On Wednesday I headed for Melakwa point with Ben Haskell--veteran Cascade ski guide--and David Moskowitz, master wildlife tracker and author. Ben was in charge of crushing our spirits with his formidable fitness; Dave interpreted the natural world; and I took charge of the gummy bears.
We headed for the west face descent off Melakwa point, the western high point of Chair peak. Ben likes to visit new places, which I have to imagine is getting difficult for such a well-traveled man. Martin Volken details the tour in his fine book, and rightly describes it as complex, interesting, and fun.
We passed beneath two parties headed up the Northeast Buttress of Chair, noting that the North Face route also looked to be in good, icy shape. Shortly thereafter we worked through the tormented remains of a massive, sudden snowpack glide event. I noted the displacement of this huge slab a few weeks ago while touring out near Gem Lake (note the big slab in the topo photo). The entire snowpack slipped downhill about 20 feet during one of our many January rain events. We wove through big, serac-like blocks, and looked down onto bedrock below a 12 foot wall of snow.
A bit of light mountaineering brought us onto the top of Melakwa point, with a fine panorama of the western Snow Lake area and the not-too-distant Snoqualmie Haute Route. Good, steep powder led down several hundred feet toward Chair Peak Lake. This soon gave way to wind hammered snow, and a few judicious traverses in order to avoid cliffs.
From the lake we headed south in order to see some more country and return to Alpental valley via Bryant col and Pineapple basin. This proved a good call, as the entire weekend worth of storm snow had faceted admirably and provided some great turns nearly all the way back to Source lake.
Our day brought us across the paths of both an ermine and a pine marten. Their tracks would have just escaped me without Dave there to point them out. It's easy to forget that many mammals are out and about this time of year. Dave informs me that, like us, Pine Martens prefer powder. But if we should chance upon some more rain, Dave's book is an excellent way to wile away a few hours.