Cocaine Coulior - Lundin Peak
February 3, 2021
Tessa Marching up the Commonwealth Basin
Tessa and I had...
big ski goals coming into this Wednesday and Thursday, but the weather and the snowpack didn't cooperate. In fact, what was looking like nice stable weather had turned into a touchy Persistent Layer and a snowstorm where we wanted to ski. Dang. However, we had these days off, and because of our work schedules, skiing together had been hard to come by this winter. We decided to see what we could find and make the most of the two days! We spent a long time at work the day before trying to figure out what to ski, and landed on simply exploring a new zone at Snoqualmie Pass. I hadn't really explored the Commonwealth basin all that much, and while Tessa had skied Red earlier in the season, she hadn't been over to Lundin yet.
We had seen Cocaine Couloir about a year ago skiing together, but we just hadn't found a reason to go out and do it for whatever reason. Our skills, education, and experience had all grown in the past year and we were quite prepared to tackle it. This gash down Lundin is striking when seen from Snoqualmie peak in the winter, or other areas in the valley, and we were excited to ski a classic.
While we aren't new to couloir skiing, Cocaine couloir is an awesome pick for a couloir newbie. It has really gentle slopes, and is nice and wide. The access to this couloir requires you to boot or skin up from the base, which makes it so that there are minimal snow surprises on the way down. It is a great way to experience a couloir without accidentally getting in too deep. The one downside to this couloir, I will say, is that with it being south facing, it can get big loose wet avalanches, and it can develop a sun crust. Likely, in the spring it would ski great, however, once the rollers stop rolling and the sun makes some nice corn.
We skinned up the couloir, breaking trail in calf to knee deep pow - we were stoked! And things seemed relatively stable. However, as we ascended, we started to notice more and more cracking on the corners of our skintrack. We stopped around 40-50 feet below the top of the couloir because of this, and ripped skins to come down the slope. I made sure to take a picture and post on NWAC just so I could share what I saw. (These observations are great trip-planning resources as well!) We floated down the couloir, keeping away from the consolidated sides, and made it down to the bench around 5,400 feet. By this time, it was not even 11am, so we decided to explore some jumps and drops! We both saw some fun stuff on the way up, and the snow conditions were really forgiving.
Luckily, we only had to cross the Commonwealth once.
From the basin looking up at Lundin and the couloir.
Deep! Tessa floating down the couloir. We got socked in fast! This pic, and the one next to it, are indeed from the same day.
In Kendall Trees looking over at the East face of Guye
We sent some fun pillows, but ended up accidentally entering the drop zone higher than we thought, and we got cliffed out while trying to find more. Oops! We booted back up, and skinned back to the true couloir to descend. On our way out, with much of the day ahead of us, we decided to head over to Kendall Trees to get some more skiing in. I had gone up to Kendall Knob via the South side before, and was curious to see what the Commonwealth approach/depproach was like. We skied back down the Commonwealth, crossed the bridge, skinned on up the trees, and ran into a party at the top that had their probes out and were probing the snow. "Uh oh," I thought to myself, "I really hope they aren't probing for one of their partners..." I called up to them, "Do y'all need help? Or are you just practicing?" One of the women turned to me and yelled "Oh, nah, we're just looking for a buried ski!" Phew! Tessa and I went up to them and got ready to help find it, but they were getting towards the end of their search. We exchanged numbers in case we found the ski on our descent, and ripped skins to bounce down the fluffy snow. Stability was good on this part of the valley, and we descended down the slide path. This area has a couple of treed options as well, for a more protected descent. Halfway down, we heard a triumphant, "I FOUND IT!" We both yelled back with a "Yay, congrats!" and skied down. Glad y'all didn't loose a ski! All in all a great day of exploration, and a successful backup option in my book.
Total mileage of the day - Around 9 miles
Total elevation gain - Somewhere between 5,100 ft gain and 5,600 ft... I get different readings depending on which software I use...
Total time - 8 hours, 11 minutes
Max slope angle of the day - Around 40 to 45
GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/4730697160
Song that was stuck in my head all day - I didn't have one this time! An oddity for me, but ehh, whatcha gonna do?