After my little scare in the Koven Couloir last Thursday, the high temp predicted for the following days and reading about the big slides happening in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to turn things down a little bit on Friday and try and ski a south facing couloir on McKlintok Peak…located near the forks of Cascade Canyon. The plan was to boot up the couloir and if it looked good…ski it…if it didn’t…plan B was to drop north into Paintbrush Canyon.
Reed and I got out just before 5am from the String Lake Trailhead and the snow had set up nicely. Due to some patchy snow on the way around Jenny Lake, we walked with our skis on our back for about the first mile, making our way deep into Cascade Canyon. We saw minimal tracks on the way and it is sometimes nice to get away from the traffic the high peaks are receiving this time of year. Thinking we might see some bears, Reed had brought pepper spray, but all we saw were reflections of Mount Owen in the lazy sections of Cascade Creek.
We arrived at the base of the South Coulior on McKlintok after a couple of hours of skinning, only to find a huge pile of avalanche debris below the couloir. Knowing we probably wouldn’t ski it, we started up…hoping we would be able to top out and ski the north. As we ascended, we passed by huge runnels and piles of bowling ball size snowballs, and it looked like a bomb had exploded. It as too bad too, because the couloir was really nice, about 2500′ long…and snaky the entire way. Worth a trip back to catch in better conditions.
Little information is known about this couloir and as we got higher and higher, it would branch out in different directions…some going through…some petering out. Due to the high rock walls on its sides and south facing exposure, the snow stayed firm for most of the way and made for nice cramponing. Towards the top though, about 500′ according to Mister Suunto, it looked questionable that the couloir would lead all the way the summit.
We were now in the sun as we searched for snow routes further up McKlintok and the snow was heating up fast. Reed scurried up a little slot and found a route to the slopes to the East…which we quickly descended as it was obvious this exposure was just about done for the day. In the bottom of the side canyon though, the snow was still firm, so we transitioned to ascent mode and climbed to a saddle to the north, giving us the ability to still ski out Paintbrush…and complete a nice loop.
Cool views of the seldom climbed Buckingham Palace Peak greeted us when we arrived at the saddle, and what looked like an easy route to the north and into the canyon. There was a nice steep pitch to the east, which got the pinwheels moving in the soft snow. I read we are at about 27% above average snowpack right now and it is very obvious back in some of these canyons.
Anyway, this tour was more about the adventure and getting away from the norm, which is nice to throw in now and then. I think things are supposed to cool off later this week, hopefully allowing for some more great skiing this week.