Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Going Light to Earn Some Early Powder Turns on Ward

While I get my fair share of long days, few would accuse me of going "light and fast" on a regular basis. Jen and my usual style tends more towards well fed and comfortably warm. We also find it hard to pass up opportunities to check out interesting boulders and scenic swimming holes.

Saturday dawned beautiful, blue and sunny. I could see hints powder up high so I decided to experiment with a lighter style then I usually use to see if I could get in a decent bit of skiing despite a late start.

Ward Mountain is kind of my nemesis; I've started up it many times but never summited. This status is more a matter of convenience then anything else. It is 15 minutes from my house and the trail climbs steeply from the trailhead to the summit 5000 feet above. I've never given it a proper attempt but head there after work or late morning when I'm in need of a quad burning workout. Maybe someday I'll be fit enough to but it out in a few hours.

Its low angle upper slopes are covered by a forest that holds powder making it a good spot for mellow and safe skiing. (Map with slope shading.) Too bad they start 3k above the trailhead.  I left the car around 11am in running shoes with my home rockered 88mm underfoot skis strapped to my pack.

I dressed lightly in summer weight softshell pants and a Capilene 4 hoody with no baselayer but packed extra clothes for the upper reaches and a hunters orange vest for safety in the forest down low as hunting season is in full swing.

View from the overhanging boulder overlook.

The biggest move I made to lighten my pack was carrying less water than normal. I strapped a bike bottle to my shoulder strap and brought a Jetboil to melt snow. At the last minute I added a half full Nalgene after I saw how high the snow started from the highway on the drive up. I used some Skratch drink mix in my bike bottle and carried a ziplock of gummy bears in my pocket to keep a stable blood sugar and energy level with minimal breaks.

These moves proved worthwhile and I ran and hiked the first 3000 feet to the top of the clearcut in two hours. I stopped for about 20 minutes to switch to ski boots and eat an energy bar at this point and quickly melted some snow even though I hadn't yet finished my bike bottle. If I do this again I'll leave the extra Nalgene in the car.

I skinned another 1200 feet or so and reached my turn around time at a point along the ridge where you could see the true summit and valley bellow. I was incredibly happy to have got this high in around three and a half hours.

First turns of the season.

The top six hundred feet of skiing was quite enjoyable with boot top powder from the last storm lurking on a decent base. Bellow that I was picking my way through  downed trees and stumps.

I de-skied at the top of the clear cut and booted back down to the overhanging boulder viewpoint where I ate my sandwich, switched back to running shoes and rigged my hunters orange vest as a flag from my skis for the the sunset hike out.

I'm sure I would need more clothing for a windy midwinter storm day but I was pleasantly surprised at how warm, dry and well hydrated I was able to stay while moving quickly. I'll do some full reviews in the near future but I was really happy with both my Cap 4 hoody and Vertical K running shoes. I got back to the car feeling dry and comfortable from head to toe. I look forward to experimenting with this style more.

I also know that, while my home rockered 88mm underfoot skis performed well I'll be seriously tempted to bring the fatter skis next time as they do make those powder filled forest much more fun, especially when logs and stumps lurk not too far down.


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leonardoleo21 said...

Embracing a lighter approach, you skillfully balanced efficiency with adventure on Ward Mountain. Your strategic gear choices and minimal breaks showcase a savvy blend of athleticism and enjoyment in the pursuit of those early powder turns – a well-played day in the mountains!
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