Chair Peak Circumnavigation, January 21, 2004
Bolstered by the almost certain knowledge that the snow conditions would be "crap," O'Brien, Kevin Curd and I jumped at the chance to do the classic Chair Peak circumnavigation tour on Wednesday, January 21. Although the fog and cold at Alpental lot # 3 did not give cause for optimism, we headed for Pineapple Pass anyway shortly after 10:00 AM. It seemed like an omen when the fog broke 10:30 and gave way to brilliant blue skies.
Following the skin up Pineapple Pass from the Source Lake Basin, which had numerous tracks and reasonable snow, our group descended to the West into the drainage immediately below the pass, and found the only way through to be an 800 ft. long couloir between rock cliffs. Skiing would be too kind a description for what followed on the 8 to 10 foot-wide strip of frozen avy debris, ice and corn, but we made it down safely. This somewhat sketchy route has the potential to be special with good snow.
Unfortunately the descent left us about 900 ft. below the level of Melakwa Lake (Martin Völken's "official" route), so we skinned up to and east of the lake, then enjoyed a quick few turns down to the shore. A long side-hill traverse took us up to the pass above Chair Peak Lake, where the descent was marred somewhat by crusty snow and flat light.
From Chair Peak Lake we followed the drainage out and skier's left for a few good turns on soft avy debris and corn, then rode the rain-etched landscape out to Snow Lake. A fifteen minute skate-ski session got us over the frozen lake, and a quick but tiring skin up in fog and freezing wind took us back to the south face of Chair Peak. The frozen rain crust down to Source Lake was nearly unskiable, but we felt a sense of elation at having completed the tour in a reasonable 6 hours and were pumped to revisit the scene on the next powder day.