Blizzard climb on Mt. Spokane


Day 4: Dec. 18, 2015

  • Mount Spokane
  • Vertical for the day: 5,000
  • Year total: 55,000

I pulled out of Spokane at 7:30 a.m. with five inches new snow on the ground, and light rain falling. It’s a slippery mess, and a bit dicey getting up the mountain.

I had thought about skate-skiing again, but that plan changes when I hit the resort area. My car can’t make it up to the Nordic area with all of the new snow. So I head to the Mount Spokane downhill area and start climbing with my AT gear.

It’s blowing 30 mph and a whiteout as I clear the trees on the lower slopes. I know Mount Spokane well, so I’m not worried. Mostly. But it’s a legit whiteout — you can’t see more than 20 yards in any direction. I settle for simply going up in the featureless terrain.

On I trudge. It’s here somewhere, right? Not a sign of any humans, or any human-created shelter. All I see is white.

Then, slowly, I’m feeling like I’m cresting the mountain. Suddenly, the ghostly shape of a park building with ice-crusted microwave towers emerges from the white. I duck out of the wind and take off my skins. A few pieces of ice fly off the towers … maybe I shouldn’t hang out here too long.

I’ve decided to ski the trees on the “backside” of the mountain. It’s a confusing maze on top, but once you drop down, there are some lovely glades to explore. The trick is to find the glades amid the maze.

So I head down through the trees, thinking I know where I’m going.

And then I’m lost. All I see are trees. I had been pretty cocky about skiing the backcountry on Mount Spokane, but maybe I’m being stupid. How many people have gotten lost and fallen into a tree well up here, I wonder?

It’s in here somewhere.

Hmmm. I try a tentative turn to the south. Nope, this isn’t right. I head a little west. It’s looking a little better. Maybe …

One of the glades finally emerges and I know where I am. It’s great. Protected from the wind, it’s soft and feathery. I finish the 500 vertical feet of tree skiing, following a familiar path I’ve taken dozens of times.

I return to the top and ski out through the resort, finding plenty of untracked turns still available at the lift area.

There’s something I love about being in extreme weather — and living on to tell the tale.



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