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Swiss North

When driving to Rogers Pass, I’ve always been tempted by Swiss Peak’s north face. Incredible looking line, and the highway points straight toward it for just a bit, long enough to grab your attention but never enough to drink it all in.

I headed up to the Pass bright and early and was on skis moving 15 minutes after the permits coming out. Up Hermit, onto Swiss Glacier, and up Swiss Peak south couloir. The whole way I was going as fast as possible, the day was stellar and the sun was strong. In the couloir I was on the verge of giving myself heat stroke, the sun on my back and the reflected heat off the snow was like a microwave, and and the lower part of the couloir there was limited visibility above from kinks, so I just had to keep on going hard or increase the risk of catching a sluff. I was lucky/fast enough to not even see a sluff in the lower while I was on it. For the upper half, I could start to see, and the left wall which still threatened above was lightly drifting snow in a wind from the backside, which was more than enough to keep the snow cool and tight. Once at the top of the couloir I could see into the north face, and it looked awesome! I kept going a little further, but sensed a cornice. Pulling off to the side to look, there was enough of one the true summit didn’t make sense so I changed over to ski down.  DSCN9532

The upper face above the couloir wasn’t great, wind/sun hammered crust thinly overlying rock. I mostly sideslipped to the top of the north face. There was a lot of trepidation and probing with my poles until I was far enough on the face I felt wind funk near the ridgeline wouldn’t be an issue. Then it was time to gut it! Awesome snow, ~20cm of ski pen the whole way down, and more importantly, really consistent snow. Sluffs were abundant, most of the way I had to make a few turns and then pull off, but there were micro terrain features here and there to take advantage of so I could keep skiing out of the way of the sluff after a short traverse. Finding my way off the upper shelf and onto the main face was easy, you can’t quite see the route off the top but it’s pretty much straight down to get through the little cliff band.

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The “Coast Steep Skier” treatment

After the wicked ski on the face I stuck hard skiers right down the glacier. From there I climbed up to the ridge to the south and dropped into a nice avalanche path heading down toward the highway. It’s a bit hard to find as the start zone is down from the ridgetop a little ways, but is nice and planar and well trimmed. It led into the unnamed valley below the east face of Hermit Mountain, and I kept following the creek all the way down. Snow quality was pretty poor with the rains, but the exit was still quick and realistically, about as painless as anywhere else at lower elevation for this time of year. All the snow was skiable, and there were no cliffs or nasty terrain to deal with. First I crossed the abandoned rail grade, then as I was approaching the culvert heading under the upper rail grade, a trail rumbled past. I ducked under the culvert and kept going, to the lower rail grade which has a bridge high over the creek, and again greeting the head end of a passing train. Then a bit further down was the highway, and I flagged down a ride back to the Hermit parking.

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