Crystal Mountain Southback Traverse

WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
Posted by mscherrer on 1/9/21 10:12pm

Daniel and I have been having fun this year getting to know the Crystal backcountry better, and when we ran across Kyle Miller's "Southback Complete Traverse" we figured we'd have to give it a go. Kyle did this traverse in the spring, so he had daylight on his side, but we figured we might as well give it a go anyway since we had a free day and weather was lining up as well. One feature about this tour that we liked a lot was that we always had solid bail options if needed. We also appreciated that while the traverse focused on peaks and ascents, it also prioritized the descents! We ended up doing most of the traverse with a few deviations.

The snow on the shaded north aspects of this traverse skied fantastically, and we were really happy to be able to have relatively stable conditions. We backed off the summit of Three Way Peak, since we got to the ridge on the east side and found it to be a little too wind affected for our liking. We skied the nicest face we could find off of the ridge and moved on to Joe's Badass Shoulder which had a bit of wind loading at the top, so we skied around and entered the shoulder a bit lower. From there, we went on to ski the Gunbarrel, which is a solidly fun run going down to Upper Henskin Lake. From there, we went up around the east side of Dog Legged Peak to ski Dog Leg Chute which was again, nice pow. (Kinda the theme for most of these runs today!) After Dog Leg Chute comes the more traversey part of this ski. Up until now, we had been feeling like we were almost "lapping" the same face, which was great for getting turns in, but left Platinum Peak (the end of the tour) feeling quite far away.

From Dog Leg Chute, we skinned to Bear Gap, and up the west side of Pickhandle Point. From there we skied the north side of Pickhandle all the way down past Gold Hills, and transitioned uphill again to head towards Bullion Peak. This part, for me at least, was the most arduous, but luckily some food and water brought our spirits up and we got to Bullion Peak about an hour and a half later. This, however is where we deviated again from Kyle's marked traverse, and decided that instead of skiing Carnival Chutes, and going up Platinum Peak from the drainage, we would ski the NE face of Bullion to put us in a better position to skin up Platinum. We skied the face, which had some wind loading that we avoided by skiing the trees skiers left, and started making our way up Platinum, but with a myriad of compounding factors (darkness, growing wind, incoming weather, etc.) we decided to bail part way up and call it a day. Ultimately, a day we were proud of and a day where we were happy to be able to get on so many great lines in the Crystal backcountry. Crystal BC rocks.

See here for my info via Strava.


The route we ended up doing.


Me skiing Dogleg. Great snow!


Skinning up the west side of Pickhandle.


From Bullion Peak looking back on where we started in the day. Pretty cool!

Nice TR and photos.😀

Great trip report.  Sounds like a big day.  With the exception of Pickhandle I’ve skied all those spots, putting them together in a larger traverse is cool.

Big day of hard work and (sounds like) some great turns - well done. Bookmarking this one for sure as I am yet to brave the Crystal traffic this season ... perhaps will snatch a good-weather mid-week day a bit later when we get more daylight. Thanks for the inspiro.

Thanks everyone! And yea, @mtnpavlas, we have been arriving pretty early to avoid crowds! With the lifts opening generally around 8-8:30 though, we were able to get a couple of hot laps down Forest Queen before we took off on this tour.

Awesome route and strong work. Great way to see the surrounding terrain and make the most out of the area. Great to see that the site helps people with touring ideas.

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2021-01-10 06:12:27