Quid Pro Quo Couloir

I’ve been doing a lot of staring out of the trauma office window this month. On a clear day, Mt Olympus and the Salt Lake Twins fill the frame. With binoculars, maps, and satellite images, I’ve been piecing together a few ideas.

GPS track imposed on Mt Olympus. Via Open Streetmaps / Fatmap.

Between the often skied Tolcats couloir and the recognizable West Slabs/Medusa Face, I noticed a sliver of snow that looked big enough to ski. Access looked doable, if brushy. When I got off of my 30 hour shift on Tuesday morning with a bit of time to spare, I drove over to make it happen.

Barely visible up past the bushes and into the cloud.
Always interesting to ski in such proximity to the city.

The approach is fastest from the West Slabs trailhead, then taking the Bonneville shoreline trail South until it crosses this distinct drainage. I think this may be a common walk off from the West Slabs in summer. A deer trail up the North side of the gully made skinning more straightforward than expected, but foggy weather made for gloppingĀ  skins.

It goes! First look up the choke reveals a skiable route.

From the office, it wasn’t clear if the rocky choke at the entrance to the couloir would even be passable, let alone skiable. I discovered good news. It’s just wide enough to make turns and was filled in nicely with a layer of dense fresh snow.

The skinny choke. Plenty aesthetic, plenty skinny.

Above the choke the couloir opens. Of the 2500′ feet of ascent from the shoreline trail, probably 1700′ are nice skiable couloir.

Long, open, untouched, skiable snow above the choke.
And more beyond that, gradually tapering.
Final steps to the top before the terrain pinched off in the cloud.

At the top the terrain pinches off and a look over the top yields a broad, snowy, brushy face of no interest. After a quick transition, I turned around and enjoyed the accumulating fresh snow.

Skiing from the tip top required a bit of creative maneuvering.
Stoked on surprisingly good skiing.

When I got home, I posed the question on Instagram whether this couloir had a known descent. It took just minutes to confirm that at least one other person, ultrarunner Mark Hammond, had skied it previously. To my knowledge, it doesn’t have a name. If I was to give it one, I’d call it Quid Pro Quo. First, because you have to give something to the gods of brush to get what you want from the couloir, and second, because I skied it on the day that Trump’s impeachment hearing began, a day worthy of commemorating.

Category: Skiing


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