In honor of Solomon's 30th birthday and the *perceived* low danger, we decided to see if we could ski the zipper. If you're reading this thinking, 'hey idiot, the zipper is in the tatoosh range of mt. rainier'...this is the other zipper. This is a full-value tour in mid-winter, and we had plenty of shenanigans worthy of sharing.
The NWAC map showed green across the board, but the strong winds in Snoqualmie during the early morning dog walk were still ripping when we got to the Hyak lot, and they continued much of the day in open areas. We found an isolated but touchy windslab on the way up roaring ridge (but too low angle to slide) and as we traversed out west along the old forest road, continued to note shallow windslab along the skin track. Welp, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when I triggered an approx 30' wide 2-3" deep slide on a 40 degree slope. Thankfully I stayed put, and after poking at the snow further along the traverse decided it was wise to give this section some space. We were on the road cut @4100 and only a few hundred feet from the obvious nose where the terrain flattens out - but instead we dropped down a short gully and climbed back up to the road cut on the other side of the nose, which involved some tricky steep skinning.
From there we contoured the bowl, requiring a slight downhill skinski into the basin, then a followed a hanging valley that ended in a short steep booter to the ridge east of pt 4902. A few more up + downs following what appeared to be a deer track (doing who knows what up there), we arrived at the entrance to the zipper. Now, to get to the entrance requires a little downhill skinskiing from the high point west of 4902, on what is a south/southwest aspect, and fairly steep. Solar slopes consisted of 2 inches of melt freeze crust with LARGE surface hoar on top. So, when the birthday boy hit a slick patch and one of his split-skis came off, it proceeded to rocket down the south slope, arcing graceful turns until it went into the woods. After standing there at the top of the line looking down the other side in disbelief, Solomon begrudgingly plunge-stepped down to retrieve the other half of his snowboard...while Tom and I waited up top eyeing the line and trying to stay warm.
Thankfully, the other half of Solomon's board was lodged in the trees, and in the end it cost us about 40 minutes and an extra 500 feet for Sol. Having regained our king line, we observed what appeared to be a small crown at the very top, with minimal wind-affect lower down - so we deemed it good to go! After some birthday brownies, Solomon dropped in to what is truly a sweet line! Snow conditions varied from powder to windboard to firm bed surface...which made for tricky skiing at times but so worth it. The apron at the very bottom skied great too. After some faffing about along the surprisingly steep walls of cold creek, we made a crossing at the mouth of twin lakes and skinned back to the road...and then all the way back to Hyak.
Definitely a long way to go, but worth it to ski 1700' of steep coulee in late feb! Happy Birthday Sol!