Old Snowy, Elevation, 7930 feet
May 11, 2002
Jason, Josh, Ben, Troy
Author: Jason Hummel
We had 2 days of gorgeous weather to contend with. Friday night, we were all torn on how we should spend it. A few days on Rainier would be nice, but we weren’t interested in the crowds and several thousand feet unconsolidated snow. Kayaking would also be nice, but we’ve been waiting for this time of year all year long. Big lines, heart throbbing steeps, and the incandescent glow from our camp on a sharp knife ridge or glacier valley just before sunset or rise. The call of the mountains was strong and we heeded its summons. This bears the question, why did we choose the Goat Rocks? The answer is simple: classic spring butter corn on jutting glacier-strewn peaks, the crest between east and west, where fair weather abodes, and the only people are you and goats. Ha. This place is the home of the true Cascade Classic, and this weekend turned out to be one of our best trips ever. We bagged 3 peaks and the memories, unforgettable.
The drive is often the low point, depending on the trip of course. Ben came down from Bellingham so he left at 3:00am. Josh and I left our place at 5:00am and we all met up at Troy’s at 5:30am. Troy’s truck is the best ride so we piled the gear in the back, migrated south then east. We were stoked! The music blasted while we ate up some highway.
Two hours later, we turned onto the North Tieton Road and drove up several miles before stopping to look at the North Face of Tieton where any assumption that this was going to be an easy weekend in the Goat Rocks was quickly abandoned. The face was steep. How steep was left to fate and the probe (the first one to ski down) to discover. Ben and Josh took some photos while Troy and I took turns with the binoculars. Troy wasn’t sure he wanted to have any part of the North Face. He figured if he couldn’t ski the North Face, he would ski a chute further east. The chute still demanded attention. The face, well, we figured we would see how we felt when we stood on top. At the bottom, we were like, "Ha, no problem my grandma could ski that!" As soon as your standing on top, fear grabbing your gut you’d be wishing you had your dear old grandma to buck up and take the lead.
Jason scoping the North Face of Tieton.
Today our plan was to get to camp and ski Old Snowy. We were saving the North Face of Tieton for Sunday, which Ben discovered a few years before when Charlie and him went to the summit and looked over. They didn’t ski the face that time, but opted for an easier route to the east. Last year there wasn’t enough snow, but this year the face was ripe for the picking.
The North Face of Tieton.
Not soon after that, the Diesel was at the parking lot, not having to skirt much or any snow. By then, it was around 9:30am. We expected there to be a few cars with ski racks but, as usual, we had the place to ourselves. Peering around the corner of the trail, we saw some white stuff. As a result, we left the tennis shoes behind, and donned the T-1’s and Races. The next 2 miles of patchy dry trail managed to warm the legs up and after 5 miles of snow, we reached camp.
Troy enters McCall Basin.
Jason drops in for some water.
McCall Basin is a sweet place to hang out. To the left, steep lines abound. Best of all, there is a creek that can quench all your thirst’s desire. After filling up a few times and staring up the valley, we threw some water in our packs, sunscreen on our skin, and decided to climb Old Snowy and whatever else looked interesting. Soon we were on our way. Ben and I broke off from Troy and Josh. Since we were tired of going up the same easy way to the top of Old Snowy, we decided to take the scenic route. Just as McCall Basin flattens out on a bench after the first 100-foot hill, we went right. From there, we skinned to a shoulder to the north and rounded a bulge in the ridge back to the west until we managed to top it. From there, Ben and I climbed until we reached the top of Peak 7210. Josh and Troy took another 10 minutes.
Jason skinning the ridge north of McCall Basin.
Ben on the ridge scoping Old Snowy.
The view at the summit was sweet. Johnson Peak captured most of our attention with its steep congested chutes. We still wanted to reach the top of Old Snowy so, after 15 minutes, we left.
Josh and Troy on the summit of Peak 7210.
The Northeast Face of Johnson Peak.
I thought I could ski from the summit so I scraped down and managed not to hurt my new skis too much. The Norticas have been fine skis so far. They edge like a dream, and I am very glad. The others soon followed after putting their skis on down lower. Once down on the ridge again, we set up for some pictures. Ben took one of Josh jumping a cornice and I took one of him skiing below the cornice. Josh thought the snow was really unstable and was convinced it would slide so we all left one at a time, with Ben in the rear. I remember looking back and seeing the whole slope go. He stayed in control. Still, not a pleasant experience.
Josh jumping a cornice.
Ben carving some steeps.
There was less than an hour of climbing ahead if we hurried. Ben wanted to skin, and I wanted to hike. We raced to see which was faster. I lost. Turns out, I went behind the west side of the ridge skirting around a high spot and only ended up on steep snow and rock, which slowed me down. Anyway, that is my story and I am sticking to it. Five minutes behind Ben, I reached the summit of Old Snowy. The wind was blowing and the sun was sinking. The snow was freezing up fast, but a rest was in store. Five minutes later came Troy followed by Josh. I took a summit photo of Ben and he of me. We weren't able to find the register but we assumed that we were the first to summit in 2002. There was enough snow to ski from the top; we did just that.
Jason, Troy and Josh from the summit of Old Snowy.
Jason on the summit looking south towards Gilbert.
Corn snow littered the slope between shadow and sun, and like dogs, tongues out, we rummaged across the slopes searching for the ripest trash. There was plenty to be had. Occasionally, we set-up for photos, really in no hurry to get back to camp, only wanting to enjoy what remained of the day and ski. That night would allow plenty of time to rest and nest.
Ben skied down the center of the bowl while Troy, Josh, and I stayed further up on the rim. Good stuff was had by all.
Jason dropping in off the summit.
Josh stealing fresh tracks.
Once back at camp, we fueled for the following day. Looking through a gap to the southeast, we could see Tieton and figured it would take us 4, maybe 5 hours to summit. Little did we know the challenges between here and there. So far, all had gone as planned. In fact, better than planned. Even with a late start, we managed to summit two peaks and get back to camp before dark. At that point, we were mostly restless looking at the face, guessing how steep and what snow conditions we might encounter.
As I went to sleep, I convinced myself that the ski would be a cakewalk. That night, I slept like a baby.