Shallow Snows in the Subalpine
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
The last week of October 2018 brought some of the first fresh snows to the Northwest Cascade hillsides. Boot packing and breaking in my new Verts with my summer glacier board and a yoga bag, I experienced some dry powdery turns in the high country. I was glad to share the ride and hike with my good friend Stratton, who had been out last year due to a gnarly injury. Photographer Pete Alport also joined us with his usual peppery conversation and immaculate capture of our day.
The first snow didn't stay too long, November was warm and it was a month before it snowed again. Backcountry snowboarding was obsolete during this time, but mountain bikes sufficed the need for downhill adventure. When it did snow, the shallow coverage made for some beautiful lines to ride around the rocks and trees, although it wasn't quite enough to be in the alpine. It stayed cold but sunny and the snow was playful and powdery into December.
When it finally did snow next, intense winds slammed the alpine and weak layers in the snowpack formed from the buried hoar frost that formed in the cold dry days, and from
the rain crust, and windslabs. It became a good time to go over snow safety education. A weekend hut trip with new and old friends provided a good opportunity to mock a burial and reveal where we needed more efficiency in response. Check out my extreme friend Ari's super entertaining Vlog about our trip here: https://youtu.be/mNyk6ln56Mw I may or may not bust out into song.
Avalanches, natural and human caused, shedded far into their runout zones by the third week of December.
So it was a subalpine time, when the high country has been stripped by the wind and the low country far too low to coverage. Little love taps on rocks were common, expected and most of the time worth it. Picking lines was fun, weaving in and out of normally buried little trees and rocks. Cliffs were more exposed making for cool scenery and interesting landscapes. Terrain that was normally rounded out by depths of winter snow was more defined and steeper to ride.
Now the moon is full, winter solstice has arrived and my eyes are on the forecasted storms and all those fun lines up high.
A fresh line just before the solstice.