Sticking your axe in the Snot: Snoqualmie Pass Ski Mountaineering

This very dry December yielded all sorts of fun in the backyard. While the coverage was minimal and the temperature warmed up several times, the snow was distributed evenly over the landscape. That means that you could get just about anywhere, and at Snoqualmie pass that is the key: if the snow isn't great, just visit some really cool terrain.

I spent a beautiful Friday out with Dave and Travis. Our focus was the technical end of ski mountaineering. First we worked on setting and managing rappels on skis, making the easy (and unnecessary) rappel into the Slot. Then, after negotiating the small pocket slabs lingering in the couloir, we skied some great turns down the apron and began skinning up again. This time we headed for the big gully looker's right of the Slot, which is sometimes called the Snot Gully.

I had to do some research on the names for the various features on the north side of Snoqualmie. The Slot, it seems, was once referred to as the "Enigma Gully," mainly by climbers. This name was then misapplied to the next gully west, which is to say the Snot. I've also seen the Snot referred to as "Phantom Gully," a name which is nothing but confusing. (The Phantom Slide, of course, is the slide path leading up the south side of Mt. Snoqualmie from the vicinity of the lodge).

"Snot Couloir" doesn't feel like a very cool name for such a cool place, but it is wordplay for "Not the Slot." If you have ever peered down into this thing from the top while heading for the Slot, the name will make sense. It tops out on the same ridge as the Slot, only several hundred feet lower and to the west. It's also the access for New York Gully.

I was curious to check out the terrain near the head of this gully. I had wandered up that way after pulling the plug on a climb of New York gully years ago. Just short of where the gully meets the ridge, I had followed ramps and short mixed steps up and left. So we gave it a shot, based solely on my memory. What we found was a delightful and moderate alpine climb. We climbed a few long pitches on steep, firm snow. Then we headed up a series of short steps involving cruxes on a mix of rock, ice, and sugar snow. These cruxes felt like 5.7 or so. Rock horns and trees provided plentiful anchors, and it went pretty fast. The climb up the Snot to our left-hand exit came in at 1,500' vertical feet from Thunder Creek.

I got a kind note from Dave a few weeks later:

"Travis and I got out and did the Crooked (E entrance) on the back side of Mt Snoqualmie! Very fun. Skiing was, ummmm, pretty much awful but we had a GREAT day!!!! We brought harnesses and a 60m rope for the bottom of the Crooked. It turns out we were able to billy goat down it without a rap -- but were both SO psyched, Forest, for the couple days last weekend which made us confident that we could commit to this route and be very confident in pulling off a rappel! Thank you!!!!!"