Backcountry slabs

Posted by on March 17th, 2020  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I took a step out from the safety of the trees into the huge steep avalanche slope, and watched as my ski triggered a 7 inch slab the size of a large car.  It slowly slid downhill about two feet, moving in a solid, connected mass.

Lisa, 50 feet behind me in the last safe trees, saw it too.

“I’m really uncomfortable here! This doesn’t feel safe at all! It was supposed to be moderate avy conditions today.”

The slab had stopped moving, so I slid my ski forward a few inches. My ski triggered more slab and I lurched downhill, my edge skittering down the ice layer under the slab.

“This sucks, we need to go a different way!”

“What do you recommend? It’s the same everywhere.”

“We could turn back and follow those people with the dogs.”

She was referring to the couple with two big labrador retrievers. An hour before we had stopped after coming out the trees and the relative safety of the skin track leading up out of Bullion Basin. We were looking at an exposed avy slope. It was at least 800 feet long, with thick trees at the bottom. The skin track we were following led out across it, but no one had skied it in a few days and it was blown over, barely there.

We didn’t like the looks of it as it was obviously dangerous. A couple had been following us from the basin with the frozen lake. We stepped off the trail as they came up even with us.

“We didn’t realize you guys had been breaking trail. We’d be happy to take over the lead and give you a break.”

“Sure, have at it!”

As he skinned past me I realized they were old for backcountry skiers, probably in their fifties.

“If my lard a$s doesn’t trigger this slope nothing will,” he said.

“Those are some strong dogs!” I commented, looking at the muscles on the large brown lab.

“He just had ACL surgery,” his partner said. She was a strong, sun bronzed skier, clearly this wasn’t her first rodeo.

“Wait, dogs have ACL tendons?”

“Yupp, cost us $5300 for the surgery. They told us that if he needed CPR, it would be an additional $300.”

“He seems to be doing fine now,” I said, watching as the dog leapt through the snow just uphill from the two skiers.

We skied out of that nightmare, finishing the day with a thigh burning run down a long, narrow trail.

Update  March 17.

Skied Paradise with Sue and all the kids, including Dan and Jamie. Jamie skied to Muir for the first time with Clint and Mike. Snow was choppy sastrugi up high, ok down low…spring cement and hard pack.

I tried out my new goretex yellow ski pants. Took me two days to sew them and cost about $50 in materials. They work great.

Edgeworks closed due to Corona Virus (Covid 19). F and I drove to Cirque in Olympia, super chill, well set up gym, no one on the road. Sue and I had the flu 3 weeks ago. 4 days on the couch with aches and low fevers, bad cough.

All the stores are packed with people stocking up for the Coronapocalypse.