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| | |-+  July 6, 2003, Castle Rock Couloir, Mt Shasta
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Author Topic: July 6, 2003, Castle Rock Couloir, Mt Shasta  (Read 1974 times)

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July 6, 2003, Castle Rock Couloir, Mt Shasta
« on: 07/09/03, 04:32 PM »

This striking couloir rises directly above Helen Lake Camp (10,400'), and we heard a Ranger call it the Castle Rock Couloir - or something like that.  It certainly made sense.  I'm sure many have vowed to ski it, and with good reason!

Ski Descent: From Casaval Ridge (11,000'?) to the Yellow Slushy at (7,200').  3,800' VF.

This was perhaps the most fun I've had on skis any day in July.  

The snow in Avalanche Gulch was tremendously high for July and all the major lines were in.  Beginning Sunday morning at 4 am, Andrei and I decided to continue our leisurely pace of a Summer Holiday.  We chose to forgo a summit attempt in favor of enjoying the corn snow in Avalanche Gully without the potential frustration of high altitude snow.  Our goal, at least in the morning, was Left of Heart.  But as we neared Helen Lake Camp, our eyes were incessantly drawn to a hanging couloir right above camp.  A narrow, rock-walled throttle, combined with smooth, sun drenched corn snow easily accessed by a boot pack already formed all conspired to change our itinerary.  We just couldn't pass it up.  Only a few people mingled about camp, most had left for the summit hours before, save for a few day hikers and the resident Park Official.  All was quiet at Dodge.  

Remember all the times you've said to yourself: 'One day when I have a day a little less structured I'm going to ski that chute above [iconic destination] camp.' Today was that day.  

We dropped our lunches and extra water at the saddle and charged the slope up to Casaval Ridge.  The crux of the route was a tight bottleneck that required full on front pointing to surmount.  It certainly got the heart going.  The top of the couloir was a pleasant plateau that had great views west toward Shastina and the West Face routes.  We sat and marveled at the views, and contemplated the steep line straight down to Helen Lake before us.  Dropping in we found delightful corn that allowed reassuring skiing in the hanging apron above the bottleneck, and the boot track in the crux was the only real concern in the Serious Business.  Through the toughest section and we found grand corn below all the way down to our waiting lunch.  The sun shone on and the snow changed hardly.  Reluctantly, we departed Helen Lake and made off for the twisting gullies that drain Avalanche gulch, fearful of an unpleasant, sun cupped ski down to snowline.

Remarkably, all the benevolent Lemurian Spirits provided an Ocean of corn for the descent, resplendent with crashing waves and ripples.  The early July corn was so mashie and schloppy that skiing it was like surfing a break on the North Shore of Hawaii.  In a fit of inspiration, I took my Whippet from my pack and used it in its intended purpose as ski pole and as paddle when the going got rough on my snowboard.  The key to the delightful snow lay in the dense hard pack thankfully a mere 6 inches below the surface.  And what a 6 inches! Charging over the deep ripples and trippy, moon-like landscapes of Lower Avalanche Gully, the fast, deep snow allowed every obstacle to be met with a reassuring pole plant and a stylish heel grab.  Wielding my newly found friend, The Ski Pole, I made the Ride of My Summer Skiing life.  Andrei and I couldn't top each other's praise as we leapfrogged our way down, rejuvenated by this unexpected bounty.  Well below Horse Camp we encountered Amar's exotic Yellow Snowfields, a glowing yellow carpet of snow that scarred pure white at the signature of our skis.  Happily, we were able to ski to within a quarter mile of the main trail on this weird palate and were quickly at the car by 2 pm.

Sadly, our short tour was ending.  We took a few more pictures and said goodbye to the Asian family standing by our car and off to the highway for a midnight rendezvous with Seattle.

Sample photos and other goodies can be found at:

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