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Colchuck Lake 1/22-23

WA Cascades East Slopes Central
Posted by Dan G on 1/23/22 10:20pm


Found overall challenging travel conditions, both up and down, on an overnight trip to the Colchuck lake area. Our group's original goal was to attempt skiing the Colchuck glacier - but overshooting our travel time estimate to camp, and assessing our group's energy levels made us reconsider the weekend's goals. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of daylight to negotiate the trail down from the lake - which turned out to be all survival skiing. We ended up enjoying a mild night next to the lake at 5500', with a beautiful starry night, in full view of Dragontail and Colchuck's impressive north sides.


Below 4500', the snow was a thick, firm rain crust ranging from supportable (especially at lower elevation) to easily breakable on skis. Above 4500', we found more isothermal, spring-like snow and warmer temperatures. We observed surface hoar below 4500' on Eightmile road, and on more open, sun-exposed slopes.


Our group of 4 ascended from the closed gate on icicle creek road, mostly skinning the ~8 miles and 3500' to Colchuck. Hardened avalanche debris on Eightmile road required ski crampons. Melt freeze cycles, and low elevation rain, have created a thick, icy crust that made for tricky skinning at times. Both bridges crossing mountaineer creek were snow covered and required careful footing and a good stance. Sticking right on the summer trail made for the easiest route finding for our group. Even so, tight trees, punchy snow, creek crossings, large holes, up and down terrain, and crusty snow at times made it difficult to pick the best mode of travel. We ended up skiing down from the lake to the second bridge at 4500', transitioning to skins (at times locking in the heels) until the Stuart lake trailhead, and then skiing out the road, which was still a breakable crust.


Overall a quality, type 2/3 kind of weekend in the mountains, with great weather and company. We figure it may be a good idea to wait until spring, or for more favorable ski conditions, before it's worth repeating the main line attempt!



Colchuck + Dragontail


Second footbridge on mountaineer creek


Road skinning


I was just day-dreaming of skiing some of my favorite summer areas in winter with this snow drought reducing avalanche danger. Thank you for your report, which has brought me back to reality and saved me some disappointment! That road skinning photo tells a story! Looks like a beautiful camp though!

+1 to @mikerolfs' comment. :)

Just to help cement my judgement, can you confirm where you had to park?

@r1de @mikerolfs glad our suffering might save a few folks the same.

We parked on Icicle Creek Rd, right next to the FR7601 (Eight Mile Road) turn off. The forest service road is gated and unplowed past the turn-off.

Groomed trails Baby! We all know better, but still dream of North faces above treeline softening into corn in January!

Groomed at Nason


So smooth! Groomed trails, Baby!

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Dan G
2022-01-24 06:20:04