Snoqualmie Mountain - Slot Couloir (snowboard descent), May 2002
I had been mulling over a snowboard descent of the Slot Couloir (referred to by some as the Enigma Gully) on Snoqualmie Mountain all winter long. For some reason or another those plans never materialized and when I finally found myself with a sunny Saturday in early May to burn I knew what I had to do. Scott was planning a ski trip on St. Helens and Andy had other plans, so it looked like it would be a solo excursion. Somewhat apprehensive about dropping the Couloir solo, I told myself that I would climb Snoqualmie, take a look at the Couloir and depending on how I felt about the whole affair, make the executive decision. The slopes leading down the Southeast Face to the Alpental parking area would offer sufficient entertainment should I decide to pass on the Couloir.
I parked across the street from the Sahale Ski Club and snowshoed along side the kiddie ski-lift. I passed below Guye Peak on the right towards Commonwealth Basin and turned left uphill and proceeded up an obvious gully which lead to a bench above Guye Peak on it's western-facing side. I made a short descent to the base of Snoqualmie Mountain's East Ridge and snowshoed through steep and deep snow until the grade mellowed. I looked back over the corniced ridge and had sweeping views of the entire Snoqualmie Pass area.
I descended from the summit and began poking around for the entrance to the Slot Couloir. When I finally located it, it didn't appear as radical as I had envisioned it in my mind. There was maybe a short section of 50 degree wind-blown snow up top while the remainder of the Couloir averaged about 40 degrees. I dropped in and made a few cautious turns to check for snow stability. Verdict: stable. The snow had begun to corn up and so the turns were quite enjoyable. I noticed a few small glide cracks that spanned the Couloir, but nothing major. The snow on the avalanche fan below the Couloir was unfortunately still rock hard and I traversed hard to my left towards the sun-filled basin and hopefully softer snow. Once in the basin, I converted back to snowshoe mode and made my way up to a small col next to Snoqualmie Mountain. The massive cornices looming above were being beaten on by the intense sunshine and so I made haste getting out of the basin. Once at the col, the board went back under my feet and I had more enjoyable turns back down to the Alpental parking area. I bummed a ride back to my car and called it a day after only five hours car-to-car. Can't wait to go back and get the Crooked Couloir next!
Mouse-over thumbnails below for a description and click to enlarge.
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