Ending the year with Four Brothers

Certain things in life inspire us.  For me, I am inspired by the mountains, specifically, skiing them.  The peak of my inspiration is couloirs.  My eyes are instantly drawn to these beautiful, snaking features that create a passageway in some of the most raw and wild mountainsides.  It's as if the word aesthetic was made for them. 

Forest McBrian looking out at the Four Brothers during the sunrise.

Forest McBrian looking out at the Four Brothers during the sunrise.

Last winter, my then fiancé, now husband Forest and I came upon a couloir on an adventure we had skiing Lemah 1.  We were camped at Glacier Lake, and a beautiful line stood above us as we went to sleep that night.  Due to work and conditions, it remained un-skied last year, but it was at the top of my list for this season. 

Forest and I saw a small weather window opening in the forecast on the 30th and the 31st, and it coincided with time off of work for both of us.  We threw out some ideas, the usual suspects like Shuksan and Baker, but  we both quickly agreed to go to the place we'd been thinking of all along.

Both of us having slogged up Gold Creek one too many times, we decided to make the beginning of the tour a bit more interesting by entering via a Kendall couloir and skiing down into Silver Creek.  Kendall offered up the goods, and it was surprisingly good skiing down into the trees in Silver Creek.  We ended up being able to put in a long, downhill traverse all the way past the drainage to Alaska Lake.  From there we stayed on the NW side of the creek, closely following the summer trail, and the travel was relatively easy.  Once we passed the drainage of Joe Lake, we began arcing around to the east, and found our camp at 4500’ below the Four Brothers.  We dug out our snow cave, and were asleep by 7pm.

Forest McBrian skiing a Kendall couloir down into Silver Creek

Forest McBrian skiing a Kendall couloir down into Silver Creek

The next morning we were skinning by 5:45am, in complete darkness.  Even though the moon was close to full, there was a thick cloud layer, making the darkness thick.  We moved our way up towards the Brothers, slowly at times, stopping and assessing the snowpack.  There was a lot more faceting in the snow then we had expected to see, and it was enough to make us pause throughout our ascent.  After enough good observations, digging in the snow, and no red flags, we felt good about our terrain selection and continued on.  Nearing the top of the ridge, it was beginning to get light, but it was not the impressive sunrise we were hoping for.  Being on the west side of the ridge, we thought we had missed all the colors.  But to our delight, as soon as we crested the ridge, the sky went on fire.  It was one of the more spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. 

The Three Queens in all their glory.

The Three Queens in all their glory.

The entrance to the couloir was pleasantly easy to find, and it was extremely inviting.  After some discussion about the conditions, and agreeing that we both liked what we saw, we dropped in.  This couloir was made for skiing.  1500’ of everything you could hope for in a couloir: steep sidewalls, a clean line, steep turns, and not a soul for miles.  It helped too that the snow conditions were about as good as they get. 

Forest McBrian laying in the first tracks ever in the NW Couloir of the Four Brothers.

Forest McBrian laying in the first tracks ever in the NW Couloir of the Four Brothers.

Once we reached Glacier Lake, we quickly transitioned and made our way back to camp.  Our way out of Gold Creek was fast, as our up-track made for an easy glide out, and vise versa: our downward traverse was a perfectly broken trail for our way back up into Silver Creek.  As we rose out of the trees into Silver Creek basin we were surprised to find it quite busy. The “Kendall Adventure Zone,” a once secret stash of couloirs, was crawling with at least 10 skiers and split boarders, and the slopes were pretty tracked-out.  We passed through the crowd quietly and swiftly, having our new couloir fueling our spirits.  It was an incredible way to end the year.

While the classic lines in the Cascades are classic for a reason, I am happy to live in a place where there are still incredible lines and routes to be discovered if you are willing to put forth the effort. As backcountry skiing continues to become a more popular sport, there are still places where seeing someone else would be as rare as skiing a first descent in perfect conditions! 

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Enjoy this video I made of our trip!