July 4, 2005


Ben's route in late July 2002. The green dot is the end of the traverse.

July 4, 2005.

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
from little things;
knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
the sound of wings.

Amelia Earhart Putnam...

Photos and story by Jason

After waking early that morning and going mountain biking in Post Canyon, Oregon, I was set on meeting with several others to ski the North Face of Mount Maude the next day. There wasn't much reasoning behind our decision, especially with sights of the North Face of Hood and the North Face of Adams throughout the day. Both of which were nearby and both of which were absolutely preening. Josh and I left during the midst of another BBQ, resorting to some pirating before leaving.

That night after more than 3hrs of driving, we arrived home to a message from Sam, "Let's meet at 3am at my place." By then it was past 11pm and we had yet to get our bike and kayak gear unloaded. By the time that was done and my ski gear was packed and reloaded, I had only an hour to stare at the ceiling before heading to Seattle.

Sky and Paul were waiting for us since we were behind schedule. They had risked riding their bikes through traffic to get there, which I'm sure was a head turner - to see a full pack with skis jutting up, flying down the highway like an antelope.

The drive to the parking lot was familiar and by light we were speeding up the dirt road to our starting point. A lot less snow was blanketing the higher peaks than I would've hoped. There was only a patch or two on the South Face of Maude, leaving me to worry about how much white stuff the North Face would have waiting for us.

The climb up Maude begins with 3.6 miles to Leroy Creek, which is easily crossed. From there you climb to a basin named the same as the stream whose waters offer a cool drink before a long traverse, another climb and a short drop down to Ice Lakes, followed by scree and another uphill before finally getting to the summit. This last part acts like the surface of the sun and I'm no Superman; I burnt up along with the others, leaving plenty of time to ponder the questions, "Why do I carry skis?" And, "Why aren't I fishing?"

Glacier Peak .

We all waited for Paul on the summit by taking a much deserved nap. When he arrived we didn't give him much of a chance to rest, instead gathered our gear and prepared to go. I crawled down some rocks covered with a million lady bugs that were hard to not crunch. Fortunately the snow was nearby, allowing me to both clean my boots and the bottom of my skis. On a cornice I sat in wait for the others, who in turn watched Sky who took first dibs by cranking a fantastic set of turns all the way down the fall line. The film makes this look flat, but the top is nearly 50 degrees, below which nothing falls much under forty-five with big exposure. My turns weren't great, not as good as the West Face Couloir. My knee had been bruised on the White Salmon after a fall and I wasn't inclined to take any risks since it really did hurt like hell. As a matter of fact I shouldn't have been there, but I couldn't help myself. Skiing is a disease and my only medicine is the almighty turn.

The summit.
Paul in front with Sam climbing over the mass of lady bugs massing for an assault on the summit.
Sky and Bill preparing to ski down the face.
It's all you Bill.
That a boy, get your redemption.
An Act of Sky - part I
part II
part III
part IV

We each took a few turns at a time and tried to avoid each other. There were decisions to make and Sky yelled out, "So, what do you want to do? Cross the traverse or ski to the bottom?"

Looking up. Whoa! Par 4? Bringing out the Big HITTER, eh? That cornice drops in a few minutes!!!
Sam in the rough.
Fernow sure looks good - except for that red smudge on the left.
Alright! Let's keep that green mowed nice and short. That a' way.

I yelled my answer back, "I think we should cross the traverse. Everything below here looks pretty melted out and I don't know if we would get that many turns anyhow."

As Bill pulled up to the traverse, I heard him proclaim, "I have my redemption." There is a story behind that comment that is best told by Ben, but to make a long story short Bill, Josh and I sat beneath a cliff in the fog and rain and watched Ben climb and ski the face alone. Now that we had come full circle we all felt like we had earned some sort of salvation and this alone was enough to make me feel glad that I had come all this way.

Josh with the Entiat Icefall left of center.

About halfway through the traverse, we were reminded of fate. A cornice that crouches over the North Face, whom which we had pondered during our ski had succumbed to gravity only half an hour after we skied off of the face. I watched it in slow motion while it played over and over in my head. Yes we had made the right decision to take the traverse. Yes, we could have been earlier. But what really bothered me was the fact that I didn't take the cornice seriously. Maybe the fact that it sits there all spring made it feel less dangerous? Maybe? I guess that this is another cheap lesson for me and as if to solidify a reminder with pain, I struck my other knee against a rock, dropping me to the ground in misery.

Left to right: Josh, Bill and Paul.
Wasn't that good Paul?

The way back was the same as the way there except for a short ski down off of Maude-Jack Col. Next to another stream we rested, and I thought about the last three days: the kayaking on the White Salmon, the mountain biking in Post Canyon , the skiing on the North Face of Mount Maude. I realized that it was all worth it; the 20 hours of driving and the effort above and beyond to do each of the things I had done. So I carry my skis, so I kayak dangerous rivers and bike over log drops. It is my life and "...the soul that knows it not, knows no release...."

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