8 Mile Mountain North Couloir Climb/Ski - North Couloir and around...Date:
Not wanting to pass up on one of the rare perfect days we've had in this perplexing spring skiing season, Tom Janisch and I toured around 8 Mile Mountain. This peak has tons to offer in regards to ski touring. It has faces on all cardinal points of the map. I've skied its northeast face a couple times, and Tom has been on the fun south slopes. After an earlier tour this year to adjacent Peak 7828, I noted with interest 8 Mile's steeper north face. So, I stewed all season waiting for a nice spring day to go have a look-see.
View of the north side of 8 Mile Mounain, taken from Grindstone Mountain a couple years ago. Left arrow is the approach, middle arrow the couloir, and the right arrow the exit.
With all the snow virtually melted out to 5,000', Tom and I hiked to then around the north side of 8 Mile Lake to near its end, then bushwacked north until we broke out in the northeast basin below our target peak, where we found...continuous snow! In fact, the coverage is still quite good up there. We skinned up to then jumped over a notch to where we could enter the couloir, where the firm snow allowed a speedy ascent to the summit.
It's funny how some couloirs look prohibitively steep, then are disappointingly mellow, e.g., Cannon Mtn. Couloir. Well, 8 Mile Mountain's North Couloir was the opposite. It looked steep on photo, and in reality, it was a bit steeper up close and personal, and consisted of frozen corn that refused to soften in the warm temps.
We hung out on 8 Mile's summit plateau, and soaked up this gorgeous day in our backyard. When it was time, Tom wisely decided to downclimb the steepest portion of the couloir. He stated he would call up to me as soon as he was out of the way of my incoming sloughs of hardened corn. I met some other climbers on the summit and we had a good chat about the other groups we knew of on nearby peaks.
With what seemed like an eternity to my anxious mind, I finally heard Tom's go ahead from below. I locked in and slid out onto the frozen steepness. The couloir was steep from the get-go, and icy. It doglegs about 100 feet down, so that added to the committing feeling of this obscure route. I side-stepped the first 10 feet, then made a nerve-wracking turn in the frozen shit. A couple turns more and I was thankfully in softer snow. At the dogleg, it turned icy again, and at its steepest I had to self-belay with whippet and ice axe at a constriction where only the edges of my tips and tails were keeping me on the slope. Below this small portion, the skiing remained consistent, and consistently hardened until I reached Tom basking in the sun.
We skied down to the Trout Lake basin, traversed South to the west basin o 8 Mile Mtn., and climbed out and over to the south slopes of peak 7828. From this notch (seen in the photo, right arrow), we had a mellow corn run down to 8 Mile Creek. The valley bottom, surprisingly enough, held great coverage and we were able to ski nearly back to 8 Mile Lake, thus completing our own little circumnavigation.
My GPS Sez:
Max Speed 21.2 mph
Tom breaking out into the wide-open basin on the northeast side of 8 Mile Mtn.
Looking north towards Mt. Cashmere.
Tom powering up as only Tom can do.
Looking back towards Cannon Mtn. and Enchantment Peak.
Janisch traversing over to the north couloir.
8 Mile Mtn.'s north couloir.
Tom in the couloir.
Tom in the upper couloir near the summit.
Summit of 8 Mile, looking back north.
Can't remember the name of this peak. Maybe someone can help me out...
Tom heading back down...
On better and safer snow! The couloir above Tom.
Traversing into 8 Mile's west basin to our exit notch.
If you don't look at the sagging cornices above you, do they really exist?
Peak 7828, where Tom, Will Terrano and I had toured early winter this year.
Big Tom surfing the mushy south slopes.
Tom reflecting on a pretty damn good day in a pretty damn good location.