The second chalet
The avalanches this winter were impressive.
Having visited the other chalet back in January, it was high time to complete the pair before the snow melts. Granite and Sperry are justifiably popular destinations in summer, matching great architecture with fabulous, shocking location in a way we humans cannot resist. It’s cool to see them in their more regular state: boarded up and drifted deep.
The forecast was grim. An ominous east wind was shaking the birches this morning. This is why I had packed skis and bike the night before, to provide one less excuse to stay home, make more coffee, and settle for a short ride nearby.
I laughed out load when I pulled into the McDonald parking lot at 0859 and found it empty. I wasn’t the only one who had spent time worrying about the weather that morning.
Precip held off all the way up to the loop. Seeing which avy chute had made it to the bottom this year, and the work the road crews did to get through them, was impressive as always. The tunnel windows were in full-on waterfall mode.
It started snowing as I transitioned from bike to ski under the bathroom awning. No lines today.
There was a bit of hiking to reach full snow coverage, but it wasn’t too bad.
Hey man, it’s snowing in May.
It didn’t take long to skin up out of the burn, get turned around a bit, and waste time wandering around on the gentle, pined ridge which leads up to the chalet. Visibility had closed down at that point, and I didn’t have a map, but I wasn’t worried. You can’t get too lost up there, so long as you keep going up you’ll get funneled to the right spot, and since this was primarily a training mission, bonus miles were just fine.
Eventually I crested a knob at the right moment, and the clouds opened and showed me the chalet a few bumps higher.
As can be seen by the drifting, the winds funnel over Swiftcurrent Pass and barrel downhill, the chalet parting them like the impassive rock it was built to be. The drift was emphatically still in the building up phase today, so I hustled into the moat and kicked out a spot sheltered from the wind on the first story porch.
I’ve written here before about how important this building is for me. 20+ years ago it was one of the biggest hikes our family had done together, if not the biggest, and eating lunch there remains a best-ever memory.
Not much relaxing time today. All clothes on, take five minutes to snarf some chocolate, and get moving again. Too cold to do anything else.
In spite of the flat light (whats new?), the skiing was darn good. A predictable, supportable crust with a few inches of fresh made the mellow terrain fast and fun. Fortunately, I had laid down a fresh warm-temp wax the night before, which helped with all the flat sections. I zipped back down to the transition zone with hardly any futzing.
Back under the awning, it was coming down hard, and the barely freezing temps meant that at some point on the bike descent the snow would become rain. I kept my big puffy on all the way to avalanche, which was not excessive. I managed to stay warm and wet the whole time, so it was mission accomplished.
Car to car time was faster than expected, a pleasing development. Even more gratifying was being able to keep the hammer pegged for that long without much grief, and more gratifying still was putting a day of truly shit weather to good use. There is bad weather, no matter how good your gear is, but there are also attitudes good enough to overcome just about anything.