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Northeast Buttress Couloir
Route

Northeast Buttress Couloir

 
Northeast Buttress Couloir

Page Type: Route

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 32.84000°N / 113.91°W

Object Title: Northeast Buttress Couloir

Route Type: Mountaineering

Season: Spring, Winter

Time Required: One to two days

Rock Difficulty: 5.4 (YDS)

Difficulty: AI 2 - 3

Grade: III

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes
 

 

Page By: Z-Man

Created/Edited: Jan 11, 2007 / Jan 28, 2009

Object ID: 259147

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Page Score: 74.92%  - 5 Votes 

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Overview

A straightforward couloir climb that is generally steeper and more direct and sustained than the neighboring North Buttress Couloir. Fred Beckey refers to this as the Northeast Couloir in the Cascade Alpine Guide Volume 1, but I am referring to it as the NEBC to keep with the theme of the other major couloir on Colchuck and to differentiate it from the routes also called NE couloir on next-door Dragontail and Argonaut Peaks.

Getting There

Hike the Stuart Lake trail from the end of Eightmile Road to its junction with the Colchuck Lake trail and follow this to Colchuck Lake. If the lake is frozen, cross it directly to possible campsites either on or near the lake under the north side of Colchuck. Water can be obtained by chopping through the ice of the lake, as it is deep and never freezes more than a few feet thick.

During the time of year when the climb is in best condition Eightmile road leading to the Stuart Lake trailhead from Icicle Creek Road may be either snowed-in, gated, or both. This will add four miles and about 1000 feet of vertical each way.

This climb can be done car to car in a long day, but is usually only possible if Eightmile road is open to the trailhead and you can travel all the way to Colchuck Lake without any flotation issues.

Route Description

From the lake ascend to the lowest point in the prominent Colchuck Glacier moraine and continue up the glacial scoured basin to the glacier itself.

The North Buttress Couloir rises directly out of the edge of the Colchuck Glacier moraine and the NEBC is the next obvious couloir north rising out of the middle of the glacier.

Ascend straight up the ~50-degree couloir until you are some 2/3 of the way up where the couloir forks, then head up the left side if you wish to continue on mostly ice and snow to the summit plateau.

Heading right yields a greater chance of finding steep, difficult rock en route to the summit, but multiple parties have found reasonable ground and finished via the right-hand fork. A February, 2008 party reported 50 degree snow with a short rock step on the way to a snow-covered notch just north of the summit heading this way. From the notch the route meets the last few meters of the top of the North Buttress Couloir route.

Heading left from the fork the angle increases to ~60 degrees, with a prominent constriction probably forcing a short step of vertical climbing, and steep, fluted snow may be encountered until you arrive at the top of the chute. Here a large cornice may require tunneling, in April 2006 the cornice was some 20 feet high, or steep, fluted snow will lead to the summit plateau. The summit block lies about a 1/2 mile to the southwest from the couloir top-out.

Descend by the standard Colchuck Glacier route to the lake.

Conditions on this route vary dramatically from a steep snow slog to a thin-ice and mixed climb, and from an easy top out to an hour-long battle with a cornice. Conditions have even been known to be right for a ski descent. This climb usually retains continuous snow until late May or early June.

Essential Gear

Ice axe, crampons. The varying conditions will require different equipment. To be prepared for all conditions a shovel, ice screws, pickets, a rope, a rock rack to 1-inch with an emphasis on pins and small cams, and two ice tools would be required.

External Links

Trip report of party exiting via right-hand finish,
here.

I believe this is the first and only complete ski descent of the NEBC, here.

Images

1/2 way up the NEBCColchuck GlacierCouloir ForkCouloir topColchuck Peak and LakeCouloirCornice Belay
Colchuck Glacier GlissadeNEBCCorniceColchuck Lake TrailSummit Plateau