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Chair Peak North Face, April 6, 2005

Encouraged by a Monday report of face shots on Snoqualmie Mountain, I e-mailed Kevin about a quick day tour somewhere in the Alpental Valley on Wednesday, April 6th. We pulled into the Alpental lot around 9:45, hoping that someone had beat us to the punch and laid down some skin tracks in the mank above Source Lake. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few lifties and patrollers getting Armstrong Express ready for Thursday's re-re-opening, nobody was home . . .and especially nobody ski touring.

Sky's blower pow on the Phantom seemed to have vaporized as well, and after looking at the very bony lower 1,000 ft. of Snoqualmie Mountain we skinned up and headed out Source Lake Trail, which seemed to have pretty good coverage.

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Skinning in Chair Peak Basin was slow and laborious, with the hazy sun and spring-like temperatures making the deep and heavy snow even deeper and heavier, but Kevin smoked the ascent even while insisting that he had to "conserve energy" for an adventure bike/run race he had agreed to do in the evening.

The snow seemed to have consolidated well, with the rain and warm weather giving the fresh layers good adhesion to the multiple crusts below. We were more concerned with the natural pinwheel releases, which in these conditions turned into snowballs the size and girth of a gangsta rapper's Escalade tires. As we neared the ridge, our attention turned to the torrents of snow and other material cascading down the rock cliffs above us - absolutely, we wanted to stay a safe distance away from the cliffs.

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Approaching the normal saddle over the north-facing run off Chair Peak, it became apparent that the lack of snow depth made the steep boot-up section rather unpalatable; instead we chose to ascend the short chute to the SW, which we were able to skin up in its entirety. The ridge was another story, as the normally smooth contours were exaggerated by the low snowpack - we ended up booting for an agonizingly slow but mercifully short pitch to gain the saddle.

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The ski down to Snow Lake was pretty sweet, considering the steadily increasing temperatures and the depth of the new snow - our main concern was not being overtaken by the huge snowballs at our heels, and not being hit by debris falling from the cliffs lower down. Skinning (yes, too slow and sticky to skate) across Snow Lake was also quite deliberate, and Kevin made good on his decision to conserve energy on the water crossing and subsequent skin up to the crest of the Snow Lake Trail by having me go first. Some good turns were actually made on the south slope of Chair Peak as well.

"Skiing" out along the Source Lake Trail, nominally a descent, was a complete chore, and probably more tiring than skinning up Chair Peak proper. All the new snow had built up huge 4-5 ft. pillows on the way out, but hadn't filled in the creeks. Each creek crossing involved ramming into the bank on the far side, submerging one or both tips, extricating our skis, and side-stepping up the opposite bank. We emerged fully sweat-soaked at Alpental Lot # 3 around 2:00 PM, not having seen another person all day, for a grand total of 3,018 feet of vertical . . .

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