Lake Chelan - Sawtooth Ridge Ski Traverse

The plan was to ski in from Foggy Dew Creek from the Methow Valley (Washington), go over Sawtooth Ridge east of Lake Chelan, and ski above the tree line to the lakeside town of Stehekin.  We drove as far as we could up Foggy Dew Creek, and set off with full packs, ski mountaineering type boots and bindings on downhill skis, and enough food for 5 days. The year was 1975, and I was 25 years old. 


The first night we didn't make it to the tree line, and set up tents and camped in light rain. That was kind of a drag. The next day it was still rainy on and off, and we decided to stay another day in the trees, and we set about to build an igloo.  


The four of us built an igloo big enough for three, but when it was done only 2 of us wanted to sleep in it. That is me (above) and Fred Leiberg setting the final block of snow into the top of the igloo, after which it was a solid shelter. 


The next day dawned mostly sunny and we headed to the top of Sawtooth Ridge. At the top was blue sky and a smallish cornice. I lingered back to get a shot of two guys getting though the cornice. We were using climbing skins on our skis, and with those we could go straight up a pretty steep slope. We also has ski crampons, also called Harchisen, to prevent sideslipping if we wanted to. The Harchisen snapped into brackets on the side of the sksis, and could be removed if not needed. If we had stepped off our skis onto the snow we would have sunk waist deep in fairly soft snow. 


As you can see in the photo above, the wind was from left to right, and the windward slope was stripped of snow, and the leeward slope was a snow deposition zone.  For that reason, any avalanches would occur on the leeward side, the the cornice might serve as a trigger.


From the top of the ridge we had to get down a ways, but we didn't want to get into the trees. We traversed using Harchisen. We crossed the gully above, and many others like it. We did some slalom skiing, but with 50 lb packs it was pretty pathetic.  Below this ski line the gully narrowed and got very steep, and I really didn't want to go sliding down this or any other gully. I was the third across this slope, and each skier across cut off a layer of snow which went skittering down the gully. 

We spent another night near the treeline, and the next day we decided we didn't have time to get to Stehekin, so we headed downhill and came to the shore of Lake Chelan at Prince Creek. There we waited for the ferry "Lady of the Lake."  If made a run every day the 60 mile length of the lake to Stehekin, and we hoped to flag it down and get a ride. We saw it coming but it was a long way off, on the other side of the 2 mile wide lake. We signaled with mirrors hoping to get their attention, but they kept going straight. We were very disappointed, but made plans for getting their attention on the way back, with better use of our mirrors.  We patiently wanted, and suddenly the boat appeared around a bend of the lake shore, very close to the shore and heading right toward us. They had seen us on the way up, and planned all along to get us on the way back. We loaded up and had a nice ride back to the town of Chelan.