Red Mountain, May 3, 2006
I was thinking SR 20, the North Cascades Highway, for the first ski of May, but the prospect of 6 hours of driving by myself for a day of skiing got the better of me and when Kevin's adventure race plans fell through, he suggested a quick trip to Red Mountain. The image of a wall of mush baking in its southern exposure to the full sun didn't sound especially safe, so we decided to go early and get it done before it warmed up.
We met at the dormant Sahale rope tow and set off around 8:30 walking with skis on packs, as the still frozen corn was far from smooth. Switched to skins after gaining the forest proper, and made quick work of the flat riverbed approach. Trying to avoid the main chute coming down from Red, which was full of avy debris, we stayed in the bowl looker's left and skinned up. As it turned out, we were a little too early - the snow had set up more than we had anticipated over the night, and both of us donned ski crampons about half way up the bowl.
We left the ski crampons in place for the main south face of Red Mt., but the hard snow combined with an uneven surface made the grip uncertain - you had to be careful to place the crampon directly over high points in the snow surface or be ready to take a ride. About 1,200 ft. below the summit we gave up on the skinning and began booting, which was still a bit sketchy (especially in the flexible-soled Scarpa F1) as we could only kick about an inch or two into the snow surface. Crampons and Whippets would have been just the thing, but they were still in my basement at home!
After a few hundred feet of this, we happened on a climber's track from a few days before, which offered a more secure purchase. Unfortunately, the guy was either of NBA stature or just didn't know how to walk, as each step (especially on the right) was a huge stretch for us . . .
We topped out at around 11:00 AM, took a few pictures and snacked a bit. I was all set to enjoy my lunch and wait for the snow to soften, but I had left my sandwich in the car, so we decided to just ski the thing.
Skiing off the top was firm but manageable, good turns were had and it is a long, sustained pitch. Probably would have been perfect in an hour or two, but we did have the pleasure of hitting the slow ski through the forest with only a thin coating of mush on it and skied without much effort right back to the cars.
Back at the road at noon, still time to make pasta sauce and take a bike ride later in the day!