It was a trip that promised adventure, merely by the fact that once the heli brought us in that Sunday night, we were in until Thursday afternoon. No way out, unless you planned on skinning for days. It’s a program offered by North Cascade Heli operation: 3- or 4- night yurt trips, and we’d opted for the 4-night, 5-day adventure.
But who would want to get out, with awesome backcountry lines all around us and a comfortable yurt to come home to? The trip included all meals, guide services (which were amazing, by the way – Brad and Jeff, you rock!), yurt lodging, and, of course, heli rides in and out. (If you’ve never been in a helicopter, you’re missing out on one of life’s great adrenaline boosters.)
When the little yurt came into view on our fly-in, the excitement level crescendoed. Our home for the next 4 days, and look at terrain surrounding our digs! We wasted no time getting “settled in” and all that; it was a quick gear drop and then back onto the heli for a “heli bump” – the one run we would not have to earn on the trip.
Our ride into the valley, parked just in front of the yurt.
The pilot dropped us off atop Tamarack Peak above the yurt; the view was surreal with the sun illuminating the lingering clouds so the peaks revealed themselves (it would be the only time we’d get a true view of the area, as the storms came in all week).
Home Sweet Home.
We readied and dropped in for our first sample of local offerings, and the run did not disappoint. There was something deeply satisfying about only seeing our tracks on the slope. When we made it to the bottom, we still didn’t stop: changeover for a quick skin up the ridge for a run called “Nightline.” We finally got in at 7:30 p.m. and were promptly treated to appetizers as the homemade lasagna heated up.
The path to the goods, just 10 steps from the yurt door.
The pace of Day 1 was a perfect indicator to how the next 4 days would go: a lot of skinning, a lot of switching over from touring to riding modes (us splitboarders on the trip got really good at quick transitioning, as the skiers did not like to wait), and a lot sliding over buttery, untouched snow, which, again, only had our tracks on it – until the next storm painted them over.
The skin-drying section of the yurt.
I had complete confidence in our guides’ abilities to find us safer lines. After doing early-morning weather and snow observations, Jeff and Brad discussed the options of the day, then rallied in the evenings to again assess snow conditions – all while making sure the 8 of us were comfortable and fed.
The weather was classic Northwest: quick-changing yet mostly snowy. In one morning it would go from a complete white-out, to just a little foggy, to bits of sun teasing for a few minutes, then back to white-out. I was glad to have my Revolution goggles with the photochromatic Zebra lens for this kind of hyper-variable light. I had enough trouble changing my splitboard over quickly to bother with changing lenses!
All in all, it was a fantastic week of skiing and yurt-chilling in a faraway backcountry oasis. I am already trying to figure out how I can go again next year.
– Christine Rasmussen