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Oyster Couloir

WA Snoqualmie Pass
Posted by samchaneles on 2/10/23 5:44pm


Last year, Nick/Todd/Anton had tried to ski the Oyster Couloir off Wright Mountain but bailed on the traverse getting into the line. It was weird, rocky...it just wasn't the time. This year, we'd gotten a round of wet storms that had dropped thick, heavy snow that pasted the rock faces of Snoqualmie. Nick and I had been tracking the Oyster Couloir, seeing a trip report a few weeks back that someone had skied it. We marked it on our lists as worthy of a 'poke.' One Friday after work, we decided to give it a try.

Trip Report

We headed up to the pass after my last work call and started around 9:15 AM or so. The pass had gotten 3-4 inches of heavier, wetter snow overnight with low winds...on top of 3+ feet of snow that had come down in the last week. We figured the Oyster would be filled appropriately to ski continuously.

The Oyster is notorious for being tricky to get into. It's normally inaccessible from the summit of Wright Mountain, as there are cliffs above the line/beneath the summit. The commonly travelled route traverses a SW facing slope to a notch ~100ft below the summit, from where you can ski into the top of the couloir. Normally, this traverse is pretty rocky, icy, and kinda messy. We had this in the front of our minds and brought crampons just in case.

Getting out to Wright Mountain was a bit of a chore. The heavy, wet snow combined with sun breaks made for lots of glopping on our way up to upper Chair Peak basin. We opted to ski the Cache Couloir on our way out to Wright to get some skiing along the way. The Cache skied great and we were happy with our decision. First tracks in the Cache! That ~might~ be a first.

It's a lot of mileage and skinning to get out to Wright haha. I had prepared mentally and food-wise for a chill half-day tour, but it felt like work plowing through wet/heavy snow. It started to freezing rain on us, albeit lightly, on our way out. Classic Snoqualmie. We topped out on Wright's summit to a clearing/sucker hole in the clouds. Thank you Ullr! We transitioned to crampons and prepared for the traverse/downboot over to the notch. Thankfully, it was HERO snow and made for super easy travel, albeit slowly. It was wet, sticky snow that allowed us to just use our poles and not really need our crampons (and my ice axe that I brought along...oh well).

Looking back up at our downbootpack.

The traverse/downboot was ~probably~ skiable. There were a few moments when we contemplated skis. However, there were definitely a few points where we kicked trees, rocks, etc. It would have been sketchy with cliffs beneath, not knowing how deep the snowpack was. We transitioned to skis at the notch and skied into the Oyster. The snow was shaded and great!

Just some slough management to deal with. Nick gave me the honors but I wanted to take photos of him so oh well...seconds it was.

The 'choke' was a bit icy (as its normally a waterfall) but made for fine jump turns (and a few sidesteps). Overall, the couloir skied pretty well, even with the heavy snow.

There was one more surprise left in store at the bottom of the couloir: one rock choke that poked out amongst shrubs. Nothing too bad...just a few shimmies here and there and we were out of the couloir. As we exited, lots of shedding was occurring around us with the warm rain and temperatures. We were glad to be out of harms way. A skin, boop, and a bop out and we were back at Snow Lake divide, a bit more worked than we thought we'd be. But the Oyster was shucked!

Nice report, thanks for sharing. Seeing the angle of the trees growing in relation to the hillside shows just how steep the couloir is. Oof dah!

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2023-02-11 01:44:16