Cascade winter sunrise
  Issue 2, Summer 2005  

W he winter of 2004-05 was a poor one for skiing. For three straight weeks in February, no rain fell in Seattle. On March 1, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center reported record low snowpacks at nearly all its monitoring sites from Mount Baker to Mount Hood. Snow depth at Snoqualmie Pass was just 19 percent of normal. White Pass had no snow at all.

If the winter was poor for sledding, it was great for climbing. Many low elevation peaks in the Cascades and Olympics had summer-like conditions, with bare approach trails and dry rock summits. Higher elevation peaks were free of the deep, unconsolidated snow common in a typical Northwest winter. Long periods of settled weather made long dreamed-of projects practical, and ambitious climbers responded by making over a dozen first winter ascents throughout the Cascades. This winter was the best for climbing since the drought of 1976-77, and the climbing community had the most prolific winter season in Northwest climbing history.

The winter of 2004-05 demonstrated more than just what today’s climbers can do with modern skills and equipment. It also showed the impact of greater information flow in the Northwest climbing community. Web-based bulletin boards like CascadeClimbers.com provided inspiration and the latest route conditions. And a growing number of personal websites added fuel to the fire.

In autumn 2004, John Scurlock, a pilot and photographer based in Concrete, Washington, began publishing on his website photographs of the North Cascades under winter conditions taken from his home-built airplane. The Cascades have been photographed extensively before, most notably in summer by Austin Post of the U.S. Geological Survey, whom Scurlock regards as a mentor and role model. But never before have fine winter photographs of the Cascades been so widely available. Word of Scurlock’s stunning website pictures spread rapidly throughout the climbing community and before long climbers were setting out for new winter ascents, taking advantage of both excellent climbing conditions and fresh inspiration.

When John Scurlock submitted a story about one of his flights to this year’s Northwest Mountaineering Journal, some of our volunteer editors were initially reluctant to use it. “Flying isn’t mountaineering,” said one, “even if the pictures are spectacular.” But as the winter progressed, it became clear that Scurlock’s photographs were an important phenomenon. Reluctance to publish his story vanished. John Scurlock’s photographs are yet another example of the revolutionary impact that the World Wide Web is having on Northwest mountaineering. In a very real sense, the web helped make the remarkable winter climbing season of 2004-05 possible. The web has also made it possible for us to share these stories with you in the Northwest Mountaineering Journal.

Lowell Skoog, editorial team leader
Issue 2 notes
Editorial Team
Malcolm S. Bates
Ralph Bodenner
Dave Burdick
Steve Firebaugh
Paul Klenke
Alex Krawarik
Matt Perkins
Lowell Skoog
Gary Yngve
Special Thanks
The editors again thank Jon Ryan and Tim Crawford of CascadeClimbers.com for their continued and invaluable support of this journal, and for the resources that they and the message board have provided.