White Salmon

Mount Shuksan and the White Salmon Creek valley
Mount Shuksan and Shuksan Arm panorama from above the White Salmon Creek valleyFive weekends in a row of sunshine? Amazing. Temperatures were flirting with 70 degrees but I still had winter somewhat on the brain. Due to our normally abundant snowpack, I wanted to scout out a “pseudo-winter” shot I’ve been visualizing for a while. It centers around the White Salmon Creek, which flows away from the sheer cliff face of Mount Shuksan’s northwest face. There’s a certain level of commitment to my vision so I really wanted to be sure of its possibilities before attempting it.

White Salmon Creek lies outside the Mount Baker Ski Area, and it’s that ski area that provides the best and most direct access. The ski lifts stopped running at the end of April so the best time to make an attempt is now. Winter snowpack is still close to maximum and the travel is much easier (White Salmon Creek has a reputation for Sitka Alder thickets which abuse anyone who dares travel through them).

Backcountry ski tracks on Mount Shuksan
Slope details on Mount ShuksanIt’s only 0.75 miles from the White Salmon Day Lodge to the base of Chair 8 and under bright, cloudless skies it was a pleasant 30 minute snowshoe hike. Much to my surprise, White Salmon Creek in the valley below me was buried under deep snows. Hmm. So much for my plans. On some level I was a bit relieved to see this. The sun was BAKING the snow and I know I would have had quite an ordeal to posthole back out of the valley.

It was still a fantastic day so I set up my tripod and scoped out Mount Shuksan. On my hike in, I was following a pair of skin tracks which continued on towards Shuksan. High above on the mountain’s slopes, I could see their skin track uphill and graceful figure-8 turns from their descent. I had come this far, lugging my snowboard, so it was time to make it worth my while. I double-backed to the base of Chair 8 and proceeded to hike up towards the top of Chair 8.

Shuksan Arm study
Shuksan Arm studySince the ski area’s closure, the snow has continued to fall. In fact, enough snow has fallen to freshen up every slope within the ski area. Moguls, ruts, mounds…all gone. My visit also was the first in a quite a while to this part of the ski area. As I plodded along, I looked back at my progress and my snowshoe tracks were the only tracks in sight. For a few hours, the ski area was all mine.

The higher I progressed, the deeper the snow got. My trekking poles would easily sink into the snow at least a foot and my snowshoes were slogging through 4 inches of sun crafted corn. My goal was to reach the top of Chair 8 but time was running out for me on this day. I settled for a spot where Chair 5 spills out and joins Chair 8’s traffic. Not the top but still over a mile long descent and 1,000 vertical feet. A fabulous day in the mountains and another reminder of how blessed I am to live here!

Snowshoeing through the Mount Baker Ski Area. Iphone picture
Snowshoeing through the Mount Baker Ski Area with Mount Shuksan in the background. IPhone picture
Ready to descend fresh ski slopes within the Mount Baker Ski Area. IPhone picture

One Response to White Salmon
  1. andrey salikov

    stunning light