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Slot Couloir, March 15, 2006

 . . . Almost two years, and no Slot Couloir - the usual assortment of excuses, like no snow, too much snow, out of town - may have all been true, but were beginning to sound a ittle insipid. So we went. Trip reports on made it sound like we could expect a multitude of tracks, but Kevin, Frank and I gambled on the north facing aspects staying cool and out of the sun since the weekend, and gathered at the Sahale parking area mid-morning.

We headed up the scenic route through Commonwealth Basin under overcast skies mixed with partial clearing, and found a decent skin track interspersed with boot and snowshoe tracks through the forest. Following the track around Guye Peak and to the base of Snoqualmie went quickly, but once on the ridge skinning became a problem. A hard crust with a tiny coating of loose corn and about an inch of fresh gave no purchase for skins or edges; I switched to booting for a few hundred vertical feet, while Kevin, who had remembered to bring his ski crampons, cruised on ahead.

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It clouded up and started snowing as we neared the 5,900 ft. level, where I put my skis back on and headed up to close to 6,200, traversing under the rock band to the Slot notch.

Frank had never seen the Slot before, so we ambled over to take a look after taking off our skins in the little stand of trees at the top. He was dutifully impressed with the steep rollover into nothingness and the massive rock wall to skier's right. Cool.

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It was getting cold in the wind and snow, so we stepped in and went. Amazingly, except for a few ski tracks at the very top, the loose sloughing from the weekend fun seekers plus the three inches or so of fresh snow covered most all of the tracks. Sweet! Plenty of soft snow for turns, the rush of snow sloughing past you as you skied, and untracked pow in the apron.

"Fuckin' A!" exclaimed Frank as we caught our breath at the bottom . . . an archaic German expression that translates roughly as "ausgezeichnet."


I almost forgot . . . we were still a valley away from the cars! We traversed around the corner to the "Not Slot" apron, donned skins, and headed for the notch at Snoqualmie's west shoulder. The last 100 ft. or so were steep and hard and required some booting - even Kevin's ski crampons didn't quite cut it. We put the skis back on for the descent and decided that the trees offered a chance of better snow than the sun-exposed expanses of the Phantom. This was partially true, the ski down was better than we had anticipated, alternating between heavy soft snow, breakable crust, and bullet proof frozen snow crisscrossed with skin tracks. We popped out just below the waterfall, which was completely filled in and had been skied by enough people to look like a ski run, and headed to Frank's condo for beer and coffee.

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