Skiing Helens in Photos
We left Marble Mountain Snow Park around 8:15am and were, thankfully, able to step into our bindings right out of the parking lot. We saw a few people when we pulled in- mostly snowmobilers- but only a few other people were setting out to climb. It was perfectly cold and the snow gripped our skins perfectly.
The tour out of the trees went fairly quickly and we paused briefly to remove layers and grab snacks. Previous skiers' skin tracks took away any issues with breaking trail in the deep snow and we were simply able to enjoy the gorgeous morning. One we hit the edge of the tree-line, we found that someone had been extremely inconsiderate and had marred the skin track with snow shoes. We stepped off the track and ended up breaking trail for the remainder of our climb. By the time we were making our way up the snow slopes, the sun was up and felt warm on our backs- the 7* temperatures forecasted didn't appear to be making their way toward us quickly.
We hit some icy sections once we gained the main ridgeline and I packed my skis up 500' or so. Ski Crampons were a definite asset here and Andy was able to skin the entire way to the summit thanks to this thoughtful packing. Snow on the west side of the ridge was crunchy and wind-blown, sastrugi adding scenic texture to its surface, so we stuck on the east side for the ascent, staying mindful of any obvious avalanche danger and keeping our eyes out for lines we wanted to ski.
We made it to the summit in just under 5 1/2 hours- not a record by any means but an hour faster than the last time we went up Helens. We ate some food, enjoyed the sunshine, clicked into our bindings, and started down the west side of the ridge, which had softened enough to yield sections of soft snow with a very-breakable crust.
The first 2,000' or so was very enjoyable but we ultimately ended up skiing the next 1,000' inside of a cloud on top of a ridge. After Andy skied off of a tiny cornice and landed (thankfully) onto a ledge, we slowed down even more. Eventually, the cloud burned away and we skied the remaining couple miles out in the fading light. Perfect weather, excellent conditions, great day.