|Big Four Mountain:
IV AI IV
Couloir lies on the North Face of Big Four Mountain, an imposing 4,000
foot wall rises less than a mile from the Big Four pinic area on the Mountain
Loop Highway. The low elevation summit stands only 6,000 feet high,
and much of the face is brushy in the Summer, but during the Winter it
can be a snow and ice climbing dream in the right conditions: typically
after warm weather brings rain to the summit and then a cold snap follows.
|The face was
first climbed in the '40's, and in the '70's climbers began exploring it
as a Winter destination. Spindrift Couloir was climbed in March,
1996, by Bart Paull and Doug Littauer, who published their climb in the
American Alpine Journal the following year, but it has subsequently been
reported that others probably climbed the route in the late '80's.
to the climb follows a nature trail and is nearly accessible by wheelchair.
Signs warn of a serious avalanche hazard in the Winter, and tourists have
been killed when the ice caves at the bottom of the face collapse on hot
days in the Summer.
|From the end
of the trail, where it enters the open basin below the Face, bear right
to find a break in the cliffs somewhat right of the steepest part of the
lower headwall. In times of very low snow, the easiest start may
involve crawling through the bushes on the far right, but when the climb
is in shape a viable route should be found more or less directly leading
to the climb.
The couloir is largely relatively low angle, but several steeper sections follow in cascading steps. The crux comes about about 3/4 height, with a 100 foot pitch of near-vertical ice leading to steep snow, often runnelled, up to the exit pitches.
tops out on the summit ridge, well west of the Summit. The descent
is made to the Northwest, via rappels and steep downclimbing to reach the
col between Big Four and Hall Peak. One major subsidiary SW ridge
must be rounded in order to make the descent to the col, and a 2003 party
mistakenly descended to the creek south of the peak in poor visibility.
In proper conditions, the North Face of Big Four Mountain offers some of the most easily approached "alpine" climbing in the Cascades. Several variations are possible on this face, and the Spindrift Couloir is by no means the only worthy line.