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Red Mountain, March 28, 2007

Kevin called eager to tour Tuesday night, saying there had been a couple of inches of new snow at the pass, and there was the potential for some clear skies on Wednesday. We decided to stay close to his house at Hyak, as his parents were coming up for the day. Frank met us at Sahale and we decided to head to Red Mountain, as neither of them had done the trip this season.

There was the barest dusting of new snow covering the grit up the rope tow, but it was better than nothing. At least the skinning was fast and smooth, and we made excellent time up Commonwealth Basin to the base of Red. As we gained elevation, there was a deeper layer of fresh snow ranging from two to eight inches on the ground, and wind had turned the upper layer into a slabby mass.

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Kevin dug a pit at around 5,000 ft. which revealed the top layer over a two-inch frozen crust, all on top of a layer of sloppy corn mush. We were concerned about the whole upper portion sliding on the mush, and stuck to the ridge of Red Mountain where we could tell the snowpack was thinner and there was less overall volume to slide than down the gut of the face.

The hard-frozen corn layer just under the new snow was a bit of a problem in terms of traction, and we all took a break to put on ski crampons. As we neared the summit, the skinning got easier with little more snow on top of the frozen layer, and we were more confident in the lower mush layer being solid, so we ventured back out onto the center of the run and made good time to the top.

We reached the top and were a little disappointed in the fact that we were sitting at the bottom of a cloud layer - we could see some signs of the sun overhead, but the top of Red Mt. and the run we were about to ski were swirling in fog. Oh well, still better than rain, right? Frank had gotten frustrated with the skinning and reverted to boot packing, which wasn't all that much fun either, so was waiting on the ridge a few hundred feet down to take some pictures. We called him on his cell phone to let him know we were going to ski, but he wouldn't pick up because Kevin's number was somehow ID'd as "Unknown Caller" - Hah!

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Kevin and I pushed off from the top and immediately found the snow to be on the "difficult" side - thick crust over frozen corn, alternating with a slabby fresh layer that wanted to chase us down the hill. We made the best of it, and got some good turns in before hitting the forest for a long and sticky ski out. About 1,000 ft. down from the summit, I pulled up to a stop and sent a good-sized slab about 8" deep bouncing down the slope, then realized there were three climbers on foot further down the mountain. I yelled "SLIDE" and the last person in line took shelter behind some small trees - fortunately they were OK. Sorry, guys.

Post-ski festivities consisted of heading over to the new and very cool Red Mountain Coffee Company, where we met Kevin's parents and Francine over some large caffeinated beverages.

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