Birthday Tour For A Birthday Gift
Ben Toronto had been given one day of ski guiding from his wife for his birthday. What a memorable way to spend a birthday, and how appropriate that this trip be called the Birthday Tour! In the middle of an epic corn cycle with another sunny day forecasted he decided to cash in on his gift.
We drove up the North Cascades highway arriving at Blue Lake trailhead at around 9am. We made fast progress passing several parties traveling below the mighty west faces of the Liberty Bell group skinning up a feature called Liberty Bowl. Just a short distance above the top of Spire Gully we looked at the seasonal gigantic cornice hanging along Blue Lake Col. The cornice, which takes up the vast majority of the ridge line that makes up Blue Lake Col, was as big as ever and looked like a central Seattle duplex overhanging at least 15 – 20 feet precariously perched on the ridge. The left side proved much easier and safer passage so after a few steep switch backs of skinning above Spire Gully, we put our skis on our packs and booted up the final climb to the Col enjoying a fantastic 360 degree view of the Cascades.
Ben botting up Blue Lake Col with South Early Winter Spire and the Liberty Group
in the background. Ian Nicholson photo
From the top of Blue Lake Peak Col we skied the Birthday tours signature run, a nearly 2000 descent down Madison Ave. Besides Madison Ave’s consistent pitch and wide open turns it features incredible views of most of the major peaks of the North Cascades the entire time. After skiing down, we put skis back on and worked our way back up to Poster Peak Col.
Ben dropping knees down the amazing first descent named “Madison Ave.” Ian Nicholson photo
At this point a few welcome clouds rolled in to help give us some relief from the heat. Poster Peak bears its name because it was used in an advertisement. It looks big and burly in the winter with steep snow fluting and spines abound. Most folks thought it was in Alaska or some other far away range, but in reality its only a few hours away from the hairpin turn on Highway 20.
Ben skiing up towards Poster Peak Col. Ian Nicholson photo
After skiing up to Poster Peak Col, we stopped and ate lunch now enjoying a completely different set of views. The entrance to Poster Peak Bowl is a little steep but was in excellent conditions, being soft and forgiving. Ben dropped in first enjoying dynamic turns with Big Kangaroo looming above us. The skiing was so good in upper Poster Peak Bowl we took two laps skiing excellent corn paralleling the modern classic ridge climb Blue’s Buttress.
Ben dropping into Poster Peak Bowl with a steep and fun entrance. Ian Nicholson photo
After our second lap, we savored the turns leading back down to the hairpin turn. When we arrived back at the highway, someone informed us a landslide had occurred only minutes before our arrival. It blocked one whole lane with rock and ice. I quickly hitchhiked the 2 miles back to our car and picked Ben up, not wanting to get trapped on the eastside of the slide while they cleaned it up.
Thanks, Ben, for sharing some great skiing with me for your birthday!
~ MM Guide Ian Nicholson