CHIKAMIN PEAK , South Couloir - February 10th, 2007

"Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?"

Friedrich W. Nietzsche

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When driving east, just past Hyak, I would look up and see Chikamin. I would say to myself, "I need to go ski that." It wasn't until January of this year that I tried. On that trip, with Casey, conditions and knowledge of the area needed to be better. Our luck and stubbornness alone weren't enough to capitalize on the good weather. We needed more than that. I was disappointed and promised to return again this year.

I needed redemption.

On Saturday I got my just reward. Honestly I didn't want to go out there again so soon, but Sky called and proclaimed, "The weather will be good, let's go ski Chikamin." I looked at the forecast, and was pretty sure 'good' wasn't in the cards, but you never know. Sometimes it's good enough, and the worst regret I have on lazy weekends is that of 'self loathing'.

"Why does the weather have to be nice? It was supposed to be bad. God damn it!"

Harboring these feelings on a lazy day are usually coincided with looks out the window hoping for clouds, maybe even some rain that often don't appear, but when they do, you feel good. I didn't want to chance it, so I told Sky, "I'll go." After I hung up, I thought about calling back, and saying no. I needed to rest and clean the house. My car needed to be cleaned too. After that my plans included sleeping in, eating ice cream and reading. Instead I walked to the store and bought some food, unpacked my gear from my last trip, set my alarm for 4:30 and went to bed.

"Tomorrow the weather would be good," I swore, and it wasn't bad.

When I woke up, and began to drive, the stars could be seen above. "Alright, who needs to sleep in!" I surmised that I had made a good decision.

Sky and Eric were a bit late, so we didn't get going until 6:40am. Sky had guessed that we would take 12 hours, and be out by dark. Our later start made that unlikely. Although, in an attempt to get back on par, we rushed ahead in a flurry of skis and poles, feet and arms.

Going up Gold Creek isn't bad. The trees are well spaced and its flat, only going up maybe 800-ft in the first 4.5 miles. There are a few creek crossings along the way. Its hard to decide which is best. At one point we followed another group's tracks up toward Chikamin Ridge along a narrow arm between two creeks. This wasn't the best way. In the end a bit of traversing and a little dropping were needed to get back where we wanted to be. By the time we were in the nice distinct gully leading toward the summit, we were pretty excited. That kind of excitement that you always get when you know that you have a good chance of doing what you came to do.

Blue sky awash with haze and hidden from valley dwellers by fog, paved the valleys to the south. Above us dark clouds swept the upper reaches of Chikamin. Snow conditions varried from wind loaded syrofoam over hard corn to rotten snow.

As we neared the summit it was obvious that we were too far west. Since the wind and blowing snow would mean I'd have to put warmer cloths on, I told them that I was going to go look around to the west to see if I could find the summit block. They soon followed. We traversed under cliffs below what turned out to be the summit. As we rounded these, we came to the final slope where Eric made good work of the last few feet to the top. Since time was short, we didn't stay long.

Sky took the lead off of the top. I pulled out my camera for a few pictures. It was fun watching sky, as I wasn't sure we'd be able to ski everything. Sky made quick work of it, and yelled warning to us saying, "It's a bit icy, and you don't want to fall here," which meant that you'd better take it dang careful! Eric took longer, but once done, it was my turn to shimmy down. The scariest part was turning around on the thin snow and ice. I'm sure later in the year this all gets nicely filled in, and wouldn't be anything more challenging than a moderately steep slope. Right then, the short drop onto ice was enough challenge to keep me on my toes. After my own leap of faith, the slope curved back around to the south, where the snow had corned up, making for enjoyable skiing on terrain that never really got over 40 degrees. We only stopped when our legs threatened to mutiny (which was about every 10 turns).

It wasn't long before we were at the bottom flying down the river valley. When it closed up on us, we put on our skins and climbed up to a ridge. From that vantage, Chikamin didn't look the same to me and I'm sure it didn't to Eric and Sky either. We knew its nature now, and that's the best of feelings, better than lazing about the house, better than sleeping-in to 9 in the morning or staying up past midnight. Better than regretting. During the long flat ski out there was only satisfaction. Even if it was dark and we were tired and hungry after twelve and a half hours on the move. Everything had pretty much lived up to expectation: the weather, the snow and the climb. That doesn't happen often. I was pretty happy about that. Plus, last night I stayed up past midnight, this morning I slept in, and best of all, the weather is not very good today. All around a win-win for me.  

Thanks for the invitation Sky!    


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