Colchuck Peak || Northeast Couloir || Stupid-Steep Skiing

May 4, 2008

Hover on SONAR to witness the sickness (route photo)


Colchuck Peak and SONAR steep skiing

Thanks to John Scurlock, the flyest photographer, for the epic route photo. Colchuck Peak, with Mount Stuart the prominent beast on the right.

With advanced technical capablities, we bring you Ski Sickness in SONAR. Can you feel the pressure of my sonic radiation bouncing off your body? I see you, baby.

Just thinking about this trip makes me want to dance. With that in mind, youtube-enabled sickness surfers can get some Groove Armada with it.

I would like to make a toast to anybody getting it done in their backyard. Adventurous souls will find what they need, wherever they may be. That being said, I can't wait to return to the Alps. But I can't overemphasize how well and frequently Washington delivers the right conditions.

Ben, Josh, and Jason took this one as far as they could in 2003. More here. I mentioned this trip to both Jason and Josh; neither showed interest.

Monika climbs toward the cruxes.

Postmodernism: I often prefer to repeat classic lines in the best possible style, rather than pursue inferior novelty. Before I ever played the game of chasing premiers, I knew that virginity was a poor selection criterion. I feel stronger than ever about that now. There is an added richness in reflection upon the history of a route. On doit y réfléchir.

Eric, Monika, Ryan, and I found all the excitement we craved, plus a little extra.

With fresh snow during the week and a huge forecasted temperature spike, we started early. We were schlepping up the snow-covered road on our skis shortly after midnight. Our strategy was rewarded; we surmounted the cornice at 8:30 am and skied the line before the day got too warm.

The cornice required some strenuous maneuvers up overhanging snow. We didn't have any pro. Some of the wiring in my brain got shorted after I gave myself two ice-cream headaches trying to knock snow off the cornice, then I surmounted it with anger alone. I had brought a 20 meter segment of 7 mm cord for antics, so I lowered it from above to offer my three companions a little more security.

Sky works his way up the cornice.
Photo by Monika

First I rapped into the route from one side, where snow seemed to cover the slabby rock well enough, by slinging a big chunk of granite. There was just enough snow for Ryan to do the same. Then it looked bleak. After much debate and a suggestion from Monika that she show us how to truly slay the gnar, Monika and Eric finally entered via a rappel from a bollard.

The upper part of the route required much concentration. There's some marginal-to-not-really-ski terrain. It's more like a very steep slope with a series of small cliffs, perched above bigger cliffs, that happened to be covered with powder. I played test dummy and checked the crux while the others waited on their skis below the cornice.

That's as far as the magic spaghetti will get me.

The snow was a little funky moving off that thinly-coated slab.

Ryan's turn

At the crux, I did some downward rockclimbing on my skis. I would have switched to crampons if I hadn't put myself in a committed position unintentionally. I was happy to have survived the rocks on my skis; I advised the others to switch to crampons and axes.

Let 'em hang

Eric gets the goods in the gut.

That's MoMoney.

Take us home, Ryan.

What an incredible score. Fatties far looker's left.

The snow was incredible for making turns on such a steep slope.

Below the crux (and above another, more reasonable crux) was the best powder I've ever seen for making turns on a slope with a rise double its run. There was a smart-ass comment about trigonometry here, but someone told me it smacked of elitism. Arrogant, elitist, misanthrope... guilty.

We found great powder in the couloir after long-time sustained adrenal dilation. We used screams of joy off the sides of the uber-aesthetic couloir to pretrigger suspended slides off the climber's-right face in the sun, like a bat uses SONAR to find insects. On that note, we finish with an anagram from Nabokov: Insect incest nicest?

This is just ridiculously good.

Ryan reloaded

We took a break to eat lunch at the lake. Then we skied directly to Monika's rig. We were drinking beers in warm spring sunshine by 2:30 pm. Life is good.

More Stuart Range steep skiing and some alpine rock

Washington Ski Map