Distal Phalanx - Busted Distal Bicep CouloirDate:
I woke in the bed of my truck five minutes before my alarm went off bleary eyed to headlights from an approaching car around the bend of highway 20 near it's west side winter closure. At that hour of morning it could only be my friends Ryan and Eric who had already been up and driving for hours.
It didn't take very long before we found ourselves scrambling in the dark up steep muddy embankments and unpredictably punching through the shallow rotten snow in the bush of Colonial Creek. We reached it's headwaters at the crack of dawn, welcoming open blue skies and deepish light snow. At one point on our upwards zigzagging, I caused a snow bridge spanning a large glide crack to loudly fail just by getting too close.
From a col high on Colonial, we looked far across the Neve drainage to the beautiful couloir on Distal Phalanx that was our ski objective. By that time, it seemed doubtful we'd make it since the day was already getting old. We talked about our options, and changed our minds several times. The difficult conditions and amount of elevation gained had ate up a lot of time, and we knew we would be setting ourselves up for an epic by continuing towards Distal Phalanx. Still collectively undecided, Ryan said something about epic days being memorable, the logic seemed right, the beautiful an slightly scary view of the couloir on such a bluebird windless afternoon seemed to call us at that moment of indecision, and we dropped down to the valley towards the Distal Phalanx with smiles.
We alternated trail breaking up the deep snow in the couloir, dodged a couple ice chunks, found some wind affected snow, and topped out to find the sun low and red on the horizon. I was last to drop in, and triggered a slab after just a few turns. Eric and Ryan were in safe zones on the side of the couloir as the lanch trucked past them. It got dark quickly and we skied the lower section with headlamps. Hours of skinning back up to the col under starlight followed.
We got a bit turned around high on the Colonial/Neve/Paul Bunion's Stump massif, but found the way with not too much sweat, and skied mostly enjoyable powder down through a developing marine layer to Colonial Creek. We milked what we could of the deproach through the woods on skis, we had to pack the skis when it got too patchy and clustered with deadfall to ski. We still had a ways to go. The snow was rotten in spots so every 20 steps or so, one of us would unpredictably punch through, with unseen hazards below, and we were sidehilling next to the creek which was steep in places. Somewhere near our creek crossing Ryan took an unlucky digger from punching through the shitty rotten snow in a bad spot, and hurt his arm. His bicep looked weird and he couldn't bring his forearm up very far. Ryan is one tough dude, I could hardly tell he was injured as we made our way out, even though I knew he was in pain. Eric and Ryan drove back to Seattle that night. I just heard from Ryan that his Distal Bicep tendon is torn.
In all we gained 11,000+ feet of elevation and took 22.5 hours car to car. It seems that there are several approach options, and in 20/20 hindsight, it is clear that we chose an approach that given the conditions we found, may have not have been ideal.
I didn't take many pictures, and this one below is courtesy of Ryan. The Busted Distal Bicep Couloir is in the distance.Ryan Lurie Image
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