After deep, soft powder prevented us from summiting Bald Mountain on Saturday, Damien and I opted to try Union Peak. Like Bald Peak, Damien and I had attempted this summit in the past. However, we were forced to turn back upon reaching an open, unstable snow slope.In fact, we dug an avalanche pit and the tests all failed immediately!  We hoped for better luck this time around.Even more importantly, this trip  would allow for the use of skis. I cannot express how happy was to leave my snowshoes behind! In addition we got to take our new avalanche air-bag packs out for a test ride!

Damien and I began to skin up Smithbrook Road in gently falling snow just after sunrise. About 5 inches of fresh snow from overnight covered the snowmobile tracks, but the base was solid and we traveled quickly up the snow-covered road. After about 4.5 miles we reached Rainy Pass (1 mile after the Smithbrook TH). Rainy Pass seemed to be some kind of mecca for all the snowmobilers that passed us earlier. They were all driving around in circles playing in the drifts near the pass.  After a brief break, Damien and I left the sound of motors behind and  traveled cross country along the ridge leading to Union.

The terrain is relatively open forest. However, the landscape rises and falls to some degree. Also there are some steep drop-offs from the top of mini-cliffs (6-8 feet) where we had to carefully skid down. Route-finding took some time, but we soon arrived at the open slope where we turned around on our last attempt. This time the snow was extremely well bonded. Still, Damien and I took turns traversing and switch-backing up the long open slope to the ridge crest as a precaution.

Reaching the crest somehow took forever, probably due to us using extreme caution. The slope angle leading to the ridge turned out to be exceptionally steep. On the exposed crest the winds picked up and cold air nipped through out coats. Damien and I paused to put on more layers and check the GPS. It was 1:00pm and we were still .84 miles away from the summit. We agreed on a turn around time of 2:30 or whenever it became clear that we would not reach the summit by that time (whichever came first). At about 1:45pm we were able to glimpse the length of the ridge as it disappeared into the mist. The top of Union Peak was somewhere beyond and clearly not obtainable in the next 45 minutes. Reluctantly we turned back.

On the bright side,Damien and I experienced our first real turns of the 2017/18 winter season! Perfect, soft powder reminiscent of Alberta Canada with superb tree skiing! It doesn’t get much better than that!

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