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Mt. Catherine, February 3, 2008

Mt. Catherine? Are you serious? Well, with five or more feet of new snow and the DOT bombing the Phantom over at Alpental, we decided to be safe rather than sorry. Seth and I pulled up at Kevin's on Superbowl Sunday and parked in the driveway with Kevin's sister. We had a cup of coffee while gathering up the energy to hit the cross country trail, pulled on the boots and transceivers, and walked over to the Nordic Center.

The going up the nordic trail was quick and easy; a well-intentioned patroller reminded us that the Catherine Loop was closed and speculated that the helicopter bomb squad trying to get the Phantom to slide would be over at Hyak later in the day to "bomb those cornices over the nordic trail . . ." Ummm . . . OK.

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We skied down the back side of Hyak with skins on, and discovered to our delight that someone had beaten us to the trail-breaking - two skiers and a snowshoer, apparently. They left a beautiful track in the fairly dense snow, efficient and with a pretty much perfect angle. Thanks, guys.

Timing our ascent perfectly, we caught the other three about 200 vertical feet from the summit of Mt. Catherine, and followed them up. After a brief conversation, we gathered that they weren't in that much of a hurry and didn't mind too much if we poached first tracks - there was, after all, pow enough for all.

A pit revealed about 2 1/2 to 3 feet of high density fresh with few distinct layers. A column broke under pressure but without any clear or clean shears, and ski cuts failed to move any of the top layers. We worked the familiar top section taking the usual lines, but found a new way through the cliffs at mid-mountain that made for some fun skiing, and went on to take two more runs (hey, the skin track was already in!), each time moving to a different part of the hill and getting excellent fresh tracks each time. The last run, which was farthest to the east, was the best, and ended up quite close to the nordic trail.

A lung-busting skate up the XC trail to the junction and a quick ski down the groomed back to Kevin's finished off the day. We learned that I-90 was closed for avalanche control work again, and settled in with beer and sandwiches to watch the first half of the Superbowl . . .

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