Hatcher and the magic three

Pete & Amy inside the ping pong ball.

Sun, snow and stability in Hatcher. Three things that never happen in those mountains north of town that I tend to write off just about every winter. I love Hatcher in the summer- cragging, trekking, crumbling granite ridges – good clean alpine fun. But Hatcher in the winter generally tends to mean sugar snow on top of granite slabs.

For starters- it’s never sunny. Climbing in Hatcher generally means disappointment because it’s either raining or wet and skiing on a low viz day in Hatcher is an exercise in vertigo management. A few weeks prior I had met some friends in Hatcher for a day of touring. It was dumping snow when we got out of the car and we fought our way uphill to just above the alders. We could see all of 6 feet and on our second short run I kicked off a rollover and didn’t even realize I had skied through the soft slab till I stopped and looked back up.

Snow is the next problem. Even on a good day you’re hitting a rock or two or three. Snow and stability are two parts of the magic combination but the dreaded sugar snow base usually wins out. I recall once setting up camp in March in the upper Mint Valley. We had skied in to attempt Telemint and when digging out our tent platform we discovered the dreaded sugar. Our tent sunk into the sugar like quicksand and our plans foundered in the bottomless snow. The next day was a half hearted attempt at skinning up wind slab over sugar before we threw in the towel.

But this week I could no longer ignore the go to Hatcher reports from everyone I know who skis. So we crammed 4 into the aging Tacoma and drove north.

Don’t know my Hatcher nomenclature but this couloir looks legitimately awesome.

Out of the truck and up the skate skis trails towards Friendship Pass. Up to Friendship Pass then down the north gully where we discovered the meaning of variable: sun crust, cornice debris, powder, wind slab and rock. Then back up Friendship Pass for a ski down an east-facing slope. Up Black Prospect to the col where the backside beckoned a west facing run. Then back up a beautiful skin track to a notch on the ridge between Friendship and Black Prospect. And finally- a late afternoon run down a fun south facing mini-couloir. All four aspects sampled we pointed the skis downhill and raced back to the truck.

Scott down the west side of Black Prospect.

A good day with friends, sun, snow and stability. The magic combination.