A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Al Merrill Loop

March 14, 2009
Emilie Phillips

This was the second trip I led for the AMC. I had lots of fun. I’m not entirely sure what everyone else thought.

As has been the pattern for a few weeks now, on Monday we got a big dump of snow, and then later in the week it rained. To add extra excitement, this time the weather then got quite cold and the snow turned bullet proof.

There was some discussion about whether to move the trip, but I ended up deciding to stick with the planned location based on a perhaps erronious forecast for sunny and a high of 40F in the valley.

Bill’s assessment of the snow

Come Saturday morning, we showed up and inspected the snow. It was solid, it was slick. Ice skates almost looked like the right tool. We had a mixture of scales and waxables, and after a bit of hemming and hawing we chickened out and all put skins on so we would all go the same rate even though the first bit wasn’t terribly steep. We also decided to not do a loop that involved going up a steeper hiking trail, but instead just go out and back on the ski trail so we could bail as necessary.

The first bit of the ski trail looked like it was going to be a terror. It had tons of crevacious water crossings. I don’t know how many of you have had to deal with water crossings when skiing, but the contrast between the white snow on the two sides is very small. They can be hard to spot and especially hard to judge how deep they are until you are almost on top of them. What with the slick surface, trying to stop when you are that close was going to be impossible.

The sections after the next few switchbacks didn’t have water crossings, but instead they got brushier and the trail maintenance got worse. We ended up cleaning off a few trees that threatened to trip us up on the way down.

Finally we got to the top. This was about lunch time, and we could tell that the sun had started to soften things up a tiny bit. The views from the overlook towards Mt Moosilake were brilliant. We sat around and had a nice lunch before figuring out how to get back down.

I think almost everyone had goggles, and a number had helmets, so that was good. I decided early on that I would be happier taking my skins off and having better control. Two of the guys decided to leave theirs on so they would go slower. Tony, Tyson, and Bill joined me in taking skins off. The guys on skins I think did fine going down. Tyson and I did ok. But Tony and Bill looked like they were fearing for their lives (or in Tony’s case something about stopping with a tree between his legs). Essentially what it came down to was that Tyson and I were the only ones with well matches skis and boots. I had leather boots and cross country skis. Tyson had plastic boots and shaped skis. The others has shaped skis, but still leather boots. So they couldn’t get enough leverage on the ski to get and edge in. Which on that icy stuff ment they had no control.

I won’t say that I had good style. I snow plowed almost all the way down. Trying to do anything more graceful always resulted in an edge getting caught on a broken bit of ice crust.

By the time we got back to the first switchback, the snow was definitely softening, so we did ok with the water crossings. And then once we go onto the unplowed road, there was tons of sun and it felt near 40F. All that had softened the snow into nice corn snow.

I had fun. It was a new trail, a gorgeous day, and fun people to hang out with.

All Photos