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Mountain Madness Climber

Birthday Ski Tour At Washington Pass

Part of the crew at the start.

With a good weath­er fore­cast and tons of snow left, MM Pres­i­dent, Mark Gun­log­son, his wife Hei­di, rel­a­tives from Maine, and some new friends got moti­vat­ed to do this excel­lent tour. Great snow com­bined with some white-out con­di­tions made for an awe­some adven­ture! While not a reg­u­lar offer­ing at MM, this tour is great and will be offered next year along with oth­er great ski options in our program.

Is that the Cop­per Riv­er drainage? Check. Which way is north? Con­sult com­pass. What’s intu­itive — should we go fur­ther, wait, or go back and go up? Hmm, well the easy route find­ing of the Birth­day Ski Tour at Wash­ing­ton Pass became not so easy as we dropped down over 2,000 feet on what is referred to as Madi­son Ave. Per­fect, broad slopes pro­vid­ed some mashed pota­to-like snow con­di­tions as we dropped into the pea soup cloud lay­er that we thought was going to burn off by the time we start­ed head­ing back up. Instead the cloud bank got thicker.

Head­ing up to the Blue Peak col. 

Admit­ted­ly my intu­itive skills let me down a bit as we head­ed out into a white-out try­ing to find the Slot Couloir to drop into the oth­er side where we would find blue skies. I had proud­ly told my cousin Ter­ri’s hus­band Steve that in all my years I had only used a com­pass once to nav­i­gate out of a sit­u­a­tion, which, by the way, led me straight back in a cir­cle to where we began, semi-lost in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge.

The col, minus the usu­al mas­sive cornice. 

Great turns into Madi­son Avenue and the fog-bank. 

For­tu­nate­ly, as a mat­ter of course, the ever-pre­pared Steve whipped out his map and com­pass and we deter­mined that at the very least we could get out of there some­how with a bit of intu­ition and some map skills. Strange, though, how quick­ly one can be dis­ori­ent­ed- and we were a group of eight with some incred­i­bly expe­ri­enced back­coun­try travelers. 

Get­ting ready to drop into the Slot.

The first sweet turns, which are steep­er than it looks.

The clouds did peel back and allow us the time to see the small pass we were sup­posed to go on this great tour. From its top we dropped into the Slot and relieved the stress of being tem­porar­i­ly lost in a white out — noth­ing but some steep turns and great snow to be had as we descend­ed into the drainage lead­ing back to the cars. Great views of the Lib­er­ty Bell peaks and a hap­py end­ing led us back to the cars and the tra­di­tion­al beers at the end of a chal­leng­ing day in the mountains.

This is a great trip, and in our case, made even bet­ter with some uncer­tain­ty and an incred­i­ble last run back to the car. 

~ MM Own­er Mark Gunlogson 

The end in sight with some great turns and excel­lent snow on this aspect. 

Last turns before the car and cold beers!