Monday, January 16, 2006

Weatherwax and Kings Hill

H. Wayne Phillips makes ready

There he goes!
I’m always looking for an easy way to access backcountry telemark slopes.
That’s why I’m so blown away by my neglect of such a spot right beneath my nose --- Kings Hill --- not the pass, but the mountain itself (elevation: 8,008 feet).
It’s a 615 foot climb from Kings Hill Pass (elevation: 7,393 feet). Begin near the Forest Service cabin where you’ll find a Deadman trailhead marked by blue diamonds.
For years I’ve skied right across its flank on the Deadman backcountry ski trail, heading south to the Deadman ridge.
On Monday we were looking for some quick turns and opted for the Weatherwax Creek drainage as a fast way to maximize our time and the elevation.
It is an area that is hammered pretty hard by high-marking snowmobilers and the prevailing southwest winds, but it has enough trees that there is always some fresh powder to carve turns.
It is reached by skiing up the Deadman run a little more than a mile and about 500 feet in elevation to a sign that points you away from the Dry Wolf Road and to the backcountry where snowmobiles are restricted. It is usually where we catch our breath, have a drink and pull off the skins before plunging into the real backcountry by taking a right turn.
To reach Weatherwax, turn left and get on the Dry Wolf Creek Road that heads toward Stanford. You’ll see some powerlines. They run along the south rim of Weatherwax.
I like to ski from the north rim because it is a bit moregentle, although I have skied from that south lip.
It is about a half-mile from the Deadman turnoff to that north rim.
It drops as much as 300 feet from the north rim to the bottom, and rises another 400 feet to the south rim.
My skiing partner Wayne Phillips and I played around off that north rim, dropping to the bottom, but found conditions a bit icy and wind blown as well as pretty heavily hit by snowmobilers, so we move away to the northwest and dropped off the Dry Wolf Road into dense forest where we found excellent powder, and gaps in the trees just wide enough to pull some tight turns.
We skied back to the top and planned to ski the powerline right of way back down to Kings Hill Pass, but found it too hard hit by wind and snowmobiles, so we headed straight west into the wooded flanks of Kings Hill.
Here we discovered the best snow of the day.
There’s a tight snowmobile trail that runs down the ridgeline here back to the pass, but otherwise there was plenty of untracked snow and wide enough gaps in the trees that instead of heading straight down, we climbed to the top of the hill and spent the rest of the day carving the snow down to the cabin.
We had accidentally discovered a great place to practice our telemark turns within feet of a trail that we had skied repeatedly over the years!
Weatherwax is also a good spot, ideal after a fresh snowfall in mid-week --- before the snowmobiles get to it.

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