Mt. Hardy - NE Couloir

April 24th, 2004

Phil enticed me to return to Mt. Hardy with him to check out a couloir that he had spotted on his South side corn fest the weekend before. As the truck slid to a stop near Swamp creek, the view was not encouraging. Clouds choked the hills with their demoralizing low visibility, and there was no snow on our side of the highway. Do we want to do this today? We're so close to the pass...

But no, Phil was armed with information. A topo map, an aerial photo, and a distance shot of Hardy. We strapped the skis to our packs and began bushwhacking up through the bare forest. After a couple hours we broke out into the open and our spirits lifted as we could see our destination: the major notch to the left of Hardy's summit.

Approaching the notch. Photo by Phil.

The terrain became a little exposed, and the snow became icy. We watched our steps as we moved towards the col. I arrived first, and was generally encouraged by what I saw. The couloir looked like it was narrow but didn't cliff out in any major way. Unfortunately, there was a massive cornice (with a crack in the back) that overhung the entrance by a good 20-30 feet on all parts. Phil joined me, and after scoping the couloir from some more vantages, we could tell that it was continuous. The only problem was the option of making a committing rappel into the slot. Would the snow be stable? Could we climb back out if we needed to? We decided to do lunch instead.

After a pack of Sweet and Spicy tuna was in my stomach, I got the urge to use the short rope we'd brought to rap into the slot. Might as well, that what we came for... worst thing is we could just downclimb the couloir. The landing looked steep, so after rigging an improvised harness, I strapped my skis on. Here we go!!

Dave prepares to rappel over the cornice into the couloir. Photo by Phil.

Dave commits to the couloir. Photo by Phil.

The snow was reasonably soft, but with a firm, almost icy base. Plenty safe conditions, so I called up to Phil to come on down. As he was rapping in, I was shooting video and making snide comments. It was pretty damn funny to watch someone rappel an overhang with skis on! It was even funnier when his ski popped off. Glad you had a leash on that puppy!

Phil and I tentatively slid down towards the first constriction where there appeared to be a short rock step. Sure enough, the only snowy was down was about 1/2 a ski wide. Phil took of his skis and downclimbed, only to find that he needed crampons on the ice below. While he climbed back up, I borrowed his Whippet arrest pole to have a go at sliding down it with my skis on. It worked, but all I can say is that sliding down with a whippet is right in line with my so called 'skiing style'.

Down he goes, over rocks, ice, snow. Don't worry, it gets better. Photo by Phil.

Below loomed another tight constriction, but it was time to ski on both feet. I was able to hack my way down through what was becoming... yes, powder!

Dave grabs some air through the lower constriction. Photo by Phil.

Now this is looking better! Another 1,800 ft. of couloir awaits!

Phil skied down through the second constriction and joined me in the main couloir proper. Things were looking good with a good foot of powder and consistently 40+/- degree snow. Phil when first, unfortunately finding icy ribs of Neve interspersed with the powder so that one was forced to ski in the style of Dave. Lower down though nice, consecutive turns were made!

Yeah! Dave enjoying some sweet powder. Face shots may have been had! Photo by Phil.

The couloir went on and on. I had to hold up and resist the urge to just bomb on down, as the shenanigans getting into the slot had tired me out a bit. We kept to the edges to maximize the shaded powder... and it was good.

Dave's #1 reason to ski the backcountry. The snow and scenery can't be beat. Photo by Phil.

Whoa! A tele turn! Photo by Phil.

Mt. Hardy's NE couloir. I am so exhausted that I can't keep my face in focus. Photo by Phil.

Mission accomplished! The couloir turned out to be a fun, and relatively long (2000ft) run with a similar feel to the slot couloir on Mt. Snoqualmie. It's steepest at the top, probably around 50 degrees, but lower down it ranges from 35-45 or so. Not too difficult save the narrow skiing and cornice at the top.

We contoured around the mountain until we could climb up to a shoulder East of the summit. We then traversed back West until we could ski exceptionally nice and smooth corn in the major bowl below the summit.

Dave shucking corn for the camera. Photo by Phil.

We continued on down through a cool burn until we could ski no more. Photo by Phil.

A mere 1,000 ft hike back down to the freeway ensued, and soon we were walking the road back to the truck. Thankfully fellow climbers and skiers Eric Hoffman (, Jerry Sanchez and Sergio Verdina ( picked us up and shuttled us the mile or so to the waiting truck. An exceptionally good day of skiing was capped with a welcome dinner at Good Food on the way home.

A map of the route we took.

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