MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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June 14, 2012

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!