Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Red Mountain climb and Ski Descent
March 4, 2001
Jens and I had been talking about a low-stress ski tour for a few weeks. We were ready for a break from the mental hijinks associated with ice climbing. With some recent snow over a firm base, and a good weather forecast, we thought Red Mountain would make for a fun, short day. Plus, since it is so close, we wouldn't have to make a "stupid early" start.
Jens met me at my house at 6:00 AM. We threw my gear into his car and, after a coffee stop, headed up to Snoqualmie Pass. At 7:30 we walked away from the car, poaching our way up the groomed slopes beneath the rope tows of the Sahale Ski Club. Their plethora of "Private Property" signs is reminiscent of Northern Michigan, where landowners futilely try to protect there carefully maintained
"private" deer herds from the hordes of gun-toting, deer-crazed city-folk during hunting season.
We continued up, staying as close to the ridge (and its firm snow) as possible. At times the wind temporarily whipped the snow into a near white-out. But those bursts were short lived and interrupted by occassional sunshine.
We took turns in the lead, breaking trail and fighting the wind. At 10:30 we reached the top and were rewarded with a brief windless spell and a very nice view of the west ridge of Mt. Thompson, which we climbed last summer. It was 10:30 AM. Three hours from the car, which is not bad considering that we did have to break some trail on the steepest part of the climb.
We sat for a while, drank some coffee and reflected on the contrast between a moderate winter scramble and leading ice. As we talked we swapped from climbing mode to ski mode: Off with crampons, on with spoilers, and crank down the buckles. We'd both been evaluating the snow pack on the way up. It seemed remarkably stable given the 12-18 inches of fresh and the wind loading. There had been no spontaneous slides in the entire basin (that we could see) and we hadn't kicked off anything either. Still, our first few turns were tentative as we left the top. We took turns skiing, taking pictures, and cutting the slopes. No avalanche activity, none. Not even a surface sluff. Satisfied, we skied down together.
The skiing was really spectacular, I got multiple face shots even with my deliberate style. About 750 vertical feet below the summit we traversed off the west face onto the southwest slopes, to maximize our skiing. We found some of the steepest slopes here, just above the treeline.
The snow got a little heavy, but Jens was able to pick a route through the trees that allowed us to keep our
skis on and we ended up on the "highway" near the last creek crossing. We met up with a group of three here, the first people we'd seen all day. We exchanged pleasantries while Jens and I removed some clothing. It was surprisingly windy this far into the valley. We
put our skins back on and headed back along the trail. Just above the waterfall we stripped them back off and enjoyed a few more turns through the trees and then back down through the Sahale Ski area. The rope tow was running, but they didn't say anything to us about poaching their courduroy. We were back at the car at
12:15, only 75 minutes after we left the summit.
This page was last edited on
Thursday, January 01, 2004