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Birthday Ski with Mountain Madness

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