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[TR] Mt, Shuksan - North Buttress Couloir - ski descent 1/30/2011


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Trip: Mt, Shuksan - North Buttress Couloir - ski descent


Date: 1/30/2011


Trip Report:



I've had my eye on this line for a long time, but have always been a little too intimidated to go for it - yesterday early am was no exception, when my alarm rang at a cold 430, I drearily decided that the avalanche danger was probably too high, and new snow would have hid crevasses on the white salmon approach, much too dangerous, so I shut my eyes and slept until 8. I peered out the frosted window of my camper and saw Shuksan in the early sun, all fears disolved, I guzzled some breakfast and set out.

Avalanche debris by the creek are a pain this year, but it was easy going above. The hanging glacier was acitve and displayed some impressive serac avalanche events, one was close enough to dust me. No track was in place on the white salmon, but the trail breaking was easy, I started lookers left to avoid crevasses on the right, and dug several pits, the snow seemed stable enough, there was a consistant failure about a foot down but it had a very dirty/rough shear. The surface 2 inches or so would break in shooting cracks in the more wind affected areas; weather was quite pleasant, sunny, cold, a little breeze up high.

I made my way over to the north shoulder, took a little break, then dropped in the North Buttress Couloir, It was quite icey in spots, but there had been some crossloading, and one side of the couloir offered windbuff. Lower down the snow got much better, and was mostly windbuffed powder over ice crust, which was scary at times, since I hadn't climbed the route, I didn't know where I was going to hit it, and every tenth turn or so sounded like KKCHHHHHHHHH, as my edges struggled for purchase on the ice crust. I took my time and skiied tentitevly.

As I approached the end of the first couloir, I busted out my crampons and ice tools and took a look over the edge to scope things out for a possible rappel etc... I found that it would be easiar to ski down to the left then curve around below the cliff on a super exposed traverse. I put the skiis back on and carefully skiied down to the traverse, where I again switched to crampons and traversed 10 feet of thin ice, then threw the skiis back on and shredded the second couloir, which was less steep and had less ice crust. The sun was shineing in it's pink pre-dusk light, bueatiful, but a clear indication of what was to come.

I found some rock which looked like it would take some decent pro for a rappel station, after hammering in a pin, I dislodged a microwave size block, but it exposed more solid rock behind it. I equalized several pieces and a picket, then rapped a full 36 meters useing a 36 meter 8 mil, with a 36 meter 3 mil tag line - past an overhang, steep ice, then a vertical ice step with just barely enough rope for the last vertical step, I had to grab and stretch my tag line for the last few feet. There was still 100' of knar terrain left before I reached the NorthWest Couloir, but luckily I had rapped into a tight gully that held good ice which was easy to downclimb. By the time I reached the NorthWest Couloir it was night.

I melted some water then shreded the NW couloir with my headlamp, It held excellent powder, every turn my headlamp would illuminate a plume of snow, it was stupidly fun. I knew where the cliff bands were, since I'd skiied it a couple times before. The ski down to the creek was fun too, with a few inches of pow over a spirnglike snowpack.


My camera ran out of batteries, but I did take some helmetcam footage, which I may try to organize later. Does anyone know if a name for this route exists? NBC seems appropriate.


Close up of the NBC (taken the other day)


Edited by danhelmstadter
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It would be an oversimplification to call Dan's trip "skiing" without further qualification, in my opinion. It seems more like a vision quest with skis as an enabling tool in his shaman's kit.


Want to ski or have a beer on Friday, Dan? I'm flying from SEATAC on Saturday so I have to head south this week.

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