By: Jason Hummel
It’s a new year and for every outdoor lover, that means a blank canvas to be filled with new adventures. Creating a bucket list is a perfect way to ensure all that valuable time is wisely spent. But your list of backcountry ambitions doesn’t have to be flush with only the most “epic” excursions. A look at your local hinterlands reveals a vast landscape in which to get creative, push yourself and experience truly life-affirming adventures.
In years past I’d taken up the mighty pen and etched my ridiculously epic plans on paper. But I’ve come to realize you don’t need to sail around the world, climb Everest or dive naked into icy waters of the Southern Ocean. (Although, someday, I really will do that last one!) Instead, this year’s list is filled with missions that have a little of my own heart and soul squeezed into them, not someone else’s. I hope it inspires you to create a list of your own—and then pursue it!
- Spend a week on Mt. Olympus
A few years ago I decided to ski all the named glaciers in Washington State. There are 213. Mount Olympus has the most glaciers of any non-volcanic peak in Washington. At nearly 50 miles round trip, the trail to the base of Olympus is a haul, but with nearly a million acres of wilderness around you, the agony of those efforts melts away as you are immersed in a sort of forest that breathes. If you stand still and listen you’ll swear there’s a heartbeat. It’s a powerful place and one that humbles me.
Beyond the forests, you’ll enter the high country and as soon as you lay eyes on Olympus, you’ll understand why it was named after the home of the Greek Gods. Even in my half a dozen ascents, I have yet to explore it all, but in this trip, my goal is to fill in those gaps with incredible skiing on several of the state’s most remote glaciers, such as the Hubert and White Glaciers.
- Complete Lowell Skoog’s “Skiing the Cascade Crest” — Mt. Baker to Mt. Rainier
Lowell Skoog finished skiing a high route from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier, a course that rides the Cascade crest for 362 miles through the wildest country in Washington State (actual effort is much more since it is done in legs, adding approach and exit miles).
Lowell completed the traverse as a dedication to his brother, Carl Skoog, who lives on as an inspiration to me. Carl was also a professional photographer and passionate ski-adventurer who laid the groundwork for my own photography and ski mountaineering in the Cascade Mountains and beyond.
Lowell’s high route took 25 years.
I began my own mission in 2003 on the Mineral High Route. Each year I’ve added section after section and now the last major gap lies between Crystal Mountain and Stampede Pass, which can be completed in a matter of days.
Besides Lowell no one else has retraced the route. Honored to follow in his footsteps, when I finish, I will raise a toast to the Skoog brothers and the wonderful friends who joined me along the way.
- Circumnavigate Mount Rainier
My first ski traverse was in the early 90s with my brothers and parents. My brothers and I were between 9 and 12 years old and, for a week, we ski traversed the northwest side of Mount Rainier from Golden Lakes to the end of Westside Road in late winter.
My love affair with long ski tours and Mount Rainier was cemented in those twisting miles through snowfields and forests. Now, decades later, “The Mountain” has more to show me and I can think of no better way she can do that than through a circumnavigation. I’ll do it in a counterclockwise fashion. From the Paradise visitor center I will climb toward Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. From there, I’ll head northeast and ride beneath the rock spires of Little Tahoma, then across the broken mass of the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers, and continue on below the 4,000-foot cliffs of the Willis Wall. Arcing around, I’ll cross the base of Sunset Amphitheater and eventually pass Pyramid Peak, headed back to Paradise.
For a time, I’ll walk in the footsteps of my first great ski adventure, and throughout there will be new memories formed that will further inspire me in years to come.
- Go on a Volcano Tour
From Washington to Northern California a lace of volcanoes make up the infamous Ring of Fire. These active volcanoes offer the best accessible late-season skiing in the country. After the ski areas have closed, diehards re-wax their skis, pull out their skins and charge uphill for those sun-scorching “bonus” days. Think tee shirts, shorts and the worst suntan lines you’ve ever seen!
After I cram the gear for at least five sports into my RV in mid-May (skis, backpacks, kayaks, motor bikes and mountain bikes), I’ll travel for two weeks south with the weather as my compass and like-minded friends as my map. Each day I’ll ski to my heart’s content and each evening I’ll round my RV with whichever friends I may find, laugh around a fire while raising a cold beer in salute to a great day.
- Ski to the Ocean in Washington State
I’ve skied to the ocean in Iceland, Norway and Japan. For some reason the concept fascinates me. It’s the ultimate vertical descent!
So the next time Seattleites hear the weatherman screaming “Snowpocalypse!” I’ll bust out my skis, and tear down main street screaming, “Weeeee.” Then, I’ll jump into the ocean, naked. Sure it’s not Antarctica, but who am I kidding, Washington’s Puget Sound is arctic enough for me.