Mt. Catherine, January 21, 2006
With considerable to high avalanche danger all over the cascades, and Saturday crowds at the areas, we decided to stay in Kevin's backyard once again and head to Mt. Catherine. Frank and Mike joined us as we took the "short cut" chairlift at Hyak to get over the hill, where we were joined by Gordy, who had been planning on skiing solo.
At the base of Catherine, a group of four teleskiers was eyeing the uphill, and we graciously allowed them the privilege of starting first. It was slow going, with about 18" of heavy fresh from the past couple of days to wallow through, and crust lower down. Our group traded off trailbreaking chores, and we continued on through the trees, slowing to a crawl on a couple of steep sections mid-mountain and near the top.
Easy shears at about 12-14" were observed while skinning, especially in open areas, sliding on a colder layer from earlier in the week. We stuck mostly to the trees, and with regular lead changes put down a bomber skin track.
At the top, everyone brought out lunch, and we traded stories and introductions - the tele crew, it turned out, lived in North Bend, but most had moved from Utah within the past few years. Invariably, snow comparisons were brought up . . . a lot more snow here, but not always of the same quality . . . uh-huh.
Skiing was pretty damn good - in contrast to what I'd heard, there are some steep lines down from the top of Mt. Catherine, and Kevin found a good one from near the summit. Unfortunately, he went first and took all the new snow with him, so I made do with scratching down over rain crust. Still fun, though. We skied to the base of the top section, put the skins on again, and started hiking back up for another run.
Run two was even better skiing - we didn't go to the summit, as it didn't seem skiable in any direction. Mike went for a ride after rounding a knoll and initiating a 14" slab, but fortunately remained on top and in voice contact the entire time. He basically "surfed" the slide for about 40 or 50 yards and didn't even drop his poles. Lucky.
At the mid-mountain cliff section we traversed skier's left and found one steep chute that looked like it would go, but didn't ski it. The tele group was also going up again, and we wished them good turns. We did a nordic-style skate ski back up to the top of Hyak, and ended up at Kevin's house for ale, chips and crudité - not a bad day of playing in the yard!