Deer Mountain A - 13,761 feet
"K 49" - 13,535 feet
Deer Mountain A - 13,761 feet
"K 49" - 13,535 feet
|Racing the summer sun|
Overnight freezes are gold this time of year. It means you can get up at a normal, but yet still painful time of day, to ski your line of choice. Coming off of last weekends snow storm, we were in the green light for go time. So anonymous and I came up with a plan to ski K 49. In summer, this peak is full of scree to descend, but snow would make it much more pleasurable!
We were able to easily drive to the trailhead and get some sleep before an 0-400 start again. First section of trail is muddy, but then rapidly improves. Snow patches start within the mile, and anonymous dunked a foot into a mini stream when a bit of snow collapsed on him. We then transitioned to ski boots, before any more feet became victims to non frozen water. (what is that?!?)
I got momentarily excited when the trees thinned out and reached the open section of trail. But that's when we came across the first avalanche path of destruction. And the willows. Those pesky, nasty, willows. We bashed around a bit, until we clawed our way out of them and onto avy snow that looks to be 20' thick! That's NOT melting this summer! Then the hiking became much easier. We had to angle upslope to find roughly where the trail was, so that we could find it when the avy snow ended and we were back to dry-ash trail for a bit.
We decided to cross the stream for the standard route up Oklahoma, before descending into the drainage to find a snow bridge to get up into the basin below K 49's east face. We had a couple big stream crossings to do, and one involved balancing on a big log. Oh joy!
Dropping down into the drainage, we ran into another avalanche path, this one looks to be brand spanking new! Lots of old trees in the mix.
After crossing the snow bridges over the streams, we made our way up the lightly forested slope to K 49. Some nice ice features to admire along the way.
Beyond the trees, the way becomes obvious, and the snow is solid as a rock. Nice icy lake with the Massive behind.
Turning the corner, we get our first close up view of the face and potential ski lines. The left side has an opening in the ridge cornice, but it will be a bit of a steep exposed entrance. But that's where the smooth turns will be, so that's our plan A
Anonymous had been studying the map hard, and figured there would be an easy snow slope up to the right, that would make for the simplest access to the ridge to the summit. We donned crampons when it got steep enough to slip, and were rapidly on to the ridge.
A couple of rocky sections to negotiate with ski boots on, but overall an easy stroll to the summit.
After the summit photo shenanigans, it was time to ski! Right off the summit too.
At first, I didn't think too much of the entrance to the face. Steep, but we got it. Then I stood on top and was like, yeah much steeper from this angle! But as all skiers know, the longer you have to think about it, the worse it gets!
Once off the ridge and onto the face, the skiing was great on the upper section. Nice corn to be had!
The lower section was a lot sloppier, so we both just enjoyed the remainder of the turns into the basin below.
A nice ski in the basin below, passing by the lake and to our snow bridges across the stream. There I saw fresh evidence for a bear crossing. An hour, maybe less?
Exiting through the avalanche debris and the willows was much easier in the daylight. From there it was just a trail exit to our vehicles, another 13er successfully skied!
Deer Mountain A
Since anonymous had already skied Deer (and what he thought 13,300 A was), I was on my own for the next day of skiing. The freeze forecast improved over the day before, so I figured I had a good shot, if I got up there early enough. It would be the north face, so I would have extra leeway. In bed by 7pm, score! Still my early start got a bit eroded away, when I did 30 minutes of work at 3am. Darn cell service campsite! I wanted cell to check the weather before I set out. Silly me checking my email!
Started at the same spot for Brumley the week or so before. Avalanche debris from the start, before I found the trail and headed up till the first stream crossing 3/4 mile up. I figured it would be high, so I went from my hiking boots to my sandals for the crossing. It wasn't cold, until my feet were already out of the water for a couple feet. Then they started screaming at me!
I kept booting up in my hiking boots for a while longer, until the marshiness was getting a bit much, and the snow on the trail was getting a bit too punchy and soft. Caught the start of a sunrise before I got to the major snow field from a large avalanche along the valley.
The upper drainage, before my turn to the NE, became more and more snowy. Which was good, since there were still snow bridges over all the small annoying streams, that otherwise would have been problematic!
While the freeze was adequate, I still had to avoid all willows and anything near rocks! But as I made my way up to the high saddle, the snow got more solid, and I saw a nice little pool that had some thick ice on it.
From the high pass, I could see that the peak anonymous thought was 13,300A was skiable, but the real 13,300 A was very much NOT skiable. Bill Middlebrook, your 13,300A is in the WRONG spot! It's causing innocent ski mountaineers to think they've skied a peak, when really, they have just skied a snowy bump along the ridge! We don't need any more people thinking they've summitted peaks, when they really haven't!
From the saddle, I decided to keep my crampons on, and do a descending traverse to get around to Deer's north face. I didn't have to descend too far, to catch snow around the ridge. But as I was making my way around, I noted a significant amount of avalanche debris on the lower face. Some of it fresh!!! I was preparing myself to spin. I was not going to ski avalanche debris! NOT going to happen. But as I got closer, I noted that the far line to the east had a smooth patch. The summit zone above that also looked smooth. I think I have a chance! So I kept going with a super high traverse. I went as fast as I could across the face, to minimize my time in the shooting gallery from the cornices above, which were causing the fresh damage to the slope.
Once on the other side of the worst of the damage, I climbed up a rib, to get a view into what I hoped was a smooth line. It was smooth! on the skiers left side at least. The left side also held wind drifted snow from the weekend. It was facing east. Hmmm time to sprint to the summit!!! Go!
The snow was definitely softer where it was fresher, and I was sinking a bit. Was tough to keep up the pace, as I was punching through. What was an early summit time, was now going to cut it close! I got up to the ridge, and made my way carefully on the rocks to the short summit ridge. From the day on K49, I knew the cornices were big on this side, and I didn't want a surprise entrance onto the SE couloir line! I kinda want to ski that line even more now, but not that way!
It was a short dry hop over to the true summit, where I race through the routine. Summit register, panos and peak shots.
I made my way carefully back to the snow, and around the cornices to find a safe place to put my skis on. The pitch off the summit ridge is steep, but I manage a couple of good turns on good wind cooled corn. Phew. Steep 1 done.
From there it was a steep drop through the rocks and over to the top of my smooth line
The turns off the top of the line were nice and firm, as it was more NW facing. Just transitioned corn snow, with great bite for my edges. But as I got lower, I had to avoid the slid debris snow, so I skied onto the fresh snow from the weekend snow storm. There I got a bit more sloughing, but it was early enough, that it was still stable. A bit early and a bit late, that's how lines go sometimes!
I decided to drop the entire apron of snow, because it was such perfect corn (since it was still early to ski down here). Most may do a lame ski traverse, to save themselves a couple minutes and some elevation gain, but I wanted to take a break, eat some snacks, drink some water and admire my steepest turns of the season!
Turns just steep enough to get your attention and keep it, but not enough to get you too worried.
The snow was still firm enough on the way back up to the saddle, I had to put my crampons back on! Dang! Good snow. Too bad the other side of the pass had some sloptastic snow. I got within 6 feet of a rock, and my skis sank. My drop to the drainage below was carefully metered out between rocks and willows.
I collected my boots from the top of the meeting of the valleys, and continued to nordic ski down until about 1.6 miles from the trailhead. Then I booted in my ski boots to the stream crossing.
At the stream crossing, I put on my sandals and held onto all my gear for the crossing. Right at the deepest and shifted part of the crossing, you have to navigate over and through some branches, and right there the stream takes my left sandal. Gone. These sandals have been with me for years. I hiked Yosemite in them, when I only had ski boots or conference dress shoes. Oh goodbye faithful all terrain sandal! Guess I need better sandals with heel attachment!
I dry out on the other side, and put my hiking boots on for the final stretch along the trail to the makeshift trailhead, buried under avalanche debris.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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