the earlier storm cycle and the new 4-6” would be the main concern. Jim set off a small slide as he dropped off the crown of the old avy.
Skirting across the slide path and into the trees, we were able to make our way safely down back to our skin track for a short boot across the traverse and then a bank slalom-esque ride back to the trail head.
Not a lot of riding for all the traversing and climbing we did, but we made it back in one piece. After two miles of road riding back to the cars, we thought our adventures were over…
The fun continued on the way down the softened snowy road, the subie getting high centered twice, the Ridgeline once, and Ranger almost drifting off the road into the ravine 🙁 An hour of digging cars out and the “type 2 fun” was over.
We made it back to Chair 9 by 8ish in time donate some board clips and t-shirts to the raffle. The raffle was a hit, raising a couple thousand dollars for NWAC.
Day 3: For the last day of the splitfest, we met again at Chair 9 to say goodbyes to those who had to jet early, set up some more demos, and plan the tour for the day. Coleman Pinnacle was the chosen route for our group, which included Russell, Tyler (friend of Russell’s from Baker), Ray (Tex), Jim W, Bryce, and I. We cruised up to the saddle up a couple of steep switchbacks where Tyler performed his first ever kick turns flawlessly!
We opted for a new destination, a little closer in due to the cloud cover. Little Alaska was now in our sights. We skinned up to the side of the Chimney, packed our splits on the packs and booted up the steep face.
On the top of the Chimney, we put the splits back on and headed across the cornice line towards Little Alaska.
Unfortunately, on our late-ish arrival at the top of Little Alaska, significant signs of warming in the snow pack and a rutschblock test by Jim and Russell that showed a 6” layer that went just by stepping on the block and a 2ft layer that went on down weighting had us turning around back to the Chimney. We were bummed to turn around, but we all felt it was the right decision.
The Chimney still offered some fun, entertaining riding, with a steep entrance, a hop over a small bergshrund to some ripping slashers down a wind spine; we were all smiles on the way down.
We continued down Blueberry Chutes to the base of the valley and headed back for another short lap. It was getting close to 3pm as we topped out at the gate, so Bryce split skied back to the lot to retrieve some demos. Tyler and I decided to just do a quick 10 minute trees lap, while Jim, Ray, and Russell who all had a little more energy headed up a little further for a tasty steep section.
We all met back up at the parking lot after a “type 1 fun” filled day, chatted a bit with Kyle Miller and Al Capone about their previous week’s 25 hour touring adventures, and then hit the road home.
The end to another good Baker Splitfest. The scenery on the way home summed up the whole weekend…. Double Rainbow!!!
Thanks to everyone that came to the splitfest, demo’d our gear, and provided great feedback. We appreciate all the support!
‘Til next year!!!