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Snoqualmie East Summit/Crooked Couloir, May 5, 2008

I was planning on skiing the groomers with the masses on Cinco de Mayo, kicking back on the plaza at Alpental and enjoying the sun. Kevin e-mailed the night before, though, and said he had promised to take some friends from work touring and he was meeting them at Sahale at 8:00 AM. I mentally considered the relative merits of skiing the lifts with a bunch of drunk people versus touring up Snoqualmie Mountain in peace and quiet, and decided to tour.

Chris, who works at Station 34 with Kevin and his wife Ellie pulled up with Kevin within 15 seconds of my stopping my car. With a 14-month-old baby at home, they had hit the babysitter lottery with Ellie's mom in town, and were out for a gasp of fresh air. After years of mountain living in Jackson Hole and Crested Butte, they were up for some fun.

Since the snow was already pretty mushy at the bottom, we wanted to make haste and try to catch the top part of the mountain before the whole thing slid away, but as we ascended the Commonwealth Basin drainage it became obvious that we were a couple of days too late. Most any slope around Red Mountain or Lundin that had any angle to it was heavily marked by wet slide debris, which was a pain to break trail through. Fortunately Kevin was doing the honors, and we made good time in the warm weather.

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Where the snow had not slid, the sun was quickly turning the snow into watery mush, and any slip had the potential to produce a significant wet slide. We topped out at the east summit of Snoqualmie Mountain and took in the views, and assessed the north facing aspects. There had been numerous slides here as well, but there looked to be some clear areas in the Crooked Couloir, so we opted for a run down the backside hoping for better skiing.

We were only partially successful. The top had a thick sun crust that could be skied without breaking through if you were smooth, while the middle portion and the "choke" were full of partially frozen avy debris mixed with very heavy fresh snow from the week before. It proved to be quite a quad workout, but Chris and Ellie were able to see some of the best that the Snoqualmie Area has to offer in terms of terrain, and so were quite happy.

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The weather, however, was perfect and we were in shirtsleeves and sunglasses; a great day to be out with new friends. We did the return through the west notch and headed for the Phantom, but were quickly dissuaded by the soupy nature of the snow. It was better in the trees, though our turns set off wet slides on any open or sun-affected face. As we emerged at the Alpental parking lot, the party was in full swing, with cars parked down to the lower condos . . .

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