Southwest Couloir and Skiing

May 4, 2003

Benji and I spent a warm and blustery Spring day at Washington Pass climbing and skiing. Our first objective for the day was the South Early Winter Spire.

The Southwest couloir. We tried the left branch first.

Benji climbing up the left hand branch... Crux looms above.

Benji gives up ice climbing with only a blunt 70cm axe. My turn...

The regular SW couloir looked entirely non-technical, and seeing as we'd carried 30 meters of rope and a 4 piece rack all this way, we tried to climb the left hand branch. It looked doable, an ice constriction that lead to steep snow and a keyhole through the massive chockstones above. Benji tried it first, but gave up right at the constriction where he was unable to get his ice axe to stick in the snow-ice above. It looked so tame from the belay that I tried my luck next. Getting up to the constriction was tricky, and pulling past it was just too much. Maybe with ice tools, maybe with more than a sling around my waist... So back down the other way!

Back on the regular route while another party rappells past.

At the top of the couloir we scrambled some easy rock up to the summit, where it had just begun to snow. We kicked back and took in the beautiful winter scene that the cascades provided. Nice.

Dave looking all "aviator sunglasses" on the summit.

We hiked back down the couloir and strapped on our skis, determined to get some turns in before our legs gave out.

Benji approaching the cornice at the Blue Lake Peak saddle.

Benji skiing down the backside of the pass. Perfect corn and sun between the snow squalls.

Some wild and crazy snowboarder doing a backflip off the cornice.

On the way back, the skiing down through the upper glades was sweet. Perfect conditions. Down low, to be excepted, it was super slushy survival skiing back to the car. Overall it was a beautiful day to be in the mountains (on the East side), and a great time. With not more than 5 minutes of driving to the West we found ourselves in a torrential downpour that lasted all the way home.

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