Last Updated: April 2, 2021



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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mount Hardy - "OpenFly Coulior", May 3

With hwy20 having opened not two days prior, the race was on to harvest what was left of the pow, before the masses and/or freeze/thaw rendered the slopes a bumped-out crud fest. What to do, what to do? Let us see, Silverstar, Birthday Tour, Maple and Rainy Passes - been there, done that. Aha, but wait! Phil Fortier had posted a couple trip reports a few years back of ski descents on Mt. Hardys north side: NE Coulior and Open Fly Coulior. These features seemed intriguing enough to lure Tod and me to go have a look for ourselves.

Full report here.

Mount Hardy - "OpenFly Coulior", May 2008

With hwy20 having opened not two days prior, the race was on to harvest what was left of the pow, before the masses and/or freeze/thaw rendered the slopes a bumped-out crud fest. What to do, what to do? Let's see, Silverstar, Birthday Tour, Maple and Rainy Passes - been there, done that…aha, but wait! Phil Fortier had posted a couple trip reports a few years back of ski descents on Mt. Hardy's north side: NE Coulior and "Open Fly Coulior". These features seemed intriguing enough to lure Tod and me to go have a look for ourselves.

Starting from the plowed pullout near the Easy Pass Trailhead, Tod and I crossed the road and maintained a steady ascending traverse bearing to the southeast, with only one steep stream crossing worth noting before turning up a broad timbered rib. Before long, the rib eased back and gave way to mostly open slopes beneath the 7600ft western sub-summit of Hardy, referred to as "Nancy Drew" in Phil's report. We continued up to a gentle saddle just left of "Nancy Drew" to scope out what would be our return route back up from Swamp Creek Valley. It seemed simple enough – a wide-open bowl, with an hourglass section lower down leading to an apron above the valley floor.

From the saddle, we contoured across the small south-facing bowl aiming for a minor ridge dividing "Nancy Drew" from Hardy's main summit. When the going got too steep for skinning, we strapped our skis to our packs and booted up the ridge to a small notch right at the peak's summit. A quick reconnaissance by Tod indicated that the entrance to Phil's "Open Fly Coulior" was just off to the right. A short down-climb soon saw us the top of the coulior where we were relieved to learn that it wasn't necessary to rappel into.

Tod dropped in the 40 degree-ish coulior first. We encountered maybe three-to-four inches of powder over a frozen and unpredictably lumpy base. Occasionally we'd get a good slash turn, but more often than not the thin coating of powder concealed knee-jarring, re-frozen avalanche debris hidden underneath. Triggered by our turns above, a sluff chute was constantly running down the gut of the coulior – a flowing river we'd frequently have to cross in search of a mercifully forgiving patch of powder. The aesthetic slot coulior narrowed briefly to about 10 feet before opening-up for the remaining descent to the valley floor. The powder gave way to sticky glop near the bottom, with monitor-sized avalanche chunks choking the exit to the apron below. Below this, a smooth lower-angled corn slope finally offered up some of the best turns of the day. All told, I think we spent no more than ten minutes ‘leap-frogging' down the coulior – you decide if the payoff justifies the near $4/gallon gas price tag just to drive here in the first place.

After a brief lunch break (it was already 3 pm), we skinned-up and began traversing (skier's) right towards the previously noted hourglass below our return saddle. The slope angle through the hourglass was fairly steep and also choked with avalanche debris, making for an exhausting and time-consuming two-steps-forward, one-step-back grunt to reach the bowl above. We eventually regained the saddle without further difficulty and rested briefly as the snow showers continued to intensify. To return, we rode smooth corn roughly along our initial up-track on Hardy's south-facing slopes, before dropping into alternating gladed and/or forested terrain. Eventually the forest became too dense to reasonably link turns, so we sideslipped between trees and branches for a good portion of the descent before eventually resorting to booting. We reached the road about ten minutes afterwards, and had only about a half-mile of walking in the rain to return to where we parked at the Easy Pass pullout.

Looking over my shoulder, I was hopeful that Phil and Dave would happen to be driving by and return the favor of shuttling us to the car. After all, we saved them a good 3 or 4 miles of road slogging back in 2004, when they were returning from their initial Mt. Hardy ski descent! Next time fellas, right?

Click here for photos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Snow/Source Lakes - N. Slope Chair Pk, Source Lk Divide, Pineapple Pass, April 26

We should have gotten an earlier start, eh? Yeh, it is only 9am and only going to get hotter was Eric Henrys reply after witnessing a sluff slide spontaneously release down the lower flanks of Bryant Coulior. We were only halfway up Chair Peak Basin, when our ambitious plans to ski the North Slope of Chair Peak were dashed in the name of playing it safe. Ok, now for plan B.



Full report here.

Snow/Source Lake touring, April 2008

"We should have gotten an earlier start, eh?" "Yeh, it's only 9am and only going to get hotter" was Eric Henry's reply after witnessing a sluff slide spontaneously release down the lower flanks of Bryant Coulior. We were only halfway up Chair Peak Basin, when our ambitious plans to ski the North Slope of Chair Peak were dashed in the name of playing it safe. Ok, now for plan 'b'.

We traversed over to the saddle on the Snow Lake Divide, and finding good powder snow there, made a fun but short descent to Snow Lake. Soon we were skinning up the edge of the frozen lake, ogling at familiar peaks blanketed in such obscene quantities of snow, that they looked completely unfamiliar to me. The feeling of isolation and remoteness here belies Snow Lake's relative proximity to Alpental, which itself is barely an hour's drive from Seattle. A veritable winter playground indeed!

Nearing the far side of the lake, Eric spotted a party of four perched on a bench beneath Mount Roosevelt. Moments later, we would see them exiting a hidden gully as they skied down to the lake. We chatted briefly and determined that they had in fact skied the North Slope of Chair Peak a few hours earlier. They reported having triggered a moderately sized wind slab somewhere high up on the slope, but managed to ski out of it without loss of life or limb. Hmm... We wished each other well and parted ways, with the foursome returning along Snow Lake back towards the divide.

With the mystery of the North Slope exit ramp through cliff bands above Snow Lake now revealed (we noticed a few other, less obvious options as well), Eric and I decided to skin up the route some distance to 'check it out'. We made it about halfway between the lake and Chair's North Face before heavy powder overlying lighter sugar snow, and continuous sluffing all around suggested to us that we may be in over our heads. We wasted no time in ripping our skins off and proceeded to ski/ride back down to the lake. After a lunch break, Eric and I retraced our skin track back across the lake and in search of shaded, north-facing powder. We skinned up to a minor point on Snoqualmie Mountain's West Ridge, overlooking the South Fork Snoqualmie River with Alpental ski area just beyond. We enjoyed another nice, albeit somewhat short descent, stopping somewhere above the lake. I wanted to wrap up the day with a final run down from Pineapple Pass, and so we skinned back up to the divide saddle and skied back down to Source Lake. An interminable slog through heavy mashed potatoes saw us to Great Scott Bowl, where the inviting slope beneath the pass beckoned me to hurry up before the snow began to refreeze in the growing late-afternoon shadows.

As promised, nice turns down from Pineapple Pass into Great Scott Bowl were had, that is until the final bumped-out, sticky porridge shot through the trees. What a workout it is to ride through that stuff! Made it back to the upper-lot shortly thereafter to witness a tailgate party atmosphere of beers, bbq's and bong-tokes in full swing!

Click here for photos.
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