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Ascent Route: East Ridge
Descent Route: South Slopes
Vertical climbed & skied: 2,774'
Partners: solo (Ski descent with Brian and Justin)
Sometimes, one just has to go skiing. After 2+ weeks of working 14+ hour days, packing, cleaning, moving, painting, dealing with a cranky hospitalized grandmother, social workers, and assisted living directors, Friday afternoon arrived much sooner than I had planned. No plans and no partners, I was looking to get out and do something rejuvenating. Mt Democrat's south slopes looked inviting, if I didn't have to walk too far. So I took a chance that the road would be open farther and that the south slopes would be in skiable condition when I arrived on the summit.
The road is clear up to mi 4.2 (of the 6 to Kite Lake), so I already was ahead of my time schedule. I met one guy at the trailhead, but he didn't seem interested in climbing up the south slopes route, and as such I decided to take the safer way up the east ridge. Plus I would be able to check out the WROD (White Ribbon of Death) that exists on the east slopes. It's continuous... for now.
Early in the morning it looked as if the clouds would dissipate and the sun would beat down on the snow, but that wasn't the case. In fact I even saw a few snow flurries while I skinned past Kite Lake! No rush to summit on this day, in fact, I would have to wait. I was able to skin to about 13,200' before I put the skis on my back on my way to the east ridge.
The sun didn't make its full appearance until I was up on the false summit, and as such, the snow had barely warmed up. I knew I would be waiting awhile for the snow to soften, so I relaxed on the summit alone. About the time my summit rituals were done, I noticed two guys coming up the south slopes route. Great, some beta on snow conditions! When they arrived, they even invited me to ski down with them. A much more pleasant time to ski with others.
The ski down was quite a lot of fun. The roll over into the chutes gives that exhilarating feeling of not knowing what is below. I had been staring up at them on my approach, so I knew what to expect, but it's still a thrilling feeling to ski into the abyss.
Once we got below 12,600' we had to try to keep our speed up through the Buckskin drainage. I ended up having to skate ski part of the basin, as the snow had warmed up enough to slow me down. Before dropping into the drainage below we had to duck under the swaying power lines. From there it was trying to stay high and contour our way down the drainage to where we parked.
Overall, a great day out in the mountains, and just the relaxation needed!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Good snow year + optimal gear + improved nutrition & fitness = lots of skiing!
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