Before I start this writeup, I need to say that this Trip Report is entirely dedicated to my dear friend Liz Daley. She and I had talked for years about tagging the first ever snowboard descent on Mount Shuksan’s Hanging Glacier Headwall, and without her infectious stoke even in her afterlife, I doubt that this trip would have happened. She was better and more proficient at this game of snowboard alpinism than all of us combined.
Love you forever, Liz!!
This past week I took a couple days off work at Karakoram to go tag a couple lines I’ve been dreaming / drooling over for the better part of a decade. My buddy Adam called me at midnight on Tuesday and said, “bro, it snowed 4 feet, its stayed overcast and cold, and has only snowed another 4-6 inches in the past 72 hours. I think its time get radically steep on The Shuk”. As always, the Pre Gnarfest anxiety began to build.
As she was looking 3 days before departure:
Overnight packs are stupid:
First view of the HG Headwall on the approach:
Sunsets are not stupid, but extremely badass:
Beginning the day at 6:30am, we traversed out the arm and accessed the lower White Salmon Glacier:
Crevasse crossings were pretty fat at higher elevations:
Finally at the top of the Headwall of the Hanging Glacier. All I really have to say, is that the place is BURLY. You’re looking down a slope that starts at 50 degrees, rolls to damn near 60 degrees, and all the while you’re above a 4,000 foot potential fall. Here is Adam taking a few steps into the route to check stability. Moments after I took these photos, I insisted that we set up an anchor and do a full snow assessment on belay.
After we decided that it was stable and that we were going to ride it, I decided to go first. At this point I pretty much stopped taking photos, and focused on not dying.. I entered the route on my toe edge, with 2 ice tools. As I gained the main spine the rest of the route comes into view, and quite literally overwhelmingly steep. I dropped into the primary rollover a few feet, and quickly discovered that I was on top of 4-6 inches of powder that was sitting on top of blue water ice. At one point I lost an edge, and had to self arrest with my tools… Liz would be proud!
Anyway, after running into the ice, I decided to avoid turning until I was away from the main fall line of the cliffs below. Once I was about 1/3 of the way into the route, I could start to open it up and make steep, fun GS style turns on the 55 degree terrain.
Looking back up, after “landing” on the Hanging Glacier. Here is the route as seen from the top of the ice cliff:
The traditional exit ramp for the Hanging Glacier route was not in shape this year due to significantly lower than average snowpack. So instead we climbed up through the primary ice fall of the hanging glacier. This proved to be pretty hard work, as it was deep trail breaking on steep, ~40 degree terrain, with a huge looming serac above us most of the way up. I’m glad no blocks of ice wiped us out..
We gained the top of the NW Couloir, and we were STOKED:
Adam set the traverse above the cliffs, then I dropped in first. I am the tiny dot (photo by Adam):
By far, the best turns, on the best line of the year. It was extremely reminiscent to riding huge lines in Valdez last April…
Looking back up the NWC:
Looking back up at the Headwall above the Hanging Glacier:
All in all, this trip was significant in two major ways:
First of all, I had previously attempted to ride the Northwest Couloir 7 different times, over 6 friggin years! Each time I had either run into a creepy wind slab that left me sprinting home, or, found the route too bulletproof to ride. Getting to drop into the route with full confidence in the snow stability, and to be able to crank high speed turns, was really sometime amazing.
Secondly, and this is not really important, but this is likely the first snowboard descent on the rider’s right variation of the Hanging Glacier Headwall. My buddy Seth Holton pointed out that the skier’s left variation was ridden in 2011. Either way, the Headwall is an amazing place to be, and the physical position of being on your snowboard, literally hanging thousands of feet in the air, is truly mind blowing.
I’m not a religious dude, but somehow I felt a little closer to our fallen sister that day. Thanks for watching over us LizDee.
Get a look at this wonderful tribute video to Liz Daley put together by photographer Kt Miller and ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich. The three went on a trip together in Chamonix, France in February of 2014 to climb and ride some highly technical lines. Liz was caught in an avalanche in Patagonia this past September and her presence has been and will always be missed.
In February we were wrapping up the long trade show season. As usual our feet hurt from standing in convention centers and talking to people all day long. Talking about splitboarding is great and all, but after two straight weeks, you kind of go stir crazy. We couldn’t wait to get out into the Alps to refresh our spirits. After ISPO Munich Tyler and I decided to check out Klosters Switzerland since it’s a great name.
At ISPO we meet downhill skateboarder Patrick Switzer who live near Klosters. Patrick likes snowboarding and we like snowboarding, so we decided to shred some powder together.
The whiterooms were plenty…
It was amazing, the snow was continuously coming down and no one was on the mountain. We were only competing with ourselves for lines for three days in Klosters. We couldn’t have asked for a better tradeshow detox. Visibility wasn’t very good, but we didn’t really mind as we were generally lost in our whiterooms.
On the third day in Klosters the sun came out and we hit up Pischa Freeride Resort. Our friend Kyle Christenson came up from Chamonix to enjoy the pow in Switzerland. We rode t-bars and splitboarded along ridgelines all day long, each run was pretty neat! Splitboarding on the ridgelines was much faster than boot packing.
This is pretty neat
Tyler in a Pischa pow cloud. Photo: Kyle Christenson
Bryce cutting back from a toe side slasher. Photo: Kyle Christenson
Double overhead in Switzerland. Photo: Kyle Christenson
After riding endless pow in Klosters, we ate some raclette courtesy of Patrick and his girl friends parents.
We then hit the public transit and headed to Lucerne to meet up with Jeremy Sochin, owner of Number.One Boards and Bikes.
Tyler and Patrick waiting for the train
Jeremy has a rad shop, nestled in an old European city.
Jeremy took us to his stomping grounds of Engelberg. This place is on a different scale.
You can also buy a fancy watch at the top of the mountain.
I think I’ll go for the Omega…
Jeremy was a great tour guide. Every run he navigated through cliff lines and ramps. It’s great to have a local with knowledge.
Jeremy in his happy place
Jeremy says, “Raise your had if you are having fun!”
It was like this for 6000 vertical feet.
That’s a big cliff. Don’t follow random tracks, because they ski with parachutes here…
A huge thanks to Jeremy Sochin and Patrick Switzer for showing us around and giving us a place to sleep. Good times!
A little video of Patrick skateboarding. He’s pretty good…
Yes! Despite the lack of snow this winter we we’re indeed still able to make the Mt. Baker Splitboard Festival happen. The lack of snow more so exists at the lower elevations of our mountains but up higher the snowpack is hanging in there. One of the concepts of a splitboard anyway is to get up higher, so there was no reason not to hold the event!
Bryce making his way down a fun little ramp. Photo: Paul Stanley
On day 1, we had enough time beforehand to go for a quick ride in some interesting and somewhat dangerous conditions. Snowfall from earlier in the week had become highly saturated from warm temperatures and wet loose slides we’re giving way naturally on several slopes around us. We carefully chose what terrain we we’re going to ride and had a fun safe ride down. The snow was a little grabby, but soft and playful.
Rob squaring away fellow splitboarders on the Prime system. Photo: Paul Stanley
Later that evening we spent some time getting fellow splitboarders and new comers set up to try out the Prime system for their first time the following day. Luckily for them and everybody else that made it out for Splitfest, it was forecasted to snow a little bit overnight up higher. Everybody geared up and headed to bed hoping for some potential pow turns the next morning.
Tyler layin’ one down in the sun. Photo: Paul Stanley
Mike showing a newcomer how the Primes work and giving a few tips on splitboarding before going out for his first time. Photo: Paul Stanley
Sure enough, day 2 we we’re greeted to 6 inches of new snow where we toured. We guided a fellow newcomer uphill, showed him how the Prime System works, and helped him get out for his first time. He was stoked! We then split up into a couple groups and each rode some different terrain. By the day’s end, it sounded like the general consensus was that the snow was great! Everybody seemed pleasantly surprised as expectations coming into Splitfest were low with the way this winter has been going.
Story of our winter. Photo: Paul Stanley
Big crew rollin’ out for some pow on day 2! Photo: Chad Perrin
Our big group divided into two groups where some of us rode terrain on one side of the lake and the rest rode on the other side. Talk about a ‘splitfest’. Photo: Chad Perrin
Afterward, everyone made their way back to Chair 9 in Glacier, WA to have a good time, talk snowboarding, and test their luck at winning some sweet product at the benefit raffle for the Northwest Avalanche Center. From the sounds of it, together us splitboarders raised $7300 for NWAC! Not bad considering less people showed up this year than years past, entirely due to the rough winter season. But to those of you who didn’t show up, you missed out! There’s always next year and we hope to see you there.
These two fine ladies won some sweet gear from us and a couple other supporting companies at the raffle! Photo courtesy of: @NWAC on Instagram
The Mt Baker Splitfest is indeed happening this weekend! If you are planning on going and would like to demo a pair of Karakoram bindings, we will be bringing our entire demo fleet with us. Last year we sent out every pair of bindings we had so it may be a good idea to sign up to demo a pair in advance! If you would like to sign up for a pair ahead of time, please send an email with your name and boot size to firstname.lastname@example.org by this Thursday! See you there!
We’re giving away two sets of Prime bindings, various soft goods and board clips at the raffle Saturday night to benefit the Northwest Avalanche Center.
We’ll be bringing our entire demo fleet with us. Last year we sent out every pair of bindings we had so it may be a good idea to sign up to demo a pair in advance!