Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012 and revisit 1/22/2012

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Koda
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Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012 and revisit 1/22/2012

Post by Koda » January 16th, 2012, 11:22 am

With the long overdue return of winter my friend and I returned for a winter tour of my favorite stomping ground. Set out from the HRM Nordic lot we skinned out 667C and 645 towards Elk Meadows and broke trail the whole way in a foot of very dry fresh powder over the thin snowpack.

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Newton creek crossing is always a question, so here it is…

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The thin snowpack gave due caution to preserve ski edge and base, but coverage improved sufficiently about halfway up the ridge about 4800 elev giving confidence skiing would be worth it, there is just barely enough snow base. Once in the saddle, we set a bearing for the top of Elk Mountain. I was under the assumption there is a vista here, but none to be found maybe because of the blizzard, or maybe because we did not hike out to the tip of the finger protruding but we did make it to the top of the mountain proper on the edge of the burn. Here we explored the terrain a while on ski’s, I noticed a huge gendarme guarding over us that does not show up on the topo map. What other secrets to be had in this area, I look forward to learning more… with plenty of 35/40+ degree pitches, rock outcrops, burned forest this is calling my name.

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Onward along Bluegrass Ridge trail to its high point... the day was blistery cold and exposed to wind-chill biting through our best softshells. The weather so far had been 24° and off and on blizzard snowfall conditions, but once on the ridge proper gave way to brief patches of blue and sun affording a glimpse of Lookout Mtn and Gunsight Ridge calling us from across the valley far below us. Much to my surprise at the high point of the ridge are fresh ski tracks descending the E/SE aspect… their skin track stopped here proving an out and back mission with an impressive climb straight up the ridge.
We didn’t waste time in the blistering wind to peel and take a ‘shortcut’ to the elk meadows trail below for our return home.


Growing tired and sore from breaking trail all day, I turned my GPS back on to navigate quickly to the shelter waypoint. A poor reception gave me a reminder to never lose my map and compass skills as we missed the shelter completely overshot it, if we were relying on that shelter for rescue we failed. No worries, a long overdue lunch in a thicket of wind proof trees on the edge of the meadow renewed our energy and warmth from the bitter cold. Here we put our ‘emergency’ gear (Solo GSI cook pot, stove and canister, 1lb) to the test for a hot cup of ramen soup and hot tea. Head to head is my Brunton Raptor stove vs my friends new Snowpeak Gigapower stove in the bitter cold. Once enough water melted, the Brunton boiled in ~10 minutes with the Snowpeak taking twice as long, the obvious effect of a canister stove in winter conditions. My lunch consisted of hot tea, kippered snacks and a nutty bar

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Many many thanks for the courtesy of the snowshoers who broke trail parallel to the skin track, skiers and shoers alike had ventured as far as Newton creek. The skin out uneventful delivering us at the car well after dark. Another fun ski tour where I longed to throw down a shelter and stay the night for more skiing the next day… coming soon enough if LaNina delivers more of the long overdue goods.


*edit to add a thank you to the snowshoers. :)

**edit to add TR fro 1/22/2012
Last edited by Koda on January 22nd, 2012, 9:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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bobcat
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by bobcat » January 16th, 2012, 6:12 pm

Nice ski. I've been dreaming of swishing around the meadows. That Newton Creek crossing presents a new wrinkle every winter!

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Splintercat
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Splintercat » January 16th, 2012, 6:36 pm

Nice, Koda!
...their skin track stopped here proving an out and back mission with an impressive climb straight up the ridge.
I had a pair of skiers drop down from above me while snowshoeing my puny loop from the Pocket Creek TH a couple years ago -- and they had skinned up to the crest of Gunsight Butte. They mentioned doing the same with Elk Mountain/Bluegrass Ridge from Pocket Creek, and sure enough, I've subsequently seen ski tracks descending across the open slopes SE of the Elk Mountain viewpoint. That's intense!

Tom :shock:

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Koda
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Koda » January 16th, 2012, 7:31 pm

both ridges are a hellava climb Tom, I've skied the Gunsight side many times from Pocket Creek snow park, its a favorable aspect for ski conditions but my least favorite climb. I've thought about the same TH for the Bluegrass side, but I'm in favor of the switchback side of the "steep track or switchback" debate for saving energy/time. It seems we get to Newton Creek in no time at all. But then if... when I go for just the SW face of Elk I'll probably access that from the Pocket Creek snow park. The SW aspect of Elk mtn is on my ski list, but there is so much to explore.... Elk Meadows is beautiful in winter.
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Koda
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Koda » January 16th, 2012, 7:33 pm

bobcat wrote:Nice ski. I've been dreaming of swishing around the meadows. That Newton Creek crossing presents a new wrinkle every winter!
I've never had a problem, that crossing has always been there. Couple years ago I think it washed away, but someone rebuilt it. Elk Meadows is a popular enough winter destination. My only concern is at some point it will wash away, and I'll be the guy who first finds it... then how will I cross? :cry:
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Koda
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Koda » January 16th, 2012, 7:51 pm

couple more views from Bluegrass, the only views the weather allowed us.
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geographics
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by geographics » January 16th, 2012, 8:08 pm

=
Last edited by geographics on April 6th, 2012, 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Guy
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Guy » January 16th, 2012, 8:25 pm

Very Cool TR Koda, Hiked Blue Grass Ridge back in September. Great to see what it looks like with snow!

Oh & yes the open view on Elk Mountain is past the junction with the Blue Grass Ridge trail where the old fire lookout used to be, it looks directly down on HWY35
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Roy
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Roy » January 18th, 2012, 7:11 pm

Koda wrote:couple more views from Bluegrass, the only views the weather allowed us.
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Koda great stuff its cool to to see your skills improving over the last couple years of trs you've posted. one of those things you to have to keep busy at to improve and it gets physically easier as you progress.soon you will be pointing those sleds off the summit headed for the spur ;)

your safety attitude is a good thing to keep you with us. keep them coming i sure enjoy reading them.


Tom
The downhill of the mind is harder than the uphill of the body. - Yuichiro Miura

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Koda
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Re: Elk Mountain Bluegrass Ridge 1/15/2012

Post by Koda » January 18th, 2012, 7:44 pm

Roy wrote:
Koda great stuff its cool to to see your skills improving over the last couple years of trs you've posted. one of those things you to have to keep busy at to improve and it gets physically easier as you progress.soon you will be pointing those sleds off the summit headed for the spur ;)

your safety attitude is a good thing to keep you with us. keep them coming i sure enjoy reading them.


Tom
Thanks Tom, that's quite a compliment. I've skied the summits of 5 Cascade peaks more than once including Hood , but have never the spur route.... although I've eyed a few times. I need more solid technical ski mountaineering skills. I've been exposed to all of that, but never the lead and don't do it enough except to have a huge respect for safety. I keep telling myself I did it only because the mountain allowed. And that includes trips below timberline like this one. Thank you again for the compliment. 8-)
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