Wednesday, April 13, 2011

04/10/11 Center Creek Pass Crust-Ski/Snowshoe

I tried this trip a few years ago, but didn't make it. The crust sets up in Center Creek Valley in the last couple weeks of April, so I was a little early. I packed snowshoes to deal with variable conditions and pulled it off.

Start at the Johnson Pass Trailhead, and head through the woods or on Center Creek until the bridge. Follow the Johnson Pass Trail until a clearing on a hillside pops up on the left (about a mile). Follow the open areas until a clearing leads back to Center Creek. Once the valley opens up, get on the North side of the creek. Pick the best route to the pass.

I started at 7:30, reached the pass at noon, and got back to the trailhead at 4:15. The crust sweet spot was from 12-1 pm. Snow was really soft in the trees by 4, but still good skating on the creek. My route was 22 miles with 2000' of elevation gain. There was no crust on Northern aspects or in the trees. Snowshoes were helpful on the Johnson Pass Trail, in the trees, and near the pass. Skating was amazing otherwise. Once the crust sets up more uniformly the trip will be quicker, although the last section to the pass could be pretty challenging on skate-skis. Couldn't have had a better day in the backcountry!

I started at 7:30 through the trees and found supportable, but weak crust to ski on, but once out on Center Creek it was firm and fun!

Center Creek Pass in the distance.

 Wide open cruising...amazing skiing!

 Picking a route to the pass.

 Watch for terrain traps in the complex terrain.

 Center Creek Valley

 Spencer Glacier

 Placer River Valley. Looks like good crust down there. A little thin towards Portage though.

 Fast corn at 1:30. Glide for miles!

 Best turns I can do on corn with skate skis. 

 Still skating on Center Creek at 3:45!

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