December 17, 2022 – Sleds, Avalanches & Saw Work

Sunshine was in the forecast, and it was looking like it was going to be a great weekend at the Pass. Peak 2 was on the docket, with it opening for the first day of the season the day prior, and the stoke factor was high as I pulled into the parking lot for a day of patrolling. We had a good morning meeting, and headed out shortly thereafter to open the hill in the bright sunshine. I headed up to the top of EPA and snapped a few pic before opening High Lead.

Anna atop EPA
Jon and Anna ready to open the hill

Once back to the bottom, I called in the run report and hopped on EPA and headed back up and worked my way over to Peak 2. The snow was pretty nice, and I spun a couple of laps on the back with a few other patrollers while waiting for sled check-offs to start. One interesting note — while checking out conditions in the meadow I saw a large slide that had occurred recently, most likely a result of the nasty buried surface hoar that’s been quite persistent this season. More to come on that later…

Greg, David & James on Peak 2
Patrollers working on sled checks on Escalator

A bit later, we met at the top of Peak 2 with the intention of doing sled checks for the alpine patrollers on Escalator. Joe was up to help facilitate, and it felt nice to get the sleds out on some steep runs.

Getting ready for some sled running
Craig unloading a sled on Peak 2

We headed off down Boundary, and Anna led the way running the sled unloaded as we headed down. I setup to shoot a few shots with my 70-200 mm Canon mirrorless lens, and was happy with the results…

Anna running an unloaded 100 down Boundary
Anna cruising with a gaggle of patrollers behind her

At the top of Escalator, we stopped for moment to go over the basics of running a loaded sled, and to allow for a “patient” to hop in. Then, it was time to head over the edge…

Getting the sled ready at the top of Escalator
Talking it over

Anna was in the handles and Jon was on the tail, with Greg in the sled. Anna rocked it, and had no problem skiing the sled with Greg down the run. I snapped a few pictures as they headed down…

Anna running a loaded 100 down Escalator
John on the tail rope

Halfway down the run, it was time for a transition, with Anna taking the tail rope and Jon stepping into the handles. Jon did great in the handles as well, and they worked down to the flats below with no issues. I snapped a few more photos, including the shots below.

Pausing halfway down
Running the sled to the bottom of Peak 2

The next run up, it was my turn, and I partnered up with Dan for our sled checkoff. It was nice to get back in the handles and tail rope on a loaded sled, and it’s always fun to run a sled with Dan. After our check-off, we headed out to the Meadow — I wanted to show Dan the slide that I’d come across earlier that morning.

Amber & Dan surveying the avalanche carnage
Amber on the bed surface of the slide

We grabbed Amber, who was shadowing Dan for the day, and headed out. When we got there Dan was quite amazed, given he’d been skiing back there the day prior and it appeared the slide happened between the morning and when he had skied through there the day before around 3pm. We check it out from the top and the bottom, and the surface hoar layer was definitely the culprit. I snapped several pics of the skiers on the bed surface and toe for perspective.

Amber & Dan on the bed surface
At the toe

After all of that, it was time for lunch. We worked our way off Peak 2 and over to the front, and skied corn on Good Time on our way down to the Patrol Room. I guess if you can’t have powder in mid-December, corn is the next best thing.

Cruising on Good Time
Looking out over Odell Lake & Lakeview Peak

 After lunch, we headed out to do some saw work on some of the downed trees that had fallen during the intense windstorm a few days earlier. Dan had his electric saw, which works great for limbing trees in the snow, and our first stop was a smaller tree at the top of Good Time. With the tree of us (Amber, Dan and I), we made short work of the tree and limbs, clearing it off the run in about 20 minutes.

Cleaning up a fallen tree on Good Time
Working on a downed tree on Charlie

Next up, we headed over to Timburr to work on a tree that Fischer and Chad had worked on the day prior. The snow on the way down Charlie enroute to the base was quite nice, and it’s always fun to shoot photos of a patroller carrying a saw…

Dan skiing the saw down
Taking a break on Charlie

At base, we dropped Dan’s saw off at the Patrol Room, since the beta we had on the two trees down on High Lead and Timburr was that they’d been limbed up the day prior and just needed disposal. That turned out to be about half true however (at least for the tree on Timburr). We were able to easily get rid of all the cut limbs on the tree on High Lead, but needed the shovel and saw for the other half. Dan had to leave for bump, but we radioed Jon and he picked up Dan’s saw at base and headed down to meet Amber and I.

Cleaning up a tree on Timburr
John bringing the saw down

With the saw in hand, I was able to get the rest of the limbs cut while Jon and Amber cleared the limbs. It was amazingly warm in the sun, and all of us were sweating by the time we were done, but it felt great to get the trees off the run before more snow came in to cover them up, creating potential nasty hazards. We managed to make it to the top of EPA just in time for sweep, and I hung out up top with Dan, who was running upper mountain closing, after the rest of the patrol headed down to sweep the runs. Sitting there as the sun began to set behind Diamond Peak reminded me of dusk patrol tours in the spring, and it felt really nice to enjoy the quiet after a busy day.

Dan at sweep
The sun setting over Diamond

Shortly before upper mountain sweep was completed, Amber and I headed down to ski RTS and help out iwth lower mountain sweep. RTS was really nice, and the turns were enjoyable as we headed down in the waning light.

Amber sweeping RTS

Lower mountain sweep went off without incident, and soon we were back in the patrol room for the evening meeting, which meant it was time to enjoy a cold beer after a hard day’s work. My offering for the day was a Public House Pale Ale from Oakshire Brewing, and it hit the spot. I should have either cranked the ISO or pulled out the tripod, but I was too tired to remember either, so the photo came out a bit blurry, but that’s the way it sometimes goes:)

Public House Pale Ale by Oakshire Brewing

The next half hour or so was filled with laughter and talk about the day, and it’s really one of my favorite parts of patrol (the camaraderie with great folks). All in all, the season’s off to a great start, both from the patrol perspective and with respect to the snowpack. I hope it keeps it up on both accounts!