Most of the time on the east side I find myself constantly moving, either pushing desperately for a summit or descending eagerly back to safety, but in that moment I found peace and happiness and the ability to bask unconcerned.
As I exited the couloir, I made a hard right to try to get as close to the PCT as possible, but the combination of large suncups and embedded rocks made for difficult skiing. Linking turns was difficult because I never knew when the next suncup might be five feet deep or have a rock in the bottom of it!
We had a short discussion of the hazards, mostly worried about potential wet loose slides and rockfall and I started down the slope first. The snow wasn’t ideal, but it was delightfully slushy and fun! We traded leads down the slope setting off several wet sluffs. We frequently found the sluffs to be better skiing than the adjacent consolidated slush!
After five seconds I heard him shout “SLIDE!” I quickly descended to where he’d begun his ski cut hoping to get eyes on him and immediately found him skiing on the far right side of the ramp as a wet slab made slow progress down the center of the ramp.
The snow was soft and fun skiing. I arrived at the narrow section which I’d identified on the climb and had altogether too much fun making jump turns down the tight chute, both tips and tails landing on rocks with every turn.
Kevin eyed the gully for a second before deciding he didn’t want any of it and he too turned around to take a mellower route. I decided to take my chances but soon found my tails sliding out from under me and next thing I knew I was sliding downhill head first. Casey rounded the corner just in time to see me carom past a large pine at the outlet of the gully.
We were all transfixed by a pillar near the top of the ridge. Kristine seems to have a deep seated desire to climb all things thumb shaped and this appeared to fit the bill. Chris and I were also intrigued by the pillar and we unanimously agreed to head there and climb it if possible.
I don’t even recall meeting a significant stream crossing when I’d taken the trail in October. Now, it seemed like at least two feet of water buried a fifteen foot stretch of trail.
I noticed that they had crampons and axes and realized that they were indeed more prepared than I for such conditions — apparently they’ve been doing laps on the trail every day to try to help it melt out! What heroes!
We clipped into our skis and I started down the steep snow field to see what the route entailed. After descending fifty feet I reached the rocks and was dismayed to see nothing but air on the other side. This was a dead end and a bad one.