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Zipper Couloir Powder Day

WA Snoqualmie Pass
Posted by skistache on 1/22/23 3:18pm

Keeping a close eye on the conditions over the last week had me thinking that this could be the weekend to ski a big steep line in fresh powder while avoiding the bulk of the avvy risk and I had my eye set on the Zipper Couloir. I skiied the Zipper back in May, and after that experience I wanted to do it again- but in good winter conditions, and figuring out the approach from the Roaring Ridge side of the mountain, instead of booting up the center. 

Left the Hyak parking lot at 8AM, and made a speedy approach to Roaring with a stiff breeze coming off the lake. After diverging from the well-travelled skintrack up the forest service road on Roaring I made much less speedy time through untracked powder to the top of the ridge, following the service road that goes must far west on roaring, and then taking the obvious shelf and gully up to the top. Conditions were confidence-inspiring, with compacting powder fairly well-adhered to a firm crust, and few signs of wind exposure. 

On top of the ridgeline, I briefly followed a pair of elk tracks, and found the top of the Zipper Couloir after a minor wrong turn down a short spur above it. There's an impressive and not-confidence-inspiring cornice at the entrance, which requires a steep drop and immediate speed check to enter the couloir. After some exploratory digging with a shovel and poles, I determined that the snow in the couloir was safe, and decided to send it. 

Being tight and north-facing, the snow inside the couloir was somewhere between champagne-light and packed powder, depending on aspect. Ski turns kicked up ample light slough, but nothing that was concerning, as anything pushed downhill subsided quickly. 

Down low and out of the couloir proper I was able to light up some big turns on fantastic, untracked snow- with just enough icy debris underneath from the MLK weekend rainstorm to toss in the occasional speedbump

At the bottom I shimmied across one of the log crossings over cold creek, skinned back on the groomed track in thickening flakes to the backside of Hyak, and rode the chairlifts back to the parking lot. 

Always a good day when you can get fresh tracks on an iconic local objective!

Looking down!


Elk tracks high on the ridge


Approach route


Such a fun line! I've always wondered how one could approach this from above - thanks for posting.

We skied this yesterday (sunday) and could make out your skin track at times. You mentioned you followed elk tracks: last year when I skied this we also encountered ungulate tracks along the ridgeline, and I scratched my head trying to figure out what a deer or elk was doing at that elevation in deep snow. Yesterday as we gained the ridge, we found another very fresh set of tracks, but this time we looked downhill and saw a billy mountain goat sending it down the hill! Never seen goats in that part of the pass, but I guess it's better winter habitat for them...That billy must roam that ridge throughout the winter. 

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2023-01-22 23:18:07