Kaleetan Peak, February 8, 2006
Report by Greg Louie, photos by Kevin Curd and Greg Louie
I was really hoping the rain from Tuesday night hadn't been that hard or gone that high. Kevin and I decided to tour somewhere regardless, so I met him in the Alpental lot around 10:00 (about an hour late, as it had taken me 50 minutes to get from my house to the U District due to some traffic problem or other).
As we neared the top of Alpental, however, it was obvious that that was not the case - there was a bulletproof raincrust pretty much everywhere, but the weather looked promising with sucker holes poking through in several places, and we found a nice skin track heading up under Bryant Peak to make the work easier. The tracks ended at the top of the Great Wall of China Chute, and several sets of nice tracks headed down the chute, which looked to be in good shape with all the recent snowfall.
Kevin and I hopped over the ridge and spent a bit of time looking for a clear shot down to Melakwa Lake, which wasn't entirely successful - we ended up getting cliffed out a couple of times and backtracking to find a clean run down, but were able to traverse over to Melakwa through the heavy crust and made the lake without putting skins back on.
The skin up Kaleetan was a bit of a chore, as the smooth raincrust didn't provide much grip. Ski crampons? On the shelf of my equipment room, gathering dust, DOH!
The final pitch to the top was super firm and a slip could have been a problem, so we booted up to the summit and took in the scenery - the weather had improved dramatically, and we were able to get a good look at some scary looking lines off of Bryant.
The skiing could be summed up in two words - heinous raincrust (or is that three words)? Some reasonable turns were had off the top for a few hundred vertical feet, but it turned to really firm icy stuff as we turned into the bowl leading down to Melakwa Pass. We could barely hold an edge on the stuff even to sideslip; as we progressed into the bowl proper I lost my grip, accelerated as I went down on my hip, and launched over a ten-foot rock band totally unintentionally. Fortunately I was able to keep my skis pointed downhill, and as I landed under the rocks I hit hard enough to dent the crust and come to a stop. Good thing, as another two hundred feet below the slope cliffed out. Kevin was impressed with the serious nature of this move, and decided to downclimb a bit in his boots at this point.
Skiing from Melakwa Pass was, in both of our opinions, incredibly bad. Breakable inch-thick crust that was so dense it tried to push you uphill ski over the downhill one . . . you get the picture. We did survival turns through the gap under Chair Peak Lake, then more survival hop traverses down to Snow Lake.
Crust on Snow Lake made it impossible to skate across, so we put on skins for the water crossing, taking probably twice the usual length of time. Luckily there was a nice skin track from a day or so before going out, which we gratefully trudged up.
Skiing down under Chair Peak to return to Alpental was, if anything, worse than the rest of the skiing had been. We stuck with survival-stance traverses linked with hop turns and kick turns, and even that didn't always work. We couldn't help but grin at each other as we hit the Source Lake trail back to the cars, and agree that it was probably the worst skiing we'd ever had . . .