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danhelmstadter

[TR] Pleiades, Larrabee, Mt. Shuksan - southside couloirs, eastside, nwc 1/13/2012

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Trip: Pleiades, Larrabee, Mt. Shuksan - southside couloirs, eastside, nwc

 

Date: 1/13/2012

 

Trip Report:

On the 11th I booted and skied the NWC on Mt. Shuksan. Encountering mostly good but slightly wind affected snow. In a spot just above the first cliff band there was a questionable slab... I did some tests - finding that there indeed was a slab there but it did not propagate well with an extended column test, so I traversed a little to the left, and no more slab. The high traverse to the entrance chute was very icy, with a thick breakable ice crust and a bit of solid water ice here and there. Mostly good snow in the upper chute with maybe a 10' section of hard ice crust near the top. There was also a short section of rime ice above the couloir entrance that I made a point to remember for the ride down. I'm finding that I like to boot pack more thank skin, something about the movement speaks to me.

 

The next day, after some grocery shopping in kendall, I parked my rig a quarter mile or so past the DOT on Twin Lakes Road... Skinned in, then booted up the gully to the west of Winchester, I descended and set up a bivy at the headwaters of Tomyhoi creek, I fell asleep under a canopy of stars, Orion directly overhead. In the morning I ascended the west ridge of Larrabee which had me kinda skered because it was mostly hard rime ice with serious exposure -- my intended descent route. At the summit I questioned my original intention, after some thought I decided to descend the south face route instead of the west ridge. Cautious turns down hard rime ice off the summit led me to the entrance of the south face, but on a whim I dropped into the east face instead, thinking that I would just skin back up and ski the south face too... But instead, once at the base of the face, I traversed out to the Pleiades couloirs and climbed and skied both of them.

 

The first (the west one) was longer than the second, and held a hidden top portion, it held mostly good-variable conditions, the second held terribly crusty conditions necessitating jump turns to bust through the crust. On the way up the second I developed a painful leg cramp in my lower right quadricep, but being pretty close to the top, and having a hunch that the pain was just coming from a muscle cramp, I pushed on, I felt the pain during the skiing, but I had to ignore it because a fall was not an option. The angle mellowed once out of the rock walls, and I skied the phatty lower couloir/gully ALL the way to the valley floor(a long way down) it got dark. I massaged my painful leg a little, melted some water, ate some hot food, then began the long ascent up to the col between Winchester and Larrabee eying the way in twilight before dark. My leg started to feel a little better, but I was gimping it very slowly, staggering awkwardly to avoid stressing the muscle. I was booting up somewhere in some trees, and snow began to fall, it grew steadily heavier as did the wind. Reaching the col, I got lost for a bit before I dropped into Tomyhoi basin where I recovered my bivy gear, then ascended towards Winchester hut in heavy winds and snow, feeling stupid for forgetting my gps.

 

I was surprised to find the door of the hut locked, I knocked... no answer, then bellowed an awkward "hello" ... "hello" in return came from inside. It was apparently around one o'clock in the morning, limping up from the valley had taken me quite a while... The peoples inside were super cool and cooked me a hot meal, I told them that I had intended to descend after an hour or so rest in the hut, but I ended up spending the night. The storm pounded the hut all night. In the morning, I set out in the still stormy whiteout and proceeded to descend - ski cuuttin slabs left and right, flushing my intended descent route( a gully) occasionally ski cutting a slab off the side of the gully, deepest crown was probably around 2 1/2 feet... Amazing powder skiing lower down...

 

The ski on the road out was slow cause the deep damp snow stuck to my skis, and the leg cramp returned. After about six miles I found my motorhome and road-out under two feet of snow, shit... I am a dumbass for sure, for throwing away my rusted chains and not getting another pair, for not respecting the unpredictability of the weather, for parking up the hill instead of at Hannagen pulloff... To make the story short, I took some advice from a passerby, who said that I should coast down in first gear and to "lay off the brake" After digging out and turning around I ended up loosing control a couple hundred feet down, with my front driver side tire half hanging off the steep embankment, truck tilted, I remained calm as it went down, but I am really glad I didn't loose my transport and home in the rollover into trees below that would have resulted if I stopped a foot two later.

 

This morning, the BP pulled me off tha' cliff and I gingerly drove down with ebrake half applied/sometimes more, front brake applied accordingly, and clutch and first gear in necessary transition. Looking back on my time there on the road -- there was little hardship, I was well provisioned and warm enough - except some shivering at night that I am used to -- in hindsight, I see that my experience was a positive one, since I had some high quality times playing my guitar -- I think I finally broke out of that plateau that I've been stuck on.

 

some video clips of the variable conditions --

 

nooksack tower

2999693890103935217BBorim_ph.jpg.149dc39c9c0369533a8fae5717de4e2d.jpg

 

ice on tha traverse

2161307690103935217dkocAf_ph.thumb.jpg.8dc1a259853ff8dfa2131fc5fb0c295d.jpg

 

alpenglow

2404266400103935217qCRCYi_ph.jpg.d8e1480ba06438002a524679166ebee4.jpg

 

larrabee

2802284970103935217AUCVfK_ph.jpg.7fe3845fda9bdde7a3522717944cf172.jpg

 

ABP

2658461210103935217ieosXv_ph.jpg.ff32450ec97463c2c85997139b7edd91.jpg

 

Skagit Range -- *edit* Cheam Range

2494877100103935217HuUhwg_ph.jpg.640cf7513b2d6c9ab9943d3271cc348f.jpg

 

Tomyhoi!

2011356430103935217BRPKpF_ph.jpg.d695f5f93abb4e8a028614ff573a8e25.jpg

 

oh shit

2853810600103935217CyuFts_ph.jpg.c4ab481d474b59bfb4a86602f239ada5.jpg

 

stay away

2774833770103935217PfeOSl_ph.jpg.abf99dd1a4f48c55990e87243bccf707.jpg

 

view from west couloir

2529214360103935217mJKzdk_ph.jpg.41ab5951f5ead652d0117ca3b91a0aae.jpg

 

Does anyone have a shot of the Pleiades couloirs? Would shurley apriciate...

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thanks fellas, Sky -- looks like thats the north side, couloirs i skied were on the sur side. I'd love to get up on Slesse this summer -- hope you are here!

Edited by danhelmstadter

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And you had a guitar strapped to your back ;)!

 

Excellent adventure for sure Dan, that is a lot of terrain to cover in a few days.

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thanks fellas, Sky -- looks like thats the north side, couloirs i skied were on the sur side. I'd love to get up on Slesse this summer -- hope you are here!

 

Oops.

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wow - glad to hear your rig didn't fly all the way off road!

sounds like an amazing trip!

 

...and that cornice pic is really impressive.

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Sounds epic.Then you gotta sleep in the cold camper.

Reminds me of the Whistler days sleeping in a tent

in the parking lot.

 

Looks like a wicked area to check out.

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Dan:

 

I was thinking about you on Sunday while skiing at the Mt. Baker Resort and staring at Shuksan wondering what adventures you might be up to on such an an incredible sunny day. Thanks for sharing. :tup:

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Thanks for your comments and pictures. I've noticed that I have a quarter size bruise on my leg where my pain was/is, so I must've got pegged by some ice while climbing the couloir, there was stuff coming down and I remmember a few stings.

2026048080103935217wHqRSJ_ph.jpg.1e5ae6d71e6af3ef146487fe858501e4.jpg

 

clarification, from Frankcd's Photo -- Frank I hope you don't mind that I had to load your pic onto my webshots to paint/post it.

2633839260103935217iLOIoG_ph.jpg.86eea59144bdc5607bfe361ade5a0bd4.jpg

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impressive as usual.

Ever given thoughts to Skiing the North Face of Big Four? 4,000 vert and the next couple of days would be perfect time with the low elevation snow.

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That right there is the definition of Dansanity.

 

So, so, inspiring Dan. Thanks for the longer than usual write-up!

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