Ski Tour in the East Peak/Bullion Basin Area
Crystal Mountain Backcountry, WA
December 15, 2015
Dave had mentioned a mid-week ski tour a few weeks back and was wondering if any of us who have a normal working schedules were interested. I had responded by saying that I’d be in if the skiing was good. Fortunately for Dave (and me) that was the case. Jake and Andy were at the end of the their 4-day stay-cation full of back to back powder days so they joined in the fun as well.
We got to the Crystal Mountain Ski Area parking lot and were skinning by 9:15 am. Temps were perfect in the mid-twenties with partly cloudy skies. The 48-hour storm total was up to about 18″ of new and the avalanche danger was subsiding. The danger had just changed from Considerable to Moderate that morning. Storm slabs on all aspects near and above treeline as well as wind slabs on N-S eastern facing aspects were listed as problems in the avalanche forecast. Knowing that the storm slab danger was subsiding we decided that the biggest thing to watch out for was signs of wind loading on slopes.
We followed a summer trail up into Bullion Basin from the base area. Once we reached the basin we followed a well-placed skin track up to the ridge on the south end of East Peak. Once on the ridge, we noticed cornices forming in multiple directions and noted the effects the terrain were having on local wind loading. I had originally planned to continue a little bit higher on East Peak to the north, but the snow quality was excellent and we were ready to do some skiing.
We found some nice looking E-SE facing slopes dropping down towards the Union Creek drainage. Since we thought these slopes could pose some avy danger due to wind loading, we chose a slope that we measured between 28 and 30 degrees to mitigate some of the risk. We transitioned and Andy dropped in first at 11:30 am. The snow was excellent: cold smoke powder! We took turns skiing and regrouped after about a 400 vertical foot run, then skied down about 200 more feet. We skinned back up to the top and skied a second run down to our first regroup point before hitting our turn-around time of 1:30.
We skied the W-SW sloped we had skinned up earlier in the day down to Bullion Basin, then had a fun roller-coaster like singletrack ride out on the hiking trail. The last part of the day was surprisingly fun. All in all we got about 2800′ of vertical in for the day and would definitely love to come back and explore this area some more. We stopped in to Naches Tavern for burgers and brews before heading back to Seattle.