March 1, 2020, Lost Marbles Couloir
On Sunday Fred Newman, Jeff Wong, Sean Rogerson and I skied Lost Marbles Couloir (Hidden Lake area). We were wondering if anyone else has skied this line since it was pioneered by Sky Sjue & friends back in 2007. The fact that you have to find the couloir from above, ski it "blind", and then ascend back up it to exit will keep most people away. For those willing to put in the work this is an amazing route on one of the biggest couloirs in the Cascades, with a very scenic backdrop courtesy of the Marble Creek Cirque and the West Face of Eldorado.
We drove to 2200' on Sibley Creek Rd, making the approach reasonable. The day started out clear and cold, with 6" of dry snow on top of last week's crust, but high clouds and valley fog were closing in by late morning. We followed the standard Sibley Pass route up to about 4800' and then deviated NE up a steep slope to reach a different pass at 5800'. From there we continued NE and traversed an alpine basin until we were standing at the top of a 2300' elevator ride straight down to the valley below - the Lost Marbles Couloir. While ripping skins we were treated to a break in the clouds just long enough to appreciate the spectacular setting, with Dorado Needle, Eldorado and the Triad all making an appearance.
The couloir itself started out steep and constricted, perhaps a tad over 50 ° in spots, and with a couple of small kinks that prevented us from seeing the valley floor. Careful sluff management was necessary in order to link turns through this section. After the first thousand feet the couloir widened, the slope angle backed off, and we could finally see the bottom. It was time to open it up and make big GS turns until our legs couldn't take any more. Along the way we passed big rock walls, icefalls, and occasional spindrift from steep slopes above. At 3100' we reached the valley floor and had lunch while mentally preparing for what lay ahead.
We were able to skin 2/3 of the way back up the couloir, but the remaining third was brutal. We used every trick in the book to ascend through a winter's worth of unconsolidated snow. It was mostly waist-deep wallowing, with small sections of knee-deep booting that put smiles on our faces and restored hope. We topped out in whiteout conditions which persisted all the way down to Sibley Creek - we skied this section cautiously and were happy to have our skin track to use as a navigation aide. The final descent through the forest to Sibley Creek Rd went faster and more painless than I remember from previous trips to Hidden Lake.
Not all 7000' days are created equal, and this will go down as one of the burlier and more memorable. Trip stats: approximately 17 miles, 6900' vertical and 10 hours C2C.
Full set of photos/video available at https://www.facebook.com/groups/turnsallyear/permalink/10158049700089699/