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Kendall Peak, December 29, 2007

Everyone in the Northwest had been itching to get into the backcountry after a couple weeks of lift skiing in high avalanche danger conditions, and a big group turned up in the Summit West parking lot on Saturday the 29th. My usual partners Kevin, Frank and Mike were joined by Seth and Holly, back in Seattle after a year in La Grave, and their friends Eric and Carrie. We took our lives in our hands crossing the road in ski boots in front of terrified recreational snow drivers to get over to the Pacific Crest Trailhead and mounted up.

A nice weather window coincided with our skin up, and some Utah-transplants named Thomas, Peter and ? were nice enough to break trail in the 18" of heavy fresh, making the first 2/3 of our climb quick and easy. We stuck to the trees on the way up until gaining the ridge, then followed that to about the 5,500 ft. level, when we broke out into the avalanche path coming down from Kendall Peak.

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Everyone was a bit nervous about the snowpack, since about 4 to 5 feet of new snow had fallen on top of the raincrust and surface hoar from the first week of December, with none of our usual warming or wet cycles to consolidate the layers. We dug a pit at about the 5,500 ft. level on a SW aspect, found the raincrust as suspected, and a dense layer about 2 1/2 feet down. The faceting at the crust seemed to have diminished, and a shovel tap test failed to move the column at all. Levering with a shovel succeeded in causing a low grade shear at the crust, but took considerable force.

You may well have guessed what happened next, but the pictures tell the story pretty well. Powder season has returned to the Northwest, and we're happy it has. Happy New year to all, and to all a Good Night!

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