Cornice Col — Washington Pass Trip Report

Post by blogger | June 4, 2013      

If the weather held, plan was to do the complete Birthday Ski Tour around Early Winters Spires. Too cloudy and misty for our take (spoiled by Colorado?), so we let the wet and scrappy PNW chase us back down the hill. We did top Cornice Col, however, which was quite aesthetic. If you’re in this area looking for a snow report, we found the higher altitude snow to not be as consolidated as we expected, and with a freeze crust on top it was difficult to ski. The best turns of our day were lower down where the snowpack has transitioned to a dense summer configuration. Fun charging through the forest on summer snow over a carpet of pine needles.

Looking north from near Cornice Col, North Cascades appear rather adventurous.

Looking north from near Cornice Col, North Cascades appear rather adventurous for ski mountaineering.

Early Winters Spire (south), near Cornice Col

Early Winters Spire south (locals please correct me if I'm wrong about the name) near Cornice Col.

Heading down, anywhere you look the challenge of the North Cascades is evident.

Heading down, anywhere you look the challenge of the North Cascades is evident.

Cornice Col

Cornice Col as it looked yesterday. We booted up the line to the left and skied back down that same way. The cornice looked dangerous.

You know you've been in the PNW when moss is hanging from your bindings.

You know you've been in the PNW when moss is hanging from your backcountry skiing bindings.

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9 Responses to “Cornice Col — Washington Pass Trip Report”

  1. Tom Kennedy June 4th, 2013 9:47 am

    The proper name of that spire is right on the map you posted. Also most locals call the col Blue Lake col, and climb it far looker’s left to avoid the cornice. The Sally Portman BD tour actually climbs Spire couloir, then goes over the col down to the South and finishes in a counter-clockwise loop back to the bottom of Spire at the hairpin. PM me if you want more info, or visit Sally at the Winthrop library.

  2. Lou Dawson June 4th, 2013 12:12 pm

    South Early Winters Spire?

    According to the map there is another col that’s a more direct shot above Blue Lake, is that one passable?

    Wish we’d been able to do the whole tour. Perhaps next year.

    Thanks, Lou

  3. Tom Kennedy June 4th, 2013 12:26 pm

    Yup, South Early Winter’s Spire. You may be right on the name of the col above Blue Lake, but everybody calls the peak to looker’s right of the col Blue Lake Peak, so then we all call the col Blue Lake Col. You can see the peak and cornice from Route 20 as you drive by the entrance to the TH. The col that you speak of is pretty narrow, and I don’t think it really goes through to the South, (maybe by someone better than me).
    With your situation now, you’ll get a chance to ski more here. You just had unlucky conditions for that day. The telemetry info helps:
    Also, in your first picture you have a great shot of Whistler Mountain and it’s couloir.

  4. Brent June 4th, 2013 4:34 pm

    Great stuff!! Nice pics too. “The cornice looked dangerous.” Yeah, no shit. 🙂

  5. ron June 4th, 2013 11:15 pm


  6. John Michael June 6th, 2013 11:54 am

    I just did this tour about a week earlier. It sounds like we got lucky with better conditions though. As an east coast transplant, for the summer anyway, it’s cool to see that I’m hitting some wild snow approved areas in my limited time.

    Got a few pics of some parts you may have missed. Feels kinda lame posting these, but I’m too excited to be out here, and I want everyone to know it.

    We weren’t too sure which col was the “official” birthday tour col dropping back down to the switchback. There was a NE option and an E option. It looked like the option to the east required one more up and over to get back to the highway, but we didn’t check it out. Any local info on which one is cooler?

  7. Tom Kennedy June 7th, 2013 1:54 pm

    Check this out:
    In Sally Portman’s book, (“Ski Touring Methow Style”), though, the tour starts up Spire, not Blue Lake, no hitch hiking required. Both NE and E options go, and if you take the E option, you don’t have to go up again if you stay skier’s left.

  8. John Michael June 7th, 2013 9:46 pm

    Ah, heading up Spire would have saved us a good amount of time trying to get a ride back to our car, ha. Thanks for the info.
    I bought Burgdorfer’s book before I got out here, and I think I’ve probably read through it ten times already. Good stuff.

  9. Amy June 8th, 2013 5:04 pm

    What kind of a futuristic sun hat is that? I want one!

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