White Salmon Glacier

March 19, 2023

"I'm good with that...

... timing if you all are" said Michael over the phone as I walked through the isles of Whole Foods. "I guess you've gotta have at least one alpine start in the winter season", I said, glancing over at Dan. The timing we had agreed on was meeting at the trailhead at 5am, meaning our alarms would be set for 2am. An early start, but skiing the Northwest Couloir of Shuksan demanded that we time the morning well.  

Dan and Michael in the middle of the glacier going up, up, up!

The morning sun on Nooksack, part way up the glacier

Now you may be thinking, "wait, I thought I was reading about the White Salmon Glacier, not the NWC of Shuksan?" And to that, my friend, I would say you are correct, that is how the story ends, but NOT how it starts. Curious? Read on :) 

At the top of the NWC looking down - not yet to the exposed part!

Looking down the White Salmon River Valley

On the WSG, looking up towards the Hanging Glacier

We picked up Michael in Deming at 4am and trudged on up the mountain. Getting to the lot, we groggily put our boots on and started making our way towards Shuksan. We scraped down the valley in the icy morning freeze, and as we headed up the White Salmon River we were treated to a blue sky sunrise, with the headlamps of parties ahead of us already on the glacier. 

Going up the White Salmon glacier was stunning - mountains were out, and we could see all the way up in to Canada. While steep looking from far away, the slope angle of the WSG never gets too crazy as you pick your way up the slope. After getting to the top of the glacier, we looked at our map. A long, slightly uphill traverse was ahead of us to get to the entrance of the couloir. We trudged along, and tiptoed over the Hanging Glacier until we got to the entrance of the NW Couloir. 

At the top of the couloir, the slope gets steeper and steeper, untill it just rolls out of sight - giving it a "where the sidewalk ends" kind of vibe. We ripped skins, and after the first couple turns in great snow, Michael and I turned up slope to see Dan with snow stuck to every inch of the bottom of his skis. Oof. With the entrance to this couloir being no joke, your gear needs to be in fully funcitonal shape. We realized after watching Dan make the first couple turns, this couloir was a no-go for our group today. 

Koma Kulshan looking stunning in a sparkling white dress

Looking back at Shuksan from the traverse

After regrouping, getting a snack and some layers on, we started booting back up the slope. It was an arduous, wallowy boot, and while it was only a couple hundred feet, it took us quite a bit of time. At the top we grabbed a snack, clicked in to our skis, and skied on back to the White Salmon. 

Once we got to the glacier, the snow was beautiful and deep preserved powder, and we happily skied down the glacier with the sun shining on our faces. This glacier is lovely because you can largely just ski fall-line and the views are stellar! Getting back to the car, we took the traverse to get to the bottom of C8 lift. The traverse was okay, probably better than going up the trees from the bottom of the river, however there were lots of gullies and dips that I imagine melt out in the spring. 

All in all a beautiful day out in the mountains with great partners. The amazing snow and stunner views was a big plus. Stay safe out there folks, and I'll see you out there!