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Slot Couloir

Mt Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Pass, WA

January 18, 2013

Andrew Marvel, Ryan Thurston, Todd Kilcup, Travis Talbott and I skied the Slot Couloir today in "variable" conditions! While the conditions may have been "firm", it was still a very enjoyable if not exciting ski tour!

Andrew and I had made plans two weeks ago to ski "The Slot" and to complete some unfinished business. A few years ago we set off to ski this popular route but due to my uncharacteristic moment of being "directionally challenged", I lead us in a very long approach (via Mt Kendall) so we ran out of daylight.

But today we had Travis and Todd, two Slot veterans, who showed us the quick way up the Phantom Slide from the Alpental side. With very little new snow over the past three weeks, the avalanche conditions were very low so we were able to skin up fairly quickly. Other than Travis slipping and taking a header straight down a 50 degree icy section into a tree, Andrew having his helmet slip off his pack and slide down through the forest and out of sight and my ski popping off and sailing down 200 yards into an old debris field, the approach was pretty boring.

If I believed in omens I would have turned back within 40 minutes of leaving the trailhead! But the sun was shining and I was out skiing with great friends so how much worse could things get, right?

About 500' feet below the entrance to the Slot, Travis and Todd took off ahead of us so they could get Todd to work on time. So Ryan, Andrew and I continued up at a slower pace. Andrew and I were boot packing while Ryan, with his fancy ski crampons, was able to continue to skin up. We made pretty good time and arrived at the entrance at the same time Todd and Travis skied down to us from the summit. I had been to the summit of Mt Snoqualmie with Kim in the summer so I didn't need to tag it today.

Before Todd and Travis left us, they gave us solid directions on how to locate the entrance. We had passed some other chutes on the way up, but the entrance to the Slot was almost to the top of the mountain and there was a gnarled "bonsai" tree growing right next to it! As we took off our skins and put on our shells for the descent, we watched Todd and Travis drop in. The steepness of the route, the lack of snow, the abundance of ice were all good enough reasons to turn around but the sound of Todd's skis scraping down the "firm powder" (as Travis called it) was what really made be second guess our decision!

I told Ryan and Andrew that I had no problem turning around and just skiing back down the Phantom slide and coming back when the conditions were better. But Ryan was adamant that he had come all this way and had wanted to ski this classic route for so long that there was no way he was not going to ski it! So we put on our skis and I dropped in first. A few weeks ago my brother-in-law, Todd, had showed me a sweet video on YouTube of two guys skiing it in perfect conditions. This was like that in no way, what so ever. There were many sections where we had to make several turns on hard ice where a fall would send us on an uncontrolled slide. Looking back I definitely consider this "type 2" fun. At least the upper section had my full attention. Once we got halfway down, the skiing was back to "type 1" fun.

The warm sunshine had turned all the new snow into heavy "mashed potatos" but it was still alot of fun skiing back to the car. Thanks, Andrew, Ryan, Todd and Travis for a very satisfying day in the mountains!