Dawn Patrol 2, Alpental, April 13, 2005
When Kam Leang tapped me on the back at Glacier Travel class on the evening of April 12th and suggested that I might never pass the course if I didn't get up the next morning at 5:00 AM and meet him and Chris Cass at Alpental for a dawn wake-up ski, I decided to alter my normal late-to-bed/ late-to-rise sleep pattern and join them.
The dawn-patrol-to-be wasn't quite at the crack of dawn, as someone had pushed the sunrise back an hour at the recent daylight savings time interval, but I did have the pleasure of watching the first rays of light creep over the Cascades on the drive up. I called Kam on his cell as I entered the burg of North Bend and confirmed that he, Cass and Jessica Levine were already in the parking lot at Alpental and headed up. About 20 minutes later I pulled in, slapped the skins on, and beat it up the hill - I could hear them yelling from the top of Sessel for me to hurry up!
The skinning went quickly in the 3" or so of loose graupel over crusty ice, and the depressing overcast and drizzle I had driven through on the way up was giving way to gorgeous bluebird skies - I caught the trio about 2/3 of the way up the Armstrong Express, and we continued up to the base of Chair 2, everyone remarking on our good fortune weather-wise.
As we entered the Edelweiss Valley, the depth of the new snow increased dramatically to 10" or more in places, and Kam and I decided to take a quick break for a photo op under the cliffs to looker's left. About this time, two other skiers we had seen pull into the lot caught us - they turned out to be Scott and Adam of Pro Guiding/Pro Ski, who exchanged pleasantries with us and asked Kam some pointed questions about his ski production facilities.
I broke trail up to the narrow part of the final steep face on Edelweiss, then turned the reins over to Scott ("Hey, you're the guide!") who pounded the final 500 feet of vertical with Adam and I on his heels. Reaching the top, we discovered glorious views in all directions, with clear shots of Rainier and the North Cascades, truly THE way to start the day before heading down to work!
Speaking of pleasant surprises, dropping into International proved to be the nicest of all. 10" - 14" of cold, dry, unconsolidated fresh had dropped there for our sliding pleasure over the past couple of days, totally cushioning the icy bumps from the weekend, and making for the photo extravaganza you see on this page.
Rounding the corner onto Lower International, the snow took on a completely different character - the sun was working quickly to turn the fresh stuff into typical PNW oatmeal, but again we hit it at just the right time. We slashed through the mank in beautiful sunlight and found even the avalanche debris to be accommodating - just soft enough to blast through with enough speed. Any later in the day, and the skiing would have become a workout. As we hit the bottom, Kam and Chris worked on excuses for late work arrivals, and we all gave thanks for some of the finest turns of the year.