Monday, June 27, 2011

Gash Point

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 11:02 AM

I made my first foray to Gash Point on skis Sunday, and it’s obvious why it’s such a popular destination for backcountry snow fiends. Gash has great terrain and easy access when the road’s passable. Although I was feeling a little under the weather (which was an ideal breezeless, sunny, 70-some degrees) there was no way I was going to miss a perfect day for June skiing.

The road was bone-dry all the way to the trailhead. I started hoofing in my ski boots around 8:45, just as another rig with two skiers and two dogs arrived, but I never saw them again. Patches of snow started appearing about 1.5 miles in, not long after the primitive trail surrenders to the forest. I hiked around the thinnest snow by traversing above it on the southeast ridge. By the time I reached 7,000 feet and the forest opened up, the snow was solid, and went for the skis. The surface was soft and corny for the first couple of inches, but very well-consolidated underneath, all the way to the top. Up in the bowls, things got a bit cuppy, but nothing unusually difficult. However, the loose surface layer made for some difficulty holding an edge on the steepest parts of the skin, forcing me to stomp hard on each step, which slowed me down and stressed me out. I followed a snowshoe track straight up the southeastern bowl. If I had to do over again, I would have jogged into the east bowl about halfway up for a lower-angle ascent.

Looking up into the northeast bowl

The skis came off at the divide between the two bowls, and I made the steep bootpack up to the top of the ridge overlooking Bear Creek. Not my brightest move. Once I got up there, I realized the descent would be very dangerous. I didn’t have any gear to help with arrest, and if I slipped on the snow I would hit the rocks hard. I picked my way along the ridge until I found a spot I could make a clumsy scramble back to the top of the bowl, ripping my pack in the process. But I was just glad to be safe. I butt glissaded back down to my skis, ripped skins, and made some nice big arcs down the east bowl in the soft snow.

There’s still tons of snow right now above 7,000 feet. I imagine it’s going to be good for another couple weeks. For anybody who wants to say they skied in July, Gash would make a fun destination for the weekend of the Fourth.

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