08 June 2012

Slot Coulior - A Helmet's Tale

I have been hearing about the Slot Coulior on Mt. Snoqualmie since I started BC skiing. The skiers who dared face it's perils said such thinks as:
  • Oh man, SLOT is wicked steep
  • Slot has to be IN or it's a death trap
  • Duuuude, Slot is sweeeeet
You can imagine my elation, then, when my friend proposed we go and do Slot Coulior. "Isn't it steep?" I asked. "Why yes, yes it is," he answered. AWESOME!

On April 8, I ventured out with Ben, Kevin, and George. The early morning greeted was cold. We started skinning before the thaw, meaning the going was icy and difficult! As outlined in my Intro to BC Skiing Blog, skins affixed to the bottom of bc skis to provide friction on the snow and keep you in place as you move uphill...but they can only go so far. For conditions such as these, it's really beneficial to have ski crampons. At the time I was not an owner of said glorious devices that let you stride up an ice face with ease and confidence, so instead, I floundered.

For an hour.

I took my skis off and boot packed.

I put the skis back on and attempted to skin some more.

I wallowed.

I took the skis off again.... you get the drift.

During my struggle (covering 400ft in the hour), I managed to unclip my climbing helmet (which I use for BC skiing) and watched it slide dramatically down into the icy culvert we had just struggled to climb. I watched in horror as the helmet bobbsledded through the gully, listening to the heart wrenching skidding sound as it sailed across the icy crust. Eventually it came to rest. However,  a good 45 minutes below my current location factoring for round trip travel, we chatted as a group and weighed our options and safety concerns, and ultimately decided to leave it and get it on the way down.

Ben showing off his....actually I'm not sure what he's doing. Warming the snow?

A few hours into our climb we took a break to have some snacks. I was drowning my helmet-sorrows with a juicy apple with trail mix, when up the trail strove my Knight in Shining Armor: a sweaty skier wearing my helmet! He had found it on the way up, and was planning to keep it, until I gave him my puppy dog eyes and he graciously gave it back! Apparently my helmet's resting spot was this skier's lucky spot - he had found a GPS device in the exact same place about 2-months prior.

Okay, enough with the dramatics - we geared back up and continued our climb up Phantom Face until we came to a col. This is the turning point, as some climbers continue up to ski the slot site-unseen, and others choose to ski down a nice little bowl to traverse and climb directly up the slot. We chose the latter, and more arduous, option as it would give us a better sense for the conditions.

Views looking south and west from Phantom face

As advertised, the face was steep, but not overly intimidating. I found it too difficult to skin up, so I chose to hike with my skis on the pack (this time successfully and with my helmet securely fastened). For 2,000 vertical feet.


Boot Pack Train, going up

Watch out that your skis don't tip you over there Kevin

Two parties skied down past us as we were climbing. The snow looked fluffy and awesome. Much better for skiing than for boot packing, but hey, that's a trade I'll take any day.

The summit views were a bit cloudy, but still pretty spectacular. Lots of pointy Cascade mountains to drool over. I might have picked out a few future lines....

Boys are too busy eating to smile for a summit shot

Summit Views

After masticating to our hearts content, we dropped into the slot one by one. We were rewarded with fluffy, amazing, steep turns. At its steepest, the slope was probably close to 50 degrees. I, of course, picked the steepest line. I don't have any pictures of me skiing, but here's Ben in the slot, to give you a sense of it's sheer awesomeness!

Ben scoping his line on our glorious day

I can't wait to go back next year! Who's with me?

1 comment:

inthelandoffjords said...

Depending on my country of residence next winter, I'm in. I've skinned up the Phantom and to the summit (back down via Cave Ridge) but never in the Slot.

I agree that ski crampons can be a lifesaver!