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Chair Peak North Side, March 5, 2008

We'd worn ourselves out a bit lift skiing the day before, but we knew there was a good foot of untracked out in the BC and Kevin and I decided on another of our "mini" tours somewhere around Alpental. Unfortunately the traffic out of Seattle was abyssmal; it took me 45 minutes to get to I-90 from Lake Forest Park, where the eastbound lanes of I-90 were also at a standstill for no apparent reason. Yeah, just turn on the book (Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich - awesome listening) and chill . . .

By the time I got to Alpy, the sun was beating down on the nice powder from the day before, and pinwheels were rolling anywhere it was even moderately steep. We decided to do the economy approach by taking the chair up again, but chair 2 was closed because of a pulley wheel being replaced on tower 9, so we had a cup of tea and chatted with some friends for a while. Meantime, the south facing aspects were getting heavier in a hurry.

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When they finally got the chair running, we were pretty much first in line, and we hustled out the high traverse with the hordes, getting a few nice turns in "No Fog" before slapping on the skins and heading up Chair Peak Basin. Someone had beaten us to the punch (a group of 2 and 2 singles, one with dogs) so there was a nice track up and over the near col.

Everone else had either dropped into Snow Lake or headed down right away, so we traversed around the back side of Chair Peak looking for a longer fall line and/or less wind-affected snow. A pit right under the bergschrund revealed around 14 inches of thick, wind-affected fresh on top of the rain crust from last week, which sheared fairly easily at the crust once a column was isolated, but held firm under some hard ski cuts over a steep roll. Some other examinations near the first site showed the amount of fresh to vary substantially; in places the crust was right at the top, or barely covered. We decided to ski.

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The snow on the way down was thick wind-affected fresh with some icy surprises in spots and occasional buried avalanche debris. Good turns were possible as long as you maintained speed, so we did just that. With the back lighting from the afternoon sun peaking over the col behind us, some pretty cool pictures were had. Sandwiches on the frozen surface of Snow Lake, where we watched a solo skier making his way up Mt. Roosevelt, then across the lake and back over the divide to mingle with the mass of humanity coming out of the Alpental BC!

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