Corn Harvest: Tricouni Tour and Colfax Peak Ski

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Finally it’s corn season in the PNW! I haven’t been able to ski for the past few weeks, which turned out to be fine since it allowed time for the snow to transition to corn. Finally, this Thursday and Friday were my days.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Lee skiing below Tricouni peak.

Thursday morning I left Bellingham at 2:30 to ski the north face of Tricouni peak, across the valley from Whistler. Lee convinced me to stop in Squamish for a quick, greasy breakfast at McDonalds (this would come back to haunt me later in the day). The approach took longer than expected, so after hours of skinning up logging roads, we finally made it to the alpine. The heat was intense as we skinned toward the southern ridge of Tricouni. By the time we gained the ridge it was obvious the snow would warm up before we could get to the top. Tough to get the timing right, best to be cautious.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Our turn around point. You can see the summit of Tricouni in the distance.

We ate some lunch and skied back down our up track. We decided to skin toward a saddle below the peak, so we could still ski down to Brew creek and make a loop out of the day. The heat was even more brutal as we skinned up the sun oven towards the col. We didn’t know what to expect on the other side. We found some tricky route finding through seracs and cliffs, ending on an endless expanse of avalanche debris. We finally made it back to the road and then back to the car.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Making our way through an endless expanse of avalanche debris.

I slept in until 6:30 the next morning, then rallied for sled assisted skiing on Mt. Baker. I’ve always looked with envy on the guys snowmobiling up the Easton glacier, and finally got the opportunity to join them. What little snowmobiling skills I have were rusty, which made for an interesting ride up the still icy glacier. Lets just say I’m glad I didn’t break anything (on the sled or myself).

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

The coulior we skied on Colfax Peak, on Mt. Baker

We left one snowmobile halfway up the glacier, and took the other one to the crater. We booted for a few minutes, and traversed below the Roman Wall over to the Coleman-Deming Col, to start up towards Colfax peak. We got to the top and waited a while for the snow to soften, and then headed down the couloir. It was awesome skiing, with great views as well. We skinned up the rapidly warming Deming Glacier, and hung out at the crater for a while and enjoyed the views, before sledding down the glacier and back to the car.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Toby climbing up Colfax peak

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Looking down the Coulior, about half way down.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

Toby skiing with views of the Twin Sisters range, the San Juan islands, and the Olympic range.

backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering in the Pacific North West

On the way back to the car.

It was great to get out for a few days and enjoy the ridiculously good spring season we’re having. Powder skiing is great, but it’s hard to beat smooth corn in the sun and ending the day with flip flops and beer.

Comments

21 Responses to “Corn Harvest: Tricouni Tour and Colfax Peak Ski”

  1. Gregg Cronn May 22nd, 2011 8:52 am

    Great job Lee, Toby and Louie.Glad SOMEONE got to ski corn during the high pressure while the rest of HAD to work.

  2. Dan May 22nd, 2011 10:00 am

    Louie,

    How far up FSR 13 to Schrieber’s Meadow were you able to drive (car) before resorting to the sled? TheUSFS web site says that FSR 12 is closed due to snow at 2.5 miles. It would be nice to have a field report though.

    Also, as an aside, my understanding is that sleds are verbotten on the glacier (and in Schrieber meadow when less than 2 feet of snow cover). The glacier restriction may be related to the altitude and wilderness designation. Of course, I have seen sleds on the summit of Baker and it is common knowledge that the USFS doesn’t enforce on that sort of thing. Although, they are pretty quick to write a ticket if you do not have a trail park pass.

  3. Louie May 22nd, 2011 10:28 am

    I didn’t get the mileage that we parked at, but it was definitely still a few miles from the summer trailhead. Although the snow is melting fast, and there was about 100 yards less when we got back to the car.

    My understanding is that sleds are allowed on most of the Easton and Squak glaciers, all the way up to Sherman peak (where we parked). You can see the wilderness boundary on any map. Sleds are allowed until there is less than a certain amount of snow at the summer trail head (I believe it’s two feet). Given the amount of snow up there this year, that’s going to be a while.

    We obeyed the wilderness boundary, and It’s been my experience that sledders generally do, although I have seen tracks all the way to the summit on occasion.

  4. Toby May 22nd, 2011 10:33 am

    Dan, the road turns to snow at approx. 2600′ (approx. 3 miles shy of TH?) Sledding access will be lasting for a while longer as there is 5′+ of snow in the meadows. Sledding is permitted on sections of the Easton and Squak edge as per the law. No wilderness boundaries were crossed. The Mt. Baker National Recreation Area was created in 1984 for mixed use in this area. The area tapers to a high point at the Crater Rim near Sherman Peak. Sledding to the summit is illegal and beyond the boundaries, although it has been done before. If I were a skier without a sled, I would stick to other trailheads until snowmobiling is shut down for the year by the FS, which will be beyond the middle of June this year. That is, unless you like sounds that are reminiscent of “angry cattle”.

  5. robert May 22nd, 2011 3:58 pm

    what skis are you on there ?
    dont look like coombacks

  6. nah May 22nd, 2011 4:49 pm

    What a joy it was to be bootpacking the final section and get to listen to the high pitched whine you and your sled friends made. Thanks buddy.

  7. Lou May 22nd, 2011 6:29 pm

    I guess one whine deserves another….

  8. jeremy May 22nd, 2011 7:58 pm

    “I guess one whine deserves another….”

    Touche, Lou.

  9. Dan May 22nd, 2011 8:28 pm

    Louie and Toby,

    Thanks for the FSR road 13 update. That was more info in a couple sentences than I was able to wring out of the USFS in recent phone calls.

    “What a joy it is to be bootpacking…”. For what it is worth; I don’t care for the sled noise on Baker either. However, as far as “bootpackers” go, generally folks are not “bootpacking Baker when there is several feet of snow in Schrieber’s Meadow or at the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead. The sledheads are usually gone by the time the “bootpackers” hit Baker. As a skier, I have occasionally encountered sleds on Baker, but there have never been more than a few at one time and it hasn’t really been a problem thus far. Although, I prefer having Baker all to myself (and partners), which can be the case mid-week and early season (May and June).

  10. nah May 22nd, 2011 11:58 pm

    Instead of ever saying anything that contradicts the actions of red necks I should just embrace the lifestyle. Maybe I’ll one up you next time and get heli dropped on the summit. Never back down and never apologize I guess.

  11. brian h May 23rd, 2011 7:40 am

    The problem with shared use is we have to share. Share with users that have ideas about use that are 180 from our own. Dang democracy. Sleds, atv’s, small claim miners, millionaire road access builders…

  12. Lou May 23rd, 2011 9:02 am

    Jeremy, I just couldn’t help it (grin).

    But I’d agree with anyone that shared use is something we’ll be refining over coming years. Meanwhile, with the vast quantities of legal Wilderness we have, we already have plenty of un-shared use and I for one appreciate it — as I do the areas where we can share, and sled, and drive, etc. etc….

  13. brian h May 23rd, 2011 9:49 am

    I admit, it was a silly little remark. I guess the issues that I see is that the share part often occurs in “special” places or in areas that are easy to access (from town, from the highway, etc). Non motor users end up having to push in further to reach the wilderness boundary in search of their p.&q. We all have our sensibilities. Sledders offend when they sled. They get offended when they’re called out over using their rigs even within the letter of the regulations. Time and again we see people who are unwilling to acknowledge that motor users have a right to be on public land. Then there are motorers that cry “hippie” anytime someone questions their habits.

  14. Louie May 23rd, 2011 10:26 am

    Robert

    those are 2011 coombacks! review coming soon…

  15. robert May 23rd, 2011 11:31 am

    nice louie. :)

    wouldnt mind adding the coombacks to my backups,

    i also have maestrale , are they powerfull enough to handle the coombacks

  16. Louie May 23rd, 2011 12:55 pm

    The Maestrales are perfect for the coombacks, I’ve skied them in all conditions with the Maestrales and they work great.

    The coombacks are apparently also strong enough not to get broken when you roll a sled on them :lol:

  17. Jason May 24th, 2011 10:53 am

    Sweet shots! Looks deep out there. Kinda like the Sierras right now.

  18. Lou May 24th, 2011 11:25 am

    Sierra, not Sierras, and yeah, I’ve heard they’re deep…

  19. Lee Lau May 24th, 2011 1:19 pm

    Great. Just great Louie. Now everyone’s going to go traipsing over to Tricouni to steal our refrozen wet slide debris, hanging seracs and 8 mile logging road climbs. All the mystery is gone.

    Some stats from our day – “Total tour ?24km – 2200m vert. Decent snow but wet slides have punished lots of slopes. Corn cycle starts on S slopes about 9- 11am @ 1600m. N slopes at about 12 -2pm @ 1850m. Can drive to 540m on Chance Creek FSR. Snow line is shortly thereafter. Roe Creek FSR snowline is to about 690″

    More pictures from Tricouni here http://www.leelau.net/sharonandlee/tricouni-attempt/

  20. Tebor May 29th, 2011 4:57 pm

    Those are some nice pics. Jealous

  21. Toby June 1st, 2011 8:11 am

    Louie, it’s spelled “couloir”. Ha, ha. I don’t know if you will venture out using my “darkside, anti-life, sacrilegious” techniques again, but it was great to ski with you. Good luck on finals!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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