Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dream Run on Lichtenberg

Not one single backcountry enthusiast has driven by the rolling flanks of Mt. Lichtenberg (just east of Stevens Pass on Hwy 2) without dreaming of shredding off the summit and down the long south face.

Being south facing, open, and avalanche-prone, conditions rarely agree to make this line both quality and safe. With a predicted warming episode to occur mid-day I set the alarm for 5:07 to see if we could make our dream come true.

Myself, Corbin, Brian, and Jim left the Yodelin parking lot shortly before 7am and tiptoed our way quietly past the private housing to the main creek drainage north of the hwy. We paralled the drainage heading north through tight trees before the forest gradually opened up. A long rising traverse allowed us to gain a steep rib which we cautiously switchbacked up towards the summit ridge.

Snow conditions varied greatly on the skin-up from breakable crust, wind-packed powder, to wind-scoured ice. Focus, intuition, and hard-fought optimism flooded our minds as we pushed our classically woobley splitboard bindings to their max on the precarious slopes.

Brian on the upslope
The higher we climbed the more inspiring the views became.

Corbin scoring big on his first Hwy 2 Tour
Rumored to have been skied first by the late, great, Dan Zimerman, AK47/RK47? has always been a topic of conversation and is high on the list..
Four hours after we began we crested the rib onto the summit ridge. A quick traverse led us to the summit proper where we transitioned our boards and reveled in the exposure. A quick boot down the crusty upper slope gave us a clear view of the runout off the summit and the realization that the line would go. We booted back up to the top and strapped in.

Psyched on the summit
Jim pointing the way
The first few turns were exposed and variably crusty. Jim made a hard ski-cut in some powder to check stability and took a peek over the cliff-band bordering the south ridge.

Looking down off the summit to the hwy
In position, I was the first to drop. Two hard and icy turns gave way to perfect wind-packed powder, one more turn and I pointed it thru a chute out of the summit slopes and into the wide open face. Fast, open, and stable, I hooted, hollered, and hunkered down into a safe position to view the rest of the pack.

Riding with a crew of four splitboarders was quite unique, and while I absolutely love riding with skiers (as I normally do), there was something special about shredding this face with a crew of boarders.  We continued down, riding as fast as we could on the great open powder, only slowing it down to jump off cliffs and launch off wind-lips.

We laughed our way to the bottom, we had finally lived our dream of riding that beautiful South Face of Lichtenberg.

Woo-hoo we finally rode Lichtenberg
A big thanks to my partners for the day and most importantly Ryan Murray, co-owner of Cascade Powder Cats, who, the night before, had given me a very specific snow conditions report from the CPC base on Windy Ridge just a few miles to the west. Ryan was sure the south face would be prime and without that knowledge I just don't know whether we would have dropped in. Thanks Ryan, sorry you had to hear the spray... and next time I hope to ride it with you man!

Headin home, yee-haw!