by Sarah Shaffer
It was a day for celebration, at least for me it was. It was my 35th birthday that day. Mandy McLaren, Liz Dunham and myself, went off for an adventure after dressing kids, dropping them off at school, shoveling food in our mouths and hastily sticking skis in the car. It was a ladies day in the mountains which gives an air of excitement all in itself. We drove the 45 minutes to the trailhead and looked at the snow conditions. What skis are we going to wear we wondered? I had brought classic skis and my hok skis, not sure which pair would be better suited for the conditions. Liz had brought backcountry skis and her classic skis. Mandy had brought hok skis.
Surprisingly we each chose a different type of ski. Mandy wore hok skis, I decided on classic skis, and Liz decided on backcountry skis. It was going to be a test to see how each pair of skis performed based on the conditions. The weather was cold to start but warmed quickly. The snow was slushy and slow. For the 3.5 miles of uphill it was easy going for the hok and backcountry skis. “Those skis are showing off”, I thought as I herringboned up many a section with my puny amount of scales on the bottom of my classic skis. My poles breaking through the snow crust and then sinking deeply into the snow made it difficult to use my upper body where my lower body was having a tough enough time as it was. My breath increasing to a pant.
With the skins attached to the backcountry skis for the full length of the ski on its underbelly, it made cruising uphill a cinch for Liz other than the weight being more labor some. The hok skis that Mandy wore had half-length skins attached to the bottom. These are non removable skins, unique to the hok ski which grip the snow and give traction to the ski.
As we (me) struggled uphill, while others (Liz and Mandy), easily climbed uphill, we took in the views of the surrounding environs. It was a blue bird day up near the crest of Blewett Pass. We were above the clouds that blanketed the Wenatchee Valley and were enjoying the sunshine, the vivid colors of green in the trees, the bright reddish-brown bark of the Ponderosa Pines. It felt like I hadn’t seen true vibrancy in colors in nature for months.
Once at the crest of the trail, we took in the views of the Enchantments with their craggy peaks jutting out in the distance. Liz removed her skins on her backcountry skis while we all chatted and snacked. After about thirty minutes it was time to say goodbye to this gorgeous spot and head down to get back to the clouds, to the reality of chores, of picking up kids and of making dinners.
Now the true test of the skis would take place for the downhill portion of our outing. The downhill was much faster, especially for the backcountry skis that easily glided along and with metal edges was able to make tight calculated turns effortlessly. The classic skis that I wore were fast enough for the downhill as well. Although my turns were not as easily achieved, still occurred, but more in a “hap-hazard” kind of way. The hok skis for Mandy were unfortunately not up for the conditions and Mandy had to work to get much glide. This was likely due to the very warm snow that had now turned to mush.
Not surprisingly the backcountry skis seemed to achieve the highest marks for the uphill and downhill with the easy climb and fast calculated descent. Giving the backcountry skis first place. The hok skis did well for the uphill, struggled for the downhill while the classic skis struggled for the uphill but did well for the downhill. We will give a tie to the hok and classic skis for second place.
Length: about 7 miles (round trip).
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet to the top of the Five Mile Road, 1900 feet to the top of Peak 4970’.
Skill: 1+ (advanced beginner) for Five Mile Road, 2 or 2+ (intermediate) for West Ridge.
Fitness: 2 (intermediate).
Activities. Cross-country ski the Five Mile Road for 3.5 miles up to Tronsen Ridge on general touring gear (slightly wider and heavier than the track skis used on groomed trails) or on very lightweight metal-edged cross-country skis. Snowshoe the road or the ridge systems leading to peaks along Tronsen Ridg (like Peak 4,970′). Backcountry ski (either on telemark or randonnee gear) the area’s ridge systems to one of several peaklets along Tronsen Ridge.
Land Ownership. Forest Service Lands and roads. No permits needed.
Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.
For more details on Five Mile Road click here.
This article was originally published on 3/15/2019.