Sheep Lake Couloir
NOVEMBER 27, 2020
Looking up Sheep Lake couloir from the base. Two skiers had beat us to it somehow! Still great snow to be had.
After a great first week...
Of snow for the Northwest, we decided we wanted to get out and explore the Crystal backcountry a bit more. Dan, Sam, Kyle, Sam's friend Zach and I all decided to try to get out to Sheep Lake couloir after having so much success with the Lake Basin couloirs last week. We got to Crystal again around 7:30, got our backcountry cards from Guest Services (for some reason it isn't thru Ski Patrol this year) and took off up Quicksilver. Dan always jokingly has the goal of getting to the top of Quicksilver before anyone rides the lift up, and we just barely got beat out this time! Next time we've gotta be speedier ;) We skinned up towards the Airstrip, hung a left, and kept on skinning up to the saddle to the east of Three Way Peak. From the saddle, we looked out to the inviting snow gleaming in the sunlight on the side of Sourdough gap. We knew our objective was just behind the gap, and so we took no time ripping skins and skiing down into the basin. When we got up to Sourdough gap, we ripped skins again, traversed around the corner, and BOOM! The gorgeous Sheep Lake Couloir slapped us in the face with it's beauty.
We looked at the couloir excitedly, with only two little ski tracks on the slope, and the rest untouched. We got to the base of the slope, stability looking good, and decided to skin around the backside of Chinook Peak. Some parties opt to boot up the couloir itself, but we chose to keep skis on, and have a more lowkey approach. At the top of the couloir, we peered down the entrance. There are a couple of drop-in options at the top of the couloir, some more steep than others. We opted to drop in from the lower, more South side, as it felt the most straightforward. Kyle dropped in first to find a good spot to take pictures of everyone mid-couloir. After he went, we dropped down one by one, bouncing from turn to turn. Again we found great snow, and besides one or two rock patches to avoid, we didn't get too caught off guard by sharks.
Peering down from the point we actually dropped into.
The upper portion of the couloir. There are a couple of entrances to the couloir, the one in the picture being one of the longer and steeper ones.
We grouped up above Sheep Lake, gushed about how fun the couloir was and how great skiing is, and sat down for a little lunch. Getting out to Sheep Lake itself can be a longer day, but we wanted to milk these snow conditions a bit more. We decided we'd start heading back, but drop down to Upper Crystal Lake before heading to Silver Basin, where we guessed there would still be some nice, hidden unconsolidated powder. When we got to the gap above the lake, we found that our estimates were correct, and the turns down to Upper Crystal Lake were lots of fun, bouncing around trees, and hopping off little snow hoodoos. From there we skinned up to the col, this time on the west side of Three Way Peak, and ripped in to Silver Basin to get back to the top of Quicksilver. After a couple of minutes of groomed turns, we were back at the car, excitedly talking about what skiing the next day held. (Dan and I had the goal of skiing G-String Couloir, check out the trip report here!) All in all, a great day on another Crystal classic. As every Seattlite skier has been saying lately, "A great snowpack for November!" and great turns along with it.
Total mileage of the day - 10.47 miles
Total elevation gain - 5,400ft
Total time - 6 hours 47 mins
Max slope angle of the couloir ~ 45 degrees, but angled out quickly after a couple turns, and stayed wide
GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/4399801486