Mount Thompson (#62) and Point Powell (#63)
Day 52, Mount Thompson and Point Powell
I was met at the Lake Sabrina road closure by a dump truck and a front loader clearing debris deposited by the long-since melted snow berm at the gate. The sun was already high in the sky and I was eager to get started on the long day ahead of me, but had to wait until they finished their work. When I finally did start, it was well after 9am.
I pedaled up the road to the dam, where I chose to walk around the north side of the lake. The summer trail sits on the south side, but climbs high on a hill with patchy snow coverage before traversing to the drainage I was headed up. It seemed slow and tedious. Unfortunately, traversing the rocky lakeshore proved to be equally inefficient.
On the bright side, walking along the shore of the fully melted lake under the warm sun instilled nostalgic feelings of summer and stoke for the longer, warmer days to come. As I gained elevation, fresh snow hampered my pace even further.
It was well into the afternoon by the time I finally reached the spectacular alpine cirque separating my two objectives for the day: Mt. Thompson and Point Powell.
Powell is graced by an excellent, north facing couloir, descending steeply from just below the summit through a deep cleft in the rock. I climbed Thompson first, making my way up and over the Powell-Thomson col, then scrambling up a mix of snow and rock on its west face.
As I climbed, billowing clouds ebbed and flowed in the basin below, putting on a wonderful show and never rising quite high enough to reach me.
I battled an icy winter wind across the summit plateau. By the time I finally reached its pinnacle, shadows of the surrounding peaks were already stretching across the landscape.
I gazed over to Powell, knowing that I had to hurry if I wanted to ski the couloir before dark.
I ran back down the summit plateau, clunky and stumbling in my ski boots, descended the scree-strewn chute, then traversed over to the base of Powell’s east face. Here, I found the snow deep and soft. It was a unique brand of torture, wallowing uphill through the deep powder, knowing that I wouldn’t reap the reward of skiing back down it – doing so would put me on the wrong side of the crest. I hoped that the snow in the couloir would provide similar conditions.
I was rewarded at the top of my climb with stunning views of my favorite part of the range. Billowing clouds filled the valleys to the south, seemingly illuminated from within.
Cutting through their soft forms were snow covered spines of rock, sweeping up in mighty waves to jagged summits stretching even higher than my lofty perch.
Oh, to sit on a summit for an entire day, watching as the sun sweeps across the landscape, shifting shadows accentuating a different buttress or ridge with each passing hour.
Or to sit on a summit for a month, enjoying sunrise after sunset, facing the majesty of mighty storms rolling over the range and basking in the glittering glow of the night sky.
Better yet, to sit for a year, and watch the snow melt, verdant meadows springing to life, streams flooding with melt, then all fading under the purple haze of summer, only to be doused clean again by the raging thunderstorms of fall, then buried under a fresh coat of snow and slip once again into a silent winter.
The best would be to sit for eons, as the mountains rolled like waves, rising and falling under the ever-active forces of time, until the very mountain below you was ground to dust. Alas, today I could only sit for a few moments, imagination spinning.
The couloir provided two very different experiences – the top half was icy and rocky, requiring careful down climbing and side slipping.
The bottom was the polar opposite, with excellent, deep powder between steep walls. The stuff of a ski mountaineer's dream.
Under the gentle glow of the setting sun, I soared out of the bottom of the chute, gliding down thousands of feet of gentle incline towards the waiting valley below.
I crossed a lake, then another, skating across the icy surface under the eerie light of the rising moon.
Eventually, the snow became patchy, and for hours I alternated between skiing and walking through the night, until finally the last stretch of dry trail brought me back to my bike and an easy roll back to the van.
View the activity here.