Having made the decision to ski the couloir, it was now time to act and ski with confidence. Steep and tight couloirs are no place to be if your are tentative and you must be ready for anything…an icy patch…some breakable crust…windslab…you never know what you’ll get. Reed skied the top section first and the slough rocketed down the couloir in front of him. The snow was a bit more dense once we were in the couloir, increasing our fear of a slab letting go.
Once Reed was in a safe spot I skied down to meet him. With each turn, a small slab would let go. At one point, a larger section ripped out to the skiers right. Normally, this size of slab wouldn’t be a big deal, but when you are in a couloir…more or less a funnel…it can be a bit more serious. It could have easily pulled Reed down with it, but luckily he had chosen a good spot to wait, out of the direct line of fire. You can see the crown in the photo above.
After some brief words, I continued down the couloir, trying to stay inline with where the slough had slid downhill. I knew if it hadn’t triggered anything to move already, I probably wouldn’t either. The snow became a bit more consistent and I was able to rhythmically link some turns together, pulling in under some rocks on the skiers right to wait for Reed.
Reed skied down, making some pedal turns on the way, and although we were having fun and live for this kind of stuff, we still had some jitters about the cliff band below. The couloir gets steepest at the bottom, making it hard to see anything below you. Although this line has been skied before, with all the snow this season, we didn’t know if the anchor would be visible or buried under the snow. I lead the next section to a spot well above the cliff and signaled Reed to join me.
Since Reed had been in this area before in the summer…checking things out, it was his job to build the anchor. It was cool to watch him ski this section…above the void below. Though a slip of fall here might not have been fatal, it sure wouldn’t have been pretty and most likely you would end up down at Timberline Lake…close to a thousand feet below. I put on an extra layer while I waited for him to complete his job.
Reed found an old piton that was pretty loose, so he backed it up with some rock gear. After he clipped in, I came down with the other half of the rope and we rigged for the rap. To save time, I left my skis on, which can be a little awkward when rappelling over rocks.
The weather had slowly deteriorated while we had been skiing the couloir and by the time Reed rapped, spindrift was falling from the cliffs above. The good thing was that it wasn’t very cold, so were still rather comfortable.
It’s always such a good feeling when you get below a cruxy section of a line and we took a break to eat some more food as we packed up the ropes below the couloir. The peaks could still be seen though the snow, but the light was very flat…making the rest of the skiing rather marginal.
On the way out, we looked back to check out the line one last time and we could see some people nearing the top of Buck. No doubt they were psyched to have a skin track and bootpack already in place…as well as the clean slate of the East Face waiting for them. A rare combination for sure.