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2004 Backcountry Trip Reports => March 2004 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: DP on 03/24/04, 07:25 AM

Title: March 23, 2004, Mclellan Butte North Couloir
Post by: DP on 03/24/04, 07:25 AM
Warm temperatures Monday night made for a sloppy climb up, but quite a feasible ski down. I was pretty ambivalent about bringing skis on this trip, thinking it would be really hard and scary. But I brought them anyway, and was happy to have done so. The climb was fun and pretty mellow - easy cramponing in mostly soft snow. Near the top, we passed a little bit of technical terrain (fun snow/ice and rock) to get to the ridge and the summit, and roped up and belayed for this part. My buddy placed a nut and slung two horns. We downclimbed back to the snow and I got my skis on while my partner (no skis) started downclimbing and plunge-stepping.

I measured the slope angle where I started at 48 degrees, but it lost steepness pretty quickly. Ironically, because the snow was consistent - slightly icy corn - and the gully was wider, the top was easier than the 35-degree lower stuff, where stiffer partly-melted avy debris were almost indistinguishable from creamy corn. Jump turns worked well on the steep stuff, but I fell a few times on the lower half, when I turned aggressively in the debris, only to have my tips bury in the soft stuff. I managed to stop myself pretty easily each time, so it wasn't too bad.

The snow was kind of dirty (cones, needles, twigs), but still skiable. In one spot it had collapsed and there was a stream rushing underneath. I side-slipped that section. Other than being really narrow and tiring (from all the jump-turns), it was fun, and easier than I expected. It's probably harder if you ski from the summit, when there's more snow (right now that would involve an 80-foot huck off a cliff).

After exiting the gully we went the wrong way and ended up having to bushwack to get back to the trail. Miserable! On the trail, we passed another dude on his way up with skis on his pack, so I wonder what he thought of it.

Some photos and more chitchat here (scroll down a bit to get my version): http://uw.cascadeclimbers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=6743

Title: Re: March 23, Mclellan Butte North Couloir
Post by: Jim Oker on 03/24/04, 11:18 AM
Would you do it again?

I've looked up there and wondered about the line, but the avy debris that is clearly visible from the highway has always been an effective deterrant for me.

Title: Re: March 23, Mclellan Butte North Couloir
Post by: DP on 03/25/04, 11:57 AM
Yeah, I think so. The main deterrent was the narrowness, because you so few options about where to turn. In better snow conditions (winter), of course, it would most likely be more dangerous, but probably more fun too. So under really bomber winter conditions, it wouldn't take much convincing to get me up there again. With the snow that's just fallen yesterday and today, of course, it's probably totally different up there (way more dangerous, I'd guess right now, and then it's supposed to warm up this weekend again). In any case, I probably won't be going back this season, but it's still early spring, and I'm sure it will be in good (and relatively safe) condition again before the end of the season.

I'm also not the best skier out there, so other folks doing this line might be able to deal with chunky conditions with no problems...

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