March 18-20, 2020, Hidden Lake Couloir Party

3/17/20
WA Cascades NW (Mt Baker)
2442
19
Posted by aaasen on 3/21/20 10:45am

Thomas and I spent three days at the Hidden Lake Lookout skiing couloirs around Hidden Lake and also Lost Marbles.

We drove to 2,200 on Sibley Creek road, stopped at the first snow, and started skinning a few hundred feet further. Took the summer trail up to 4,400 then cut up through the trees to avoid the steep slopes baking in the afternoon sun above. Due to our 1pm start our skins had gotten soaked on the approach and we experienced the worst glopping I have ever seen when we hit cold snow. In a futile attempt to clean my skis I whacked them with my pole until the handle sheared clean off. Above treeline we found widespread wind board on northern aspects, generally firm snow with small isolated pockets of preserved powder. Southern aspects at least to 7k were transitioning to corn with widespread loose wet avalanches on steeper slopes.

Getting to the lookout was a surprisingly long day with life-of-luxury overnight packs. We found it empty and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, no-moon stargazing, and insanely plush accommodations for 7k in the North Cascades. Sure beats sleeping on the snow!

Photos:
1. Torment and Forbidden at sunset.
2. Hidden Lake Lookout from Hidden Lake Peak with Three Fingers and Whitehorse in the background.
3. Thomas skiing down to Hidden Lake.

The next morning we skinned up Hidden Lake Peak and skied the E ridge down to some cliffs where we found a steep couloir leading down to Hidden Lake. It was quite firm, edges barely gripped after jump turns, would have been more enjoyable a bit later in the day.

We booted up a narrow couloir on the S side of the lake and stopped when we found a thin layer of wind slab on top of some sugary unconsolidated snow. The couloir steepened and choked down to ski width about 100ft above so we didn't miss out on much by turning around.

We skinned to the E side of the lake and ate lunch enjoying incredible views of the Cascade Pass area. We spotted a narrow couloir splitting two nearly vertical walls of granite with a checkerboard pattern of snow. From afar the couloir looked too steep to climb, but when we got up close it seemed reasonable. It was a fun climb, but too steep and narrow for us to ski.

We circled around to the summit and then skied a mellow couloir back down to the lake with some preserved powder, then absolutely heinous breakable windboard on the exit apron.

We skinned back up to the hut (booted a short steep section just above the lake) and met a group of five skiers including fellow TAYer eatsleepski. A group of two snowshoers arrived at sunset making the hut fairly cramped with nine people. Another beautiful sunset and good vibes all around.

Photos:
4. Thomas skiing the couloir on the S side of Hidden Lake.
5. Thomas using a helpful tree to top out the couloir that we didn't ski.
6. Thomas skiing down to Hidden Lake with Eldorado in the background.
2020-03-21 17:46:00
aaasen
Our goal for the next day was to ski Lost Marbles. We left the hut at 8am and skied a traverse to 5,000', ditched our overnight gear, and skinned up a steep slope to the col at 5,800'. This required a small section of booting. We skied a traverse staying high skier's right above the lake, then a short boot to the top of the couloir.

It looked like two parties had already skied it during this weather window. It was steep, it was firm, and it was loooong. Sitting above Marble Creek, staring up at the west face of Eldorado towering almost 6,000' above, and then climbing over 2,000' up the bowling alley was a humbling experience. It's hard to imagine just how much drains into this couloir when you're standing at the top. A few small sluffs came down onto us as we frantically booted up. When we got out from under the cornices we took a small break in a cave and a large sluff came down from above, certainly enough to knock us down the couloir. We were lucky to not get hit with anything. When I ski this line again I will wait for low freezing levels, a bit of soft snow, and cloudy weather.

It was a relief to get out of the couloir, but we still had a steep southern aspect to ski so we didn't take much of a break. It was nice corn at 1pm, probably the best snow of the trip. Then some breakable crust and mush through the forest, and a chattery road ski out.

Photos:
7. Sunset at Hidden Lake Lookout.
8. Thomas booting out of Lost Marbles, extreme overhead hazard here!
9. Eldorado's mighty West Face.
2020-03-21 17:48:00
aaasen
Awesome report, sounds like a fun trip! That shot of homeboy Lost in the Marbles, wow. Good pictures all
2020-03-22 03:12:00
kamtron
Great report thanks for sharing. Wow that photo of lost marbles, super sketchy!!! Glad you made it out safely.
2020-03-22 18:23:00
ski_photomatt
Fantastic trip and pics.  This site is really coming around w/ the quality TRs lately.  Thanks for sharing. 
2020-03-22 20:28:00
Good2Go
Thanks for the great TR. Great skiing and photos.
2020-03-22 23:31:00
JimD

nice pictures and TR... if it weren't for the times we currently live in it would be an excellent report... but we do live in weird times, and to post a report touting Hidden Lake lookout seems just as weird. I'm certainly not one to tell anyone not to go skiing... far from it. But given that TR's promote a location (just look at Lost Marbles...more people have skied that line in the last month than in the last five years) it seems strange in these days of coronavirus to tout a lookout where who knows how many strangers may congregate on any given night in a small enclosed space.

2020-03-23 01:26:00
cumulus
Hey Lane,

Great to meet you and Thomas up there, glad to hear you guys made it out of Marbles ok. Hope to run into you again soon.
2020-03-23 05:16:00
eatskisleep

Yeah, 9 people in the lookout?  Yeesh.  There are plenty of regulars on this forum who are, or will be putting it all on the line to save our brothers and sisters.  Show some respect.

author=cumulus link=topic=42790.msg167224#msg167224 date=1584926799]
nice pictures and TR... if it weren't for the times we currently live in it would be an excellent report... but we do live in weird times, and to post a report touting Hidden Lake lookout seems just as weird. I'm certainly not one to tell anyone not to go skiing... far from it. But given that TR's promote a location (just look at Lost Marbles...more people have skied that line in the last month than in the last five years) it seems strange in these days of coronavirus to tout a lookout where who knows how many strangers may congregate on any given night in a small enclosed space.

2020-03-23 19:21:00
andyrew
Great trip, Lane! You've had quite a winter so far. This was a much more sporty trip than last Tuesday...Keep those tips up, brutha!!!
2020-03-23 21:55:00
GregLange
Nice pictures, interesting report.
2020-03-25 03:57:00
skykilo
Eh, I can see cumulus 's point. The HLLO has sadly become more and more gangbanged over the past 10 to 15 years. It's one of those places where in sure a lot of folks would rather see people enjoy it amongst their friends and keep it quiet on the internet, but in the modern age of self promotion, sadly the location can be the victim. It's one of a few places I greatly regret ever sharing info about online.
2020-03-31 07:21:00
JoshK
Is it sad that more people are enjoying the place? I don't see it that way. I think the expectation of having a cabin like this for just you and your friends is a bit ridiculous. It's been around for 88 years and people would know about it with or without you. I'm all for stewardship, but this possessiveness over public spaces does not sit well with me.

I acknowledge that this was not the right time to be in the lookout. A couple weeks ago it seemed somewhat reasonable; the seriousness of the situation hadn't sunk in yet. In hindsight, it was a selfish and irresponsible decision.
2020-03-31 17:32:00
aaasen
author=JoshK link=topic=42790.msg167285#msg167285 date=1585639286]
Eh, I can see cumulus 's point. The HLLO has sadly become more and more gangbanged over the past 10 to 15 years. It's one of those places where in sure a lot of folks would rather see people enjoy it amongst their friends and keep it quiet on the internet, but in the modern age of self promotion, sadly the location can be the victim. It's one of a few places I greatly regret ever sharing info about online.



"gangbanged"? Really? This is a violent and repulsive word. Surely you could have made your point in another way. >:(

2020-03-31 17:36:00
ski_photomatt
author=aaasen link=topic=42790.msg167291#msg167291 date=1585675976]
I acknowledge that this was not the right time to be in the lookout. A couple weeks ago it seemed somewhat reasonable; the seriousness of the situation hadn't sunk in yet. In hindsight, it was a selfish and irresponsible decision.



Thanks for sharing that bit of self reflection. I suspect many of us were slow to fully acknowledge and adapt to current reality  at about that  same time - I know I was. Maybe something about the stages of grief...

2020-03-31 18:33:00
Jim Oker
Aaasen, I speak mostly to the additional wear and damage the poor old structure has seen in recent years as word has spread. The winter visits are particularly rough on it. I've made it a point to bring temporary repair materials in winters past. 3 broken window panes so far by my count. And, yes, publicity has made this worse. The real dagger was an Outside magazine article about it a while back. Word of mouth spreads slower than pictures on the internet, just a reality of modern life. No possessiveness of public spaces, I'm under no illusion that or any other area is mine any more than another's. I certainly have a right to bemoan what has come to pass, however. Plus, there is still a way to get solitude up there: go up during a storm. :P

Matt, sorry you don't enjoy my cunning linguistics.

Aside from the debate on information oversaturation of the backcountry, it's a fantastic area and those are some stellar photos.
2020-03-31 22:14:00
JoshK
It'd be great if the BC ski community could get organized to protect these structures and keep them open for use, rather than having them inevitably close, as the Winchester lookout did. I had such a blast up there on Valentine's weekend years ago, skiing Larrabee in corn.

This is the kind of thing the CBA was created for, but I'm not sure how much traction they've had since their creation: https://www.cascadebackcountryalliance.org
2020-03-31 23:26:00
kamtron
Seems like the only way to manage traffic and reduce damage to lookouts and other structures once they become well known is through a reservation system. Or close them entirely, as was done at Winchester lookout. I remember thinking "this does not end well" when I started seeing social media posts about Winchester.
2020-04-02 00:53:00
Lowell_Skoog
Cool trip. Thanks for sharing.
2020-04-02 18:00:00
Mtraslin

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2020-03-21 17:45:23