Afternoon bootpack & ski tour from Cloud Cap TH to top of Snowdome, down through Langille Bowls w reascent and return through Eliot Glacier. Trails in area were snow free and dry until Eiliot Glacier. Bluebird day w light breezes at the cusp of a lengthy heatwave.
Area conditions/snow coverage pics to accompany.
With the opening of Cloud Cap Road, visited to explore terrain prior to the current hot spell. Ascended via standard route with exception that I stayed on Eliot’s Eastern Moraine ridge proper and then after descending at the 6800’ cairn - per excellent trailhead beta provided by a helpful frequent visitor who also confirmed for me the bridge crossing was still out - followed most of the other tracks by bootpacking up the longest thin, somewhat dirty remaining snow/ice finger to the middle of Eliot Glacier 7600’ bench. Parts of this section were dirty enough (and a bit rock strewn) to make for a slower ski return when not following in “cleaner snow” ski tracks. Also noted cracks and crevasses in the dirt/rock covered ice both approaching the bench on convex rollover (to be fair, as noted in book) and less startling ones on the bench itself.
Many crevasse/crack-dodging ski tracks laid in recent days on the portion of the Eliot headwall below lower Snowdome. One of the members of a party of two changing out to descend a side finger a bit ahead of me seemed to wave me on toward the headwall rather than follow their more standard path. Since I had chosen to skip skinning mode for sake of efficiency and flexibility, I even considered the shortcut for a moment. For a range of solo backcountry, glacier travel, warm snow safety/efficiency and common sense reasons as well as a desire to recon the standard route, bivy spot and Langille Bowls coverage, I declined. I also later noticed that the ski tracks seemed to follow specific headwall descent and glacier crossing paths (at a likely earlier part of a cooler day).
Snow up from bench and to/throughout Snowdome was extensive, stable and well-consolidated making for efficient bootpacking despite a warm day. And with warm snow, it was a soft enjoyable ski despite minor runnels, suncups amd cracks emerging from recent summer weathering.
Langille Bowls were accessible at a couple spots w a 1-2 step meltout crossing that will unfortunately likely worsen considerably this week. Ski down to base of lower bowl/top of drainage was sun-impacted, but enjoyable while soft and very stable wo loose wet.
Noticed two sets of tracks continuing on to descend the drainage. Again entertained thoughts of deviating from plan and following down to the Timberline Trail crossing. My research into whether the bridge was back/trail repaired from washout mid-2000s had been inconclusive with no reference noticed on USFS trail #600 webpage or on trailhead signage. Luckily, the same helpful local who had suggested the audible to access the Eliot bench via cleaner snow had also told me the bridge was still out so - especially given time of day - I beat back my inner demon and didn’t follow the tracks, instead immediately bootpacking back up Langille Bowls to the standard exit. And per a response to an email followup to USFS, it’s a good thing I didn’t:
“There is still no bridge over the Elliot or any of the other stream crossings on the east side of the timberline trail. The trail has been rerouted lower on the Elliot and the crossing is doable but not easy especially with ski gear or at the end of the day when the river is swollen with melt water.”
Moral of the story: 1) When trail beta makes you more conservative, err on the side of taking it. 2) When trail beta makes you more aggressive, err on the side of dismissing it. 3) If you can’t communicate both CLEAR and CORRECT advice in the backcountry to a recipient who’s not already offtrack or at risk, don’t.