With another high-pressure forecast and relatively stable snow conditions, Kelsey and I agreed to get back out for another backcountry objective, prioritizing views and trying to optimize for snow conditions on a north-facing aspect.
We left Seattle at 6am on Saturday morning and departed the car at the Ross Dam Trailhead right at 9am. We skinned the road and were able to skin a little ways up the Happy Creek trail before deciding it was too thin and that we needed to pack our skis. We paralleled the highway for a ways on the trail and realized we should have just stayed on the road much farther and connected with the trail where it was only 30 feet from the road before turning south. A set of boot tracks doing exactly that made it even more clear.
We booted through the forest to the South, following a trail for a ways and then going cross country until we reached about 3,200 feet where the snow was continuous enough to start skinning. We followed a skin track for a bit before running into a party of 2 headed up for Ruby and planning to overnight it. We chatted with them for a ways and slogged together through the stickiest snow I’ve ever experienced, making each ski feel like a 20-pound weight.
The other party eventually peeled off to set up camp while we continued up, finding better snow up high, but still needing to put a lot of energy into breaking trail. The snow was quite stable and we stuck mostly to ridges on the way up until we decided to take the path of least resistance through a low-angle gully. The final headwall to reach the summit ridge looked steep from below, but wasn’t too bad once we were on it. I got into a rhythm for the last 2,000 feet of vertical or so and just put my head down to break trail—it was a great workout!
As we neared the top, the views were awesome. Ross Lake appeared like a fjord below us and all of our favorite North Cascades peaks were visible. We reached the summit in 5.5 hours despite our errant trail choice at the beginning and trail breaking, which we were pretty happy with. It was breathless on top and we hung out for a bit to soak it in before gearing up for the descent.
The skiing was tough. It was pretty heavy and necessitated sitting way in the back seat to be able to turn. Lower down, we experienced the sticky snow again, which was mind-bogglingly sticking to my bases and making it nearly impossible to go down (guess I need to wax my skis, eh?). Trying to get away from the sticky snow, we traversed to the West, which got us onto snow we could slide on, but took us through tight trees and spit us out above a steep section we had to down-climb. Oh well.
Some more survival skiing got us to where we’d transitioned on the way up and an easy walk through the forest and on the road got us to the car at about 6pm, just over 9 hours after starting. Beautiful day!