There is an aerial photographer in Washington who has become perhaps the single biggest source of visual inspiration for climbers and skier operating in the Cascade range. His name is John Scurlock, and his work is breathtaking. For years, a single shot of his has haunted me. At first I asked myself if it was possible to ski the line depicted in the image. Then I put in the time to head all the way to Columbia Peak only to be turned back on the final pitch by a snowpack made fragile by recent wind. That was three years ago, and the line has been right at the top of my list ever since.
Last week conditions were ripe. Steady clear weather had settled the snow up in the high mountains, while a temperature inversion kept the snow in the lowlands intact allowing the long 12 mile approach to be dealt with via snowmobile. Brian Fletcher and I left Seattle on Friday night at 3am and ten hours later we were basking in the sun on the narrow summit ridge-line with the hauntingly aesthetic and terminally exposed southwest face at our feet. Our friends Erik Svege and Eric Wehrly were close behind and joined us for the descent. I’ll let the video and photos tell the rest of the story.