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Ski Tour

Mt Snoqualmie

January 25, 2008


Andrew Marvel and I made plans to take advantage of the stable snow conditions and ski the Slot Couloir on Mt Snoqualmie. Three of our co-workers had skied it on Monday and reported great conditions.

We left the Summit West parking lot a little after 6am and walked across the road and under the I-90 overpass to the Commonwealth Basin trailhead. We donned our skis and skins and followed one of the many ski tracks into the forest. Soon we were at the snowed-in parking lot. The restroom had snow up past the door. What a great ski season!

It had been several years since I had been on this trail in winter and as such I lead us on the wrong trail and we ended up roughly following the PCT trail which takes us *way* far east instead of hugging the foot of Guye Peak. But we were making good time so it wasn't until the sun rose and we could actually see Guye Peak about a mile away, that we realized the mistake and traversed back towards Commonwealth Basin.

We were able to make some nice turns while skiing back on course so that was a slight consolation.

We took this longer, Commonwealth Basin approach because our friends had taken it, but looking back we should have followed the guidebook recommendation of the Snow Lake trail since the avalanche conditions were so moderate. Once up on Cave Ridge we were afforded spectacular views of the Alpental Valley. What a great day to be in the mountains!

The snow conditions were really nice as the cold weather had kept the snow nice and soft. Once we started gaining the southwest shoulder of Mt Snoqualmie, the snow was quite varied and mostly windloaded. The winds had covered the skin track with crusty snow so we carefully made our way up the steep track trough the trees keeping a safe distance apart. At one point the track disappeared so we took off our skis and kicked steps straight up through the trees for about 400 feet. Once at a cornice ridge we followed it up and left to a few hundred feet below the summit on the west side.

It was almost 3pm at the point and we were "burning daylight" so I called my friend Day to make sure that we were on the right track. (Cell phones are pretty handy!) Day let us know that we were indeed on the right track, but we needed to continue contouring up and around to the north side of the mountain where a rock thumb marked the left hand side of the entrance to the Slot Couloir.

The snow conditions were really nice as the cold weather had kept the snow nice and soft. Once we started gaining the southwest shoulder of Mt Snoqualmie, the snow was quite varied and mostly windloaded. The winds had covered the skin track with crusty snow so we carefully made our way up the steep track trough the trees keeping a safe distance apart. At one point the track disappeared so we took off our skis and kicked steps straight up through the trees for about 400 feet. Once at a cornice ridge we followed it up and left to a few hundred feet below the summit on the west side.

It was almost 3pm at the point and we were "burning daylight" so I called my friend Day to make sure that we were on the right track. (Cell phones are pretty handy!) Day let us know that we were indeed on the right track, but we needed to continue contouring up and around to the north side of the mountain where a rock thumb marked the left hand side of the entrance to the Slot Couloir.

We had been climbing for eight hours and our legs were feeling it. Continuing up and skiing the couloir would commit us to skinning around the south end of Snow Lake to return to the Alpental Valley. We decided that as much as we wanted to finish what we had come to ski, it was a better idea to turn around and return another day.

A storm just rolled in, so we will have to wait for all the new snow to settle before tackling this ski descent again.