Happy birthday to me!
If you want the perfect birthday present, the best thing to do is go get it for yourself. Professor eDub actually had the time to ski. What would we do? Let's start with a classic: North Face of Shuksan. Firstly, we're skiing it from the top of the North Shoulder, since that's the right way to do it and I haven't bothered to slog up there from the North Face yet.
We wanted more - maybe ski it to Price Lake. But we were ready to let the mountain speak to us. Its voice left us no choice.
The approach, from the gated White Salmon turnoff, began at five-early in the morning again.
It's my birthday and this is a celebration. I'm not carrying anything. Reckoning: the vast majority of our time will be spent where 1. there's negligible avalanche risk or 2. an avalanche means certain death. I'm not carrying beacon, shovel, or probe; this is how we get high. Rope? Pro? If we can't do it with an ice ax and crampons, then it's not worth skiing.
Enough ranting. We found some haunting hardslabs on the lower glacier, but found a way to avoid them on descent. Oh yes we did. A few pictures from booting the lower part of the upper North Face:
Top of Mt Shuksan's North Shoulder: best birthday picnic I've ever had.
The perfect weather and sunshine, combined with one of my favorite ski lines, made the best birthday blessing.
So we had noticed this couloir on the approach. I've looked at the tiny remaining strip of snow in the summer and wondered. We discussed climbing it, but opted against that because of our lack of helmets.
I skied to the edge of it first. There was an icy patch that made me nervous before the blind drop into the void. But once I made a few turns, I found only packed powder. Yes!
Put this in the encyclopedia under "stoke." Would you like some?
The idea had been to ski the North Face directly to Price Lake to do it in the highest style. Now it's clear to me that this line is much better, for two reasons. Firstly, there's no direct line to Price Lake; one would have to ski from the saddle below the North Face to avoid massive cliffs, which implies a significant traverse unless the Avaiusini-Frans Direct is in shape. Secondly, the White Salmon drainage offers a continuous fall line to 3k, whereas Price Lake is at 4k; who wants to pass on an extra thousand feet of vertical relief? In summary, this line offers more than a vertical mile of fall line, most of which is nice and steep.
Let's do it again!
Thanks for sharing such an awesome day, Eric. Birthday twenty-nine was so fine. Now I'm hoping for the dirtiest thirtieth.