The resorts are closed, so the only alternative is to pack up the touring skis and head to the backcountry. After finding Turns All Year beta for Fortune and South Ingalls peaks, a few friends decided to spend the day skiing spring corn. The weather forecast couldn’t have looked more perfect for spring skiing–blue bird and high of 60s.
Having done this hike last spring to trad climb Ingalls Peak, I was familiar with the trail up to Longs Pass. However, once we reached the pass, we were completely socked in the clouds and couldn’t see the amazing views of the surrounding peaks, let alone Ingalls. It was a good training hike, and I was excited to return, especially as an out-of-town guest joined us.
As we drove back the forest road to the trailhead, I knew we were in for a treat with Mount Stuart standing tall above the valley. I was excited to see the basin and the surrounding mountains towering around us as we attempted to skin and ski around the slowly melting snow.
Splitting off from the Esmeralda trail, we carried skis to Ingalls Pass and reached patches of snow half way up allowing us to take a more direct route than the normal trail. Reaching the pass, we stopped for pictures and a snack break as we decided the route we would take.
Mount Rainier towering above the surrounding peaks.
- The Ridge
- South Ingalls Peak
- Fortune Peak
The first objective was the skin up to the ridge from the pass. One of the guys decided to traverse as far as possible after starting at a higher point to avoid skinning. It didn’t save him much time since he was transitioning. Having only a few backcountry days with steep skinning, I was sliding as the soft, corn snow shifted under my skis. After some coaching, I was able to get to the ridge to ski back down before traversing to our next objective.
Erik enjoying Washington backcountry skiing.
The second objective was South Ingalls Peak. After skiing down the ridge, we gained speed until reaching an upward slope angle. Transitioning back to tour mode, Erik set a skin track. Kevin’s heel riser broke on his Dynafit binding, which needed a little repair. I continued to follow the track knowing they would catch up. We continued on and reached the steepest part of the day. I continued learning as others were sliding. I slid out twice but regained composure. My last slide resulted in me stomping out a platform, removing my skis and booting 20 feet up to the base of South Ingalls Peak. Two out of the five of us decided to boot up to the summit as the rest of us took a nice snack break and watched as climbers attempted Ingalls Peak.
A cornice separating South Ingalls Peak and Ingalls Peak.
After skiing down back to roughly where we started towards South Ingalls Peak, the third and final objective was Fortune Peak. After the prior steep skinning, the approach to Fortune seemed gentle. Getting coached to trust the weight on my heels while planting one ski forward at a time really helped as the snow continued to soften. Finally enjoying the amazing views at the top for a view of Sloan Peak and Glacier Peaks in the far distance.
Andy descending the south face of Fortune Peak.
The snow-covered descent lasted until roughly 5,800 feet elevation. It was time to strap the skis onto our packs, change to our hiking shoes and bushwack until running into the Esmeralda trail. The hike down consisted of loose dirt and steep terrain. We were probably faster than if we would have followed the trail. It was a relief to be back at the car to crack open the beers we had waiting. Cheers to a great day spring skiing!