It’s only January but this weekend had all the ingredients for a great Spring Break – warm sunny days, good friends and questionable decisions. The decision that inspired this report was to venture up Gold Creek in search of an airy, remote summit and a big South face where maybe, just maybe, we’d find some early-season corn. Silvia, Lucas and Rob had each mentioned Chikamin over the preceding days, so it was starting to feel inevitable. Besides, there’s only so many times you can drive past Exit 54 and stare up the valley at Chikamin, wondering what it would be like to ski it.
On Sunday the four of us left the trailhead around 6AM. We stayed on the right side of Gold Creek all the way up to the head of the valley. This meant crossing some huge debris piles and traversing steep, icy slopes directly above the creek, but we accepted the terrain challenges in the name of dry feet. The other key to the approach was navigating a ridge system that rises between Gold Creek and a tributary stream that joins it on the north side of Alta. We followed the spine of this ridge from the confluence up to 4000’, and from there it was smooth sailing to the base of Chikamin.
We skinned up the forested lower slopes of Chikamin to 5000’ or so where we reached the main couloir system that characterizes the South face of the mountain and switched to booting. There are two couloirs that go all the way to the summit block and are currently filled in. The one on looker’s left is steep, narrow and icy - we used that one for the ascent. The one on looker’s right is more moderate, gets more sun, and features a small choke but is otherwise wide enough to make turns in, so we used that one for the descent. The summit block is not currently skiable, perhaps later in the season with more snow. We left our skis about 50’ below the summit and climbed a small rock step to top out on Chikamin at 1PM with blue skies and a 360-degree view of the Central Cascades.
The slight SW aspect of our route meant that snow surfaces were slowly softening throughout the morning, which made for efficient skinning and booting. The snow on the descent was not quite corn but not bad at all. Like a good mullet it was a little too firm up top and a little too soft down low, but plenty of fun all around! We picked our way down through a couple of chutes and a couple of open slopes, and eventually re-entered the forest where the good times came to an end. From there we retraced our approach route through mank, slop, ice, and a few other types of barely-skiable snow that don’t even have names yet. We finally reached the car after just over 12 hours of effort, tired but happy for the chance to ski such an aesthetic mountain on such a beautiful day.
Following up on last year’s Alta extravaganza, this was my second (and possibly last) trip up Gold Creek. In the spirit of the Notorious B.I.G.’s classic “The Ten Crack Commandments”, I came up with some words of advice for anyone wishing to do Gold Creek right…
The Ten Creek Commandments
- All able-bodied skiers with the financial means to do so must make a pilgrimage up Gold Greek at least once during their lifetime.
- Attitude is everything. “It’ll suck, but then it’ll be over and we’ll do what we came here to do.”
- Don’t fall in the creek.
- Don’t cross the creek unless you have to.
- Don’t waste a trip up Gold Creek. Make sure your objective is in condition before committing to the approach.
- Bring a headlamp. It doesn’t matter where you’re going or what time you start, you’ll still finish at night.
- Four Brothers.
Here’s a video edit of the full ski descent plus some choice photos from our day on Chikamin:
What an awesome ski! Your buddy below the choke didn't seem worried to watch if you might fall and take him out! Inspiring trip. Nice work!
Fuckin' choice man. You're giving those skis the life I couldn't give them.
Sick! Way to take advantage of the window! We went up the week before and we were sketched out by the hang fire on the summit block and went for the western most line on the face instead.
Those debris paths are huge! Impressive slides that crossed the creek from both Alta and Alaska choked with knocked over trees. We found a huge old growth down tree over the creek just before the Alta slide path you could skin and avoid those debris fields but they did put you under threatening slopes underneath Alaska as the day warmed.
gold creek is a right of passage but within reason if it’s firm. A full mank slog out of there would be hell.
Good stuff. You need to amend rule #6 to include making sure your batteries in your headlight aren't dead - iPhone flashlight to the rescue... More photos of our Chikamin Peak tour
Rob, your innovative lighting skills definitely earned you the "Lumenation" screen name!
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