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Gaston

[TR] Mt Shuksan - NW Couloir Climb and Ski Descent

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Trip: Mt Shuksan - NW Couloir Climb and Ski Descent

 

Date: 12/2/2009

 

Trip Report:

Yesterday DO and I climbed and skiied the Northwest Couloir on Mt. Shuksan (the huge obvious feature between the north face and the northwest arrete). Once we reached the upper Hanging Glacier we kept climbing up to 8,500 feet where the traditional north face route tops out.

 

Shuksan+NW+Couloir+Photo.jpg

 

We found extremely variable snow: scrapey cement on the approach, horrific avi debris under the White Salmon and adjacent slopes, then various flavors of windpack, some with light sun or rain crusts. Very little of the snow could legitimately be described as "breakable crust," in the sense of inhibiting to downhill skiing.

 

We climbed the lefthand side of the couloir where firm and sometimes icey snow approached 55 degrees. We doglegged right at the top of the couloir to avoid a very fun looking 20m runnel of snow-ice that would probably go at 3+. Above that was the technical crux of the whole outing; an easy but gut-wrenching traverse back left across thinly covered slabby rock--with a big cliff below. It was much more pleasant to cross this terrain with skis on.

 

Climbing unroped to the north shoulder up the Hanging seemed reasonable to me, given the configuration of the ice; but we had already ruled out the possibility of summitting due to doubts about coverage on the Crystal and Sulphide (happily this meant no rope or harnesses). Sunny turns on the Hanging led down to the entrance of the NW couloir, and a careful but enjoyable ski back to the valley.

 

One possibly useful note is that, by veering hard skier's right on the descent (cutting right under the col at the base of the north face) we were able to almost entirely avoid avi debris on the descent--very desirable!

 

We benefitted from some inversion, I think, since I never once put on my puffy jacket.

 

The complex terrain in the diamond-shaped face above the couloir is starting to get plastered with ice runnels, but I think it would still be a little bony to climb. I couldn't help but extrapolate to other faces in the region...

 

I will get pictures up when and if I can, but please let me know if you have any questions in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Gaston

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Wow, what a nice grab. Way to get it. Dang, I didn't get far beyond my approach the last few days. I should've thought bigger. Way cool. Definitely love to see pictures.

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Thats badass. I wonder if it isn't the first true descent of that line. The "first" descent by a snowboarder back in the day started below the traverse you describe and while I know some skiers who have done similar I've never heard of anyone punching it up through the gut to the Hanging Glacier.

 

More pics!

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I wonder if it isn't the first true descent of that line. The "first" descent by a snowboarder back in the day started below the traverse you describe and while I know some skiers who have done similar I've never heard of anyone punching it up through the gut to the Hanging Glacier.

 

If anyone knows of other complete descents of this route, I'd like to hear about it. Send me a PM or something.

 

The only information I have about the original snowboard descent comes from a June 24, 1993 article in the Bellingham Herald. The article has a photo diagram of the route and it does appear that the descent began below the leftward traverse, as Darin said. I'd like to clear up the ski/snowboard history of this route.

 

I've updated my alpenglow ski history entry to clarify where the 1993 descent started from.

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WOW! way to get after it early season homie!!! baker did get a lot more snow than anywhere else in the state, nice job taking advantage of it when most people are bitching about it not snowing!! My friend ben and I dropped into the NW kewlie from the top after ascending the white salmon in 2008. it was april 22 and we were blessed with boot deep powpow! one of my favorite days in the hills. could be first complete descent...dunno. the ski from the top is the only way to ski it though, the entrance slot to the face is really cool!

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I was by there late yesterday on a joy ride with Tom S and we saw your ski tracks...!! No pics though. There was a couple of holy shites uttered...

 

by the way, my two OATs read 9 deg C and 11 deg C, they tend to read warm but I was still surprised, expected it to be colder than that; that was 8000 to 9000' at around 4 pm.

Edited by John_Scurlock

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NICE! I saw your approach tracks the other day, I scoped out the north face but didn't like conditions past the col. Way to get it!

 

Lowell - Me and Ben Price skiied the NW culee fully last march (he splitboarded it), and Ben had also boarded it fully the previous winter.

Edited by danhelmstadter

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I've been in touch with Rene Crawshaw, a longtime friend of my brother Carl. Rene skied the NW Couloir of Shuksan from the Hanging Glacier in the spring of 1998 or 1999. He said some Mt Baker pro-patrollers made a complete descent of Shuksan from near the summit via the NW Couloir shortly afterward. Given recent trends (where skiers are reporting new descents on Shuksan without going to the summit) I'm inclined to record Rene's descent as the first complete ski descent of this route.

 

Can anybody push the date farther back?

 

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Can't push it farther back, but I skied the NW Couloir from the North Shoulder via the same line in Gaston's illustration last May.

 

Nice work, Gaston. Sounds like you're understating the scariness to me. That traverse up high is rad!

 

I would suggest that the North Shoulder is a very logical place to consider the line's starting point.

Edited by dmTabke

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it's interesting hearing about all these ascents.

 

looking at lowell's list over the years, i've always felt that there was lots of ascents missing, ecspecially along mt baker hwy. not that it has anything to do with lowell's reporting but more of a slack in information by skiers/snowboarders, or ignorance that the database even exists.

 

it'd be cool to fill in the gaps.

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I personally don't put a lot of work into telling people what I have done in the mountains, but that is not to say I don't do it. But when I do, I feel guilty about it. Like I am doing all of this for my ego. Spending time in the mountains means the world to me. It has defined my life. For me it doesn't matter who did what, when, or where. I think it destroys a wild unknown place, and turns it into a cookbook of sorts...hike this far, climb this and that, you will need this piece of gear and this and that. Imagine if there was no CC.com or guidebooks, every climb/descent could be a first. I personally try to avoid beta and never carry a map or compass. But this discussion probably belongs somewhere else and not in a badass TR! Nice work again Gaston and partner!!!

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For me it doesn't matter who did what, when, or where. I think it destroys a wild unknown place, and turns it into a cookbook of sorts...hike this far, climb this and that, you will need this piece of gear and this and that. Imagine if there was no CC.com or guidebooks, every climb/descent could be a first. I personally try to avoid beta and never carry a map or compass.

 

Sounds like you don't like guidebooks. That's not what I'm working on. I'm recording history. I think it's fine if people don't report what they do. But, in that case, they shouldn't complain if somebody else reports a trip and it comes to be regarded as a new route.

 

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I did not post that comment to speak negatively about what you are working on Lowell, just in reply to Sol's comment and trying to explain why myself, and maybe others like me, have not reported descents/ascents that they have done. Those are my opinions and I am not trying to change anything, and I am definitely not complaining. I spend hours looking at guidebooks, magazines and websites, which i realize sounds hypocritical...but you gotta feed the beast. You sound really defensive in your post and I am sorry if I offended you and the work you have done, both in the mountains and with your website.

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and never carry a map or compass...

 

That's just stupid.

 

 

Badass TR Gaston, looks like an amazing line!

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i am the first descent guy my name is dennis crowley baker local season after george craig and i talked outside upper lodge i did that line. i know rene whatever before them.

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