Monday, March 30, 2009

Echo Lake, Ralston Peak- Ski camping

At the end of many of my trips, my buddy Kevin and I always say good bye with a parting hand shake and him saying, "another one for the books". This last trip however he did not...

Planning a group trip is always difficult. First there is the time of year which is best suited for each particular event. Spring=back country skiing and camping. Next a weekend should be worked out at least a month in advance which excludes the least number of people. And finally you need mother nature to agree with your plans.

This last weekend March 28th was the set day for my spring backcountry ski/camp trip. The initial list started at 13 interested and ended up with about 6. 50% is about normal turn out for this kind of stuff. Here is a snap shot of the group in front of Pyramid Peak.

The trip started at about noon from Echo Lake Sno-Park trail head. Logistics included a $5 per day sno-park permit, purchased ahead of time at local vendors. A wilderness permit, since we were in the desolation wilderness. $5 per person per night. $10 max per person, $100 max per group. Though I typically do not get permits for the winter, I did this trip due to its size and the good example I was setting.

Soon after traveling up Echo Lake Road, you arrive at Echo Lakes (1 mile). This was the first time I got to test out my ski pulk. I estimate the load to be about 50-60 lbs. It is much easier to pull heavy loads , across flat surfaces on a sled, than to carry it on your back. With Skippy hooked up to me, and I to the sled, we made short work of lower Echo Lake.

The weather was perfect 60 degrees.

We soon climbed up above the lakes and made camp on the hillside right above Tamarack Lake. A short ski to the lake, supplied us with water from a breach in the snow at the lakes inlet. We had brought extra fuel for melting snow, but was please that we did not have to. I dis like the taste of "fried" water.

Saturday. This was our summit day, but my idea of climbing and skiing Pyramid peak were a little too lofty. Instead we climbed up to Hypress Meadow and the ridge that over looked the Aloha Lake Basin. From there our group split up. Some want to check out Aloha Lake, others wanted to climb Ralston peak.

It did not appear that the summit of Ralston Peak had a suitable route to ski off off. But we found a suitable drop in along the ridge. The pillowy appearance of the snow, was truly so, thanks to the mid day sun.

Saturday night an intense wind storm hit us. It dropped the temperature significantly, but no moisture was associated with the wind and clouds. Wind storms are always so violent, when experienced from the inside of a tent. Those without ear plugs did not get a good nights sleep.

Sunday we packed up early. There was a bit of anxiety within the group in the presence of unsettling weather. No second cup of coffee, just pack and go. However, as base camp was reduced to six packs, the clouds broke and the sun came out.

From camp to Upper Echo Lake was a 200 foot decent. I handed sled duties over to my wife, who was undoubtedly the strongest skier of the group. I had a back up tether attached to the top of the sled, which helped keep it from rolling on steep traverses. The skills Leslie has been honing for the last 20 years really showed as she effortlessly guided the sled to lake level.

The last leg of the journey was 2.5 mile trek across the top of the a well frozen Echo Lake.

Kevin and I never did start a "book" to log our adventures. We always meant to document our trips, primarily for reference sake. I guess he knew that with this blog, the idle reference of documentation, aimed at criticizing our shortcoming, was no longer needed. Thanks Blogger: we now have a book, and one for it!

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