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
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,
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
Yeah! Dave enjoying some sweet powder. Face shots may have been had! Photo
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
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
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 (ericsbasecamp.net),
Jerry Sanchez and Sergio Verdina (sverdina.com)
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
A map of the route we took.