Norm showed me this picture a week and a half ago:
That's Northstar in the background, and the picture's taken from Relay Ridge, but those are the only hints you get. It was this past weekend until we could both get up there to visit the honkin' chute that's dead center in the photo, and Reid came along with his boxer Zephyr, too.
Norm at our first snack break
Reid and Zephyr, same spot
The hike was long; 2 hours to this point and lots more to go. We knew from the outset that the snow wasn't going to be all that good, but that usually equates to stability (good!) and we were just happy to be out hiking for the day anyway.
Lots of snow gone from Norm's shot
That's Lassen way back there; clear day we had!
Norm heading down the ridge
Hiking toward the goal
This should be under 10 feet of snow but whatever
After 4 hours of snowshoeing across well-consolidated (read: blown out) snow, we got to the top of the chute and peered down its gullet. I hiked down to the end of the bare patch and could see the rest of it; not as scary as it looked from a few ridges away, but there was a good bit of debris (rock, not avalanche). All things considered, it was a go. I dropped in first and found variable snow throughout.
Our first look down the chute from the top
So I made it down just fine and gave Reid and Norm the "all clear." I really wanted to post up on the next ridgeline and shoot Reid and Norm riding down, but we had doubts about our available daylight and didn't want to wait for me to get up to that ridge. So instead, I just sat at the bottom and shot them from there.
Norm and Reid ready to go
Reid making turns
Reid near the bottom of the chute
Norm takes his turn
Norm is stoked
Reid had gone first and Zephyr wouldn't follow him. After Norm rode and Zephyr still hesitated, we knew it'd be tough to get him down. He was crying and howling at the top of the chute, but he finally took the plunge after a few minutes of all of us motivating him.
Zephyr's first day on the slopes
It took us another 2 hours to hike back to where we could ride out to civilization. We still had daylight but we were all tired by now. So we dropped off the top of Relay Peak for some more turns down to the Forest Service road.
On the way out, we stopped at a particular telephone pole we hiked past on the way up. Some earlier visitors had built a ramp up the side of this skewed pole. I spent a few minutes of our hike visualizing just how cool this jib could be with the lighting we were bound to have and the skills I hoped we had. Unfortunately, Reid and Norm wouldn't bite and I've got next to nothing in the way of jibbing skills, so it didn't go quite the way I had imagined it (big pop up onto the pole, rider backlit with board sideways on the pole, magazines come calling, etc).
So much potential...
And I've got splinters in my forearms now.
As the sun set and we were nearly back home, we came across a couple snowmobilers who were having trouble restarting one of their sleds. Norm and I were able to get 'er going, and we rode out as the last rays of light disappeared behind the mountains.
We stepped off the snow 9 hours after we started. The snow was far from ideal, but on the other hand, we got to ride everything we wanted to and did it safely. We saw some awesome country and got ourselves good and tuckered out, so that's a win.
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