Tour of the Birthday – Washington Pass TR

Post by blogger | June 11, 2014      
Louie enjoys short but sweet Slot Couloir on Birthday Tour, Washington Pass. Helmet is a Petzl Sirocco, probably lightest casque made per amount of protection. Quite nice other than the color.

Louie enjoys short but sweet Slot Couloir. Helmet is a Petzl Sirocco, said to perhaps be the lightest casque made per amount of protection combined with durability (the foam is resilient, not fragile). Quite nice other than the color, the changing of which is the subject of discussion. Paint? Cover? Accept the new style in safety coloration? OSHA approved? Review is coming.

Moving through the North Cascades backcountry can resemble jungle warfare rather than the sun-fun we want our spring skiing to be. Fortunately, you get over on the east side of the range and vegetation density reduces, along with dryer weather. To enjoy such delights a traditional ski trip I’ve had on my list takes a loop called “Birthday Tour” behind the Liberty Bell and Early Winters complex of rock spires.

We did a variation that involved skiing two nicely sized bowls, then reversing to re-acquire what seems to be the standard route and nip over a ridge through Slot Couloir. Super. Check it out.

Starting on the Birthday Tour. Lots of nice white ahead.

Starting on the Birthday Tour. Lots of nice white ahead. Long version of the trip goes over Copper Pass at center of photo. We did the pass and skied the bowl on other side, discovering that enough snow had melted to uncover what looked like a difficult route through forest (yes, you can end up bushwhacking over here on the east side as well.) So we skied the bowl south of Copper Pass, then reversed and skinned back up to the pass. After that we headed up the bowl hidden to left in photo, where we took the standard Birthday Tour route over Slot Couloir.

Traveling along Washington Pass.

Skiing the first downhill section of the route, Madison Avenue off Blue Lake Col just behind the spires.

Scenery gets evermore beautiful.

Scenery gets evermore beautiful.

Bonfires green below Early Winter Spires.

Bonfires green below Early Winter Spires and Liberty Cap.


14 Responses to “Tour of the Birthday – Washington Pass TR”

  1. Dillon June 11th, 2014 12:06 pm

    Awesome! Nicely done.

  2. Mike Marolt June 11th, 2014 12:28 pm

    Lou, I read ws and when I don’t have time to say anything, I keep looking for a “like” tab. Not sure that would be a good thing, but I look out of habit. ha.
    In any event, LIKE.

  3. Lou Dawson June 11th, 2014 12:41 pm

    Mike, you might be looking at the mobile low bandwidth site that has all that stuff stripped away, but desktop site has been leaned out as well. To experiment with both site versions use the switcher link at bottom of page. At this time we don’t have much social sharing stuff on the desktop site either. It was just taking up too much bandwidth and not getting directly used (most of that stuff is poorly written and configured code that really clogs things up). In terms of sharing, most people have no trouble passing links around, but a LIKE button on each post would be nice I’d agree. As you can see, at this time the only “Like” option we have is the overall Facebook “Like” that most readers have already clicked. Lou

  4. Mike Marolt June 11th, 2014 12:52 pm

    yes on desktop. found and “liked”. thx

  5. Drew Tabke June 11th, 2014 2:31 pm

    I love seeing Cascadian content on Wildsnow, thanks guys!

    ps – Its Liberty “Bell” not “Cap” (the former being one of Rainier’s three summits). And Lou is right; all the skiing on the westside involves hard-to-follow climbers trails through dense jungle.

    pps – Its getting lonely on ski website message boards. Might start a support group.

  6. Lou Dawson June 11th, 2014 5:52 pm

    Thanks Drew, rookie mistake on the cap/bell, knew that… things will pick up here in about 6 weeks, enjoy the lull (grin). We’ll probably have a bit of content from SA, and I’ve got a huge backlog of reviews. Lou

  7. Kay June 11th, 2014 8:32 pm

    Do you know where it might be possible to find a GPS track of this route? Looks like one I’d like to add to the spring schedule, if not this year then next.

  8. Andrew June 11th, 2014 10:57 pm

    Fred Becky called it “Green Hell” and it’s even worse trying to do it with skis on your back!

  9. Lou Dawson 2 June 12th, 2014 8:38 am

    Kay, I used this to get some GPS waypoints, view the map on your computer then use your browser to “view source,” then copy/paste the waypoints.

    Note that they show the route going northerly at the last leg after Slot Couloir then dropping down to the valley above the Hairpin. That only works with plenty of snow cover. Once the snow starts to go, as it does this time of year, it’s probably better to drop a short distance below Slot Couloir then climb a few hundred feet southerly up over a shoulder, which gets you on skiable terrain without cliffs. There might be a way to sneak through the route shown on map, but that’s beyond my purview as a non-local (grin).

  10. Kay June 12th, 2014 9:29 pm

    Thanks Lou, that’s really helpful.

  11. See June 13th, 2014 8:56 am

    EPP, dual density EPS (Kali bike helmets), Koroyd (Smith and Poc helmets (and Head skis))… it looks like we may finally be seeing some innovation in helmet design (and I hear orange is the new black).

  12. Lou Dawson June 13th, 2014 9:18 am

    I 100% believe helmets can be somewhat easily improved, and we’ll see some small improvements, but until the actual industry standards for ski helmets are changed I doubt we’ll see it taken as far as it could/should go. That’s sad. Kudos to companies who at least try to push ahead a bit.

  13. Pieter June 18th, 2014 7:28 am

    There is nothing wrong with ‘ORANGE’


    (from The Netherlands)

  14. Mark Worley June 19th, 2014 9:45 am

    Stunning as always, those high Cascades. Great trip. Sirocco is absurdly light, and a touch ugly. Dunno if the ugly part matters much, of course.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring 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 ski touring news and information here.

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