November 13, 2021 – Cleanup & Cutting

As hard as it was to believe, the middle of November was here already, and that meant it was time for the annual patrol room cleanup at the Pass. As usual, the plan was to get the patrol room ready to go in the morning, and then either ski or cut in the afternoon depending on the conditions. While this year had some promise early on, it definitely looked like there wasn’t going to be any skiing on this go-around.

Morning view from the base

I pulled into Dan’s house around 7:30, and a few minutes later, we hit the road and headed up highway 58. The weather was really nice at the pass, and the sun was shining down on a clear, cold morning. The first order of business for Dan and I was to get the avy beacons up and running with fresh batteries, and then go through the evacuation gear. The evacuation gear took a bit longer than normal to check, due in part to the fact that we replaced the rope savers with new ones from Cascade Rescue.

Looking over the evacuation tees; Photo by Ian Doremus

When it was all said and done, each system was checked to make sure the ropes were in good working order, and that each evacuation tee was safe with respect to the welds, seats, pulleys, etc. When going through the entire system, I like to apply the mnemonic DCAP-BTLS from Outdoor Emergency Care. Looking at the rope and hardware, I check for deformities, contusions, abrasions, punctures/penetrations, bruises, tenderness, lacerations, and swelling. While not all of those are applicable, you get the idea.

Matt checking the gear; Photo by Ian Doremus

By the time noon rolled around, we’d checked through all of the 11 ropes and associated gear and loaded it back into the totes for deployment on opening day. I headed outside to check on some of the work the other patrollers were doing all morning, which included going through the sleds, checking the radios, and restocking the medical supplies. Dan and I were itching to get up and get a little cutting in, so I threw my pad thai in the microwave, wolfed it down, and we loaded in his truck to head up.

Getting the sleds ready

We headed up the haul road in Dan’s truck, and it was nice to see Diamond with a bit of white on it’s northside from Rough Cut. We worked our way further up the hill, and the views from mid-mountain were stellar as usual. I snapped a few photos of Dan driving up, including the second shot below…

Diamond from Rough Cut
Heading up the haul road

We worked our way up the haul road and past Good Time and Eagles, and then rounded the “big” corner and headed on up. Our goal was to make the top of EPA, but we were stopped a few hundred feet shy on KP by a very mushy snow drift that was about 2 feet deep. We backed down the road to the top of Charlie, turned around and decided to park with a spot that afforded an excellent view.

Looking out over Odell Lake

We grabbed our packs, saws and safety gear, and headed out. Our plan was to spend an hour or two on RTS to try to remove a few more of the taller trees we hadn’t been able to get to over the past couple of year, as well as to buck up the couple of big trees that fell early in the season the year before.

Dan putting on the safety gear
Matt ready to head up

The hike to RTS didn’t even take 10 minutes, and we went straight to work. Walking around RTS with a saw in hand, and a pack full of gas and oil on my back, I’m always amazed at how steep the run is. We spent quite a bit of time cutting the hemlock bushes, which are super difficult to cut because they branch out like a mother, as well as some of the firs that are much easier on the saws…

Dan running his electric saw
Taking out a bushy hemlock

I took the camera out to snap a few shots of the action, as well as the shot below of Dan looking out over RTS. After taking a few pics, I decided to head down and buck up the two big trees in the middle of the run while Dan continued to work up high. I had a bit of mixed feelings in bucking up the trees and lopping off the big, dead branches after using the trees as a landmark on numerous occasions the previous season. I realized I’d come to associate them with RTS, which as a fellow patroller later told me means they’ve probably been there too long. Nevertheless, I bucked them up, and then headed back up to catch up with Dan up top.

Looking down RTS

 Back near the top, we were both hot, sweaty and tired, and agreed to call it for the day. We decided to hike over to Peak 2 to just take a look at it, and see if there was any snow hanging around. On the way over, we saw fresh elk tracks in the snow, and once up top enjoyed the views down the backside. While there wasn’t any skiable snow in the area, there was a bit hanging on in the flats of Boundary…

Looking down Boundary

After enjoying a few minutes at the top of Peak 2, it was time to head back to the truck. Both of us were getting hungry after a long day, plus there was a cold beer calling my name as well. Today’s offering, which was iced down in the cooler, was a very tasty Firestorm Red Ale from Three Creeks Brewing.

Firestorm Red Ale from Three Creeks Brewing

With a cold beer in our hands, it was time to fire up the grill and enjoy some hot brats. They cooked up fast, and coupled with some sourdough bread and mustard, they really hit the spot as the temperature started to drop. We were well positioned to catch the last rays of sun coming up over Good Time Charlie, and enjoyed dinner with a view while looking out over Odell Lake and Diamond Peak.

Cooking brats at the top of Charlie

Eventually, we devoured the brats, and it was time to head back down and hit the road. All things considered, and even though we didn’t have enough snow on the hill for any turns, we were pretty satisfied with the day and definitely looking forward to the start of the season. Let it snow!

Done for the day and ready to head out