The Right Place at the Right Time
While the sun was setting on the peaks around Rogers Pass on our way back from a ski trip in the rockies for the last ski mountaineering race, Andrew McNab and myself had a hard time keeping our eyes on the road. The snow stability and the future forecast both looked ideal to step things up a notch, so we got talking about couloir hunting. Options were considered and as we drove under the avalanche shed at the base of Mt MacDonald, we decided that we needed to come back the following day to ski a line we have both looked at multiple times from across the valley. It just kept drawing our attention each time we drove past.
Early the following day, we started to make our way back to Mt McDonald. We had two couloir options in mind, one being slightly more exposed to overhead hazard, the other shaped like a sharp pencil leading almost all the way to the top of the mountain itself.
Going with option number two, we did not take long to start gaining steeper terrain and progress from low angle skinning to steep switchbacks on a hard surface. We quickly switched to bootpacking with crampons for the rest of the climb. Upon reaching the choke of the couloir, we reassessed the snowpack and the ski line. Feeling pretty good about the conditions, we consistently moved through what became even steeper terrain. We worked together at setting what seemed like the safest line. While walking, ice axe in hand, I could not help but wonder if this particular line has ever been skied before.
Setting the bootpack
Andrew working his way up
As we reached the top of the line, we did not quite realize how great, long and challenging the ski down would be. I went down first, making jump-turns over the steeper and narrower part of the couloir. We skied the 4000’ line all the way to valley bottom, enjoying every turn.
All smiles up top
The steep top section
Opening up the turns
As we reached the valley floor, we looked up for a while and thanked the mountain for letting us step up to the plate and ski this unique feature.
As the warm spring sun came back out to light up our smiley faces, we walked back up to the highway snowshed and reached our car. From now on, everytime we drive through the pass, we will remember this day and will never look up at the #9 Avalanche Control Couloir the same. Only a few days after the fact did we find out that it was probably a first!