Pleiades West Couloir Ski

Post by blogger | November 13, 2013      

Early season skiing generally means trying to find all the pow I’ve been missing over the past few months, and the pickings can be sparse. However, sometimes early season conditions permit excellent missions. The Twin Lakes Road area has some phenomenal skiing but is closed by snow most of the season, hence it is a popular destination for early season skiers around here. There’s a ton of good skiing around there, including several enticing peaks. One I’ve had my eye on for a while is the Pleiades, a group of pointy peaks just south of the Canadian border. I’ve been salivating over their couloirs ever since I first saw them several years ago.

Nice turns by Andrew in the upper Couloir. Pleiades, WA.

Andrew, Jacob, and I left Bellingham early and parked our car on the side of the icy road a little after dawn. Knowing we had a big day ahead, we got to work and skinned up the road to the lakes. The weather was forecast to be overcast all day but with fairly good visibility. The chutes are south facing and fairly low elevation, making the right conditions difficult. A cloudy, cold day was ideal.

We reached the lakes and followed the faint summer trail to the lower slopes of Mt. Larabee. From there we had the first turns of the day, dropping down into the bowl below our objective. We set up a quick belayed ski cut to test the wind-loaded slope but only found stellar pow, which we proceeded to rip. After arriving at the base of the chute, it looked much less likely than it did from afar, with a steep rocky section blocking our view halfway up. We started the hardest part of the day; wallowing up the deep pow filling the chute.

Jacob looks at the enticing couloirs of the Pleiades, still a long ways off.

Jacob wallowing up the lower couloir.

Andrew and Jacob climbing the steep cruxy area in the middle of the chute. The new season snow thinly covered rocks and ice.

After a few hours we made it to the top, and were greeted with incredible views of sunlit mountain ranges across the border. The temps were rising and we had a long journey ahead, so we quickly clicked in and began our descent.

Enjoying the view at the top of the climb.

Looking down the chute.

Andrew at the start of the chute.

Jacob boarding to the top of the rocky crux section.

Slightly heavier snow in the lower chute.

Andrew and Jacob made a sweet video of the day as well, check it out:

Pleiades South Couloir from WHATS UP?! Collective on Vimeo.


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17 Responses to “Pleiades West Couloir Ski”

  1. Coop November 13th, 2013 1:59 pm

    Sweet pictures! Strong work fellas!

  2. JJ November 13th, 2013 2:10 pm

    Nice! Thank you for sharing. You have to strap on that head cam next time.

  3. Pietro November 13th, 2013 3:15 pm


  4. Andy November 13th, 2013 3:18 pm

    Nice work, Louie. I remember running into you at the lookout a couple years ago when conditions didn’t quite play along for the Pleiades… glad you finally got it!

  5. Lisa Dawson November 13th, 2013 3:43 pm

    Pietro, we corrected the spelling. Thanks!

  6. Gregg Cronn November 13th, 2013 4:32 pm

    You let the boarder go first and scrape out the pow!! I thought this was a back country skiing blog? Ha Ha. Nice work Louie and gang.

  7. Lisa Dawson November 13th, 2013 4:37 pm

    Love the video! Thanks for adding it. The post holing looks heinous.

  8. Louie Dawson November 13th, 2013 4:44 pm

    Gregg I don’t know what I was thinking! A moment of weakness I suppose 😉

  9. dean November 13th, 2013 5:30 pm

    Hello Lou. Just read your article about the avalanche Lou was unfortunately caught in quite a few yrs ago. The HUMAN FACTOR is something that I believe needs to be dilled home as much as the science because in my mind as a backcountry skier the latter is useless without proper use of the former. In light of this I saw the most moving video I have ever seen on this topic. It truly stirs the HUMAN FACTOR and brings it to the forefront.

    I would ask that you look at website and on the first page that pops up it states “Latest Forum Entries.” Scroll down the to the entry entitled Nov 11 “A Few More Turns-Avalanche Story-Video.” I would be bold enough to say that this video should be MANDATORY for all those taking any type of avalanche training and maybe your organization could assist in some way with this.

    Some may say this is too stern and that we may lose customers by showing them this. The corollary is you may lose lives if you do not. I would opt for the former as I have seen those with much more experience than those in the video lose lives in an avalanche because of the HUMAN FACTOR not elevated to the level it should have been. This video clearly drives the HUMAN FACTOR message home more than anything I have viewed on the subject. Thank you for your time and consideration and ski on!

  10. Joe Risi November 13th, 2013 5:30 pm

    What’s Up?! Mafia at it again!

  11. dean November 13th, 2013 5:44 pm


  12. Drew Tabke November 13th, 2013 5:52 pm

    Dang, Louie! Such an ambitious early-season mission. Awesome!!

  13. Lou Dawson November 13th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Dean, we’ve had “Dozen More Turns” movie embedded here for years, (on and off as the links change).

    Here is the Youtube link:

    I’d agree, it’s a mandatory view.

  14. Cam November 13th, 2013 9:04 pm

    Nice skis!

  15. Sharon November 15th, 2013 10:52 am

    Setting the bar high early! very nice.

    Looked pretty bony at the bottom of it though…

  16. Layne November 15th, 2013 1:13 pm

    Looks like someone in the group had the new Scarpa Freedom Freeride SL. I just had a friend pro deal me a pair, really excited to finally retire my Radiums, and have a boot for touring and alpine skiing. How did the Freedoms tour/ski? Great to see people getting out early here in the PNW, this weekend looks good for snow in the Cascades.

  17. Scarpa Police November 15th, 2013 6:52 pm

    Layne. sweet deal bro. that was nice of your friend to let you use his pro deal and I’m sure he appreciates you announcing it on the internet.

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