The full moon elicits strong emotions from many creatures on this Earth. Howls in the night, moonlight skiing inspiried woops and hollers; we all have our ways to express our thanks for the added light. A full moon can also illuminate the mysterious and haunting.
We swung open the car doors into a surprisingly full parking lot. It was almost midnight, yet the party was rocking in the Baker ski area lot. Fires illuminated faces and hands trying to stay warm while we suited up and attached skins to our skis. The full moon allowed the landscape to stand out in stark contrast to the dark sky and stars. Rubbing our eyes, we tried to adjust to the wonderfully bright night scene before heading out from the parking lot.
Before we even left the parking lot strange lights encircled us. Our eyes played tricks on us as they danced around, never quite letting on their identity or getting close enough to make out the forms near them. We pushed on quickly, looking forward to getting away from the spookiness of the parking lot, but little did we know the trees and snowfields above would prove even more haunting.
Skinning was easy and we quickly made progress towards Table Mountain. Distressingly, as the noise of the party scene parking lot faded, new noises took over. Our forward progress would abruptbly hault every few minutes, our perked up ears would clearly hearing shuffling nearby that quickly paused as well.
Something else was moving nearby. Kick turns by moonlight are rather straight forward, but kick turns by moonlight, while watching over your shoulder for something to come barreling out of the trees, is an advanced skill. It requires balance beyond my normal skill set. Indeed the extra challenge almost saw me plummet down a steep slope that did not have a friendly runout.
As we neared our bivy spot, we began pausing more frequently, yet the noises continued to follow us, seeming audible on both sides. The hollow dampening of the fresh snow couldn’t cover up the fact that something or someone else nearby us was making noise. Cautiously, we dug out platforms and erected our bivy sites. Stoves and extra food were loaded into our sleeping bags to lighten our loads and we set out to climb the steep slopes near camp.
Ski poles made up for the lack of ice axe only because of the soft nature of the snow. Crampons would have been nice on the bulges of hard snow encountered higher up. With light packs and skis strapped to our backs, we slowly kicked steps higher up the slope, eventually reaching a steep chute leading up to the top of a large bench. This would be our launching off point. As we worked our way up the last steep technical bits, the slope erupted into noise. Snow flew everywhere.
Was it a blizzard?? Avalanche?? The waves of snow being flung down the slope came in waves, and woops and hollers seemed to be emanating from within the explosions of powder. Suddenly the source of all the noise we heard stalking out footsteps all night was apparent – SNOWBOARDERS. And the worst kind of snowboarders – POWDER SNAKES!
Topping out on the slope we looked down on 5 snowboarders pushing untold amounts of snow down the face. Feeling quite spooked, we quickly transitioned and skiied down the now carved up slope down to camp. That night we slept fitfully in the blowing wind and swirling snow. The morning dawned bright with no sign of snowboarder tracks. Mysteriously our ski tracks were still present despite the blowing snow, as they were sheltered by the ridgeline. Snowboarder tracks – up or down – were nowhere to be seen. Had it been our imagination?
As we made our way back out to the cars under the bright sun and shadow of Mt. Shuksan, we paused often to listen for other sounds of shuffling nearby. We couldn’t hear anything this time, and as we approached the parking lot any attempt to hear a stalking snowboarder were drowned out by children playing in the new white snow.
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