Andrew Eckels just whipped out this sweet edit and trip report of an awesome chute they did this past December 30th, called the Blackhole Couloir. Bandit Peak is located just outside of Leavenworth, WA in the Wenatchee Lake area. Below is Andrew’s edit along with his write up for their epic day.
While making plans to ski on Saturday I hit up Scott Mcallister (A split boarder who has ridden several first descents in the cascades) on facebook and asked if he wanted to ski with Cory and me. He was already planning on riding the Blackhole Couloir off of Bandit peak, a line that I’ve been dreaming of skiing ever since I saw the picture of it on John Skurlocks website, and extended the invitation for us to join. I knew the approach was pretty long, about 7 miles and 1500 vertical feet up the Napequa river valley to get to the bottom of the line, but it was supposed to be a clear night with a near full moon, perfect weather for an alpine start. Scott’s buddy Ben Starkey and our mutual friend Garret Roth made up the rest of the crew and we were all leaving Scott’s place in Gold Bar around 10 PM. On our way over Steven’s Pass Ben’s van started overheating and spewing smoke so we stopped to investigate. I know hardly anything about how cars worked so I watched as they all agreed that pouring all of our water into a tank was the solution and hoped they were right. We refilled at a gas station east of the pass and we’re at the trailhead north of Lake Wenatchee shortly after midnight.
photo credit John H. Scurlock, Copyright 2002-2012
We had agreed that starting at 3 was reasonable, but looking at the cold snowy ground we decided it would be better to just get going and pull an all nighter. It turned out we were wise to start early. Scott had been up the valley 3 times before and was an indispensable guide, but we had to break trail through a foot of light snow and navigate several sections that were tricky to skin and ended up getting to the bottom of the couloir just as day broke. I was feeling pretty tired at the bottom of the line having only stopped once in the night for food, but a good break with food, water, and coffee gave me a strong second wind. We set off bootpacking up the 4000 ft line through denser powder that one could kick steps in without wallowing, taking turns breaking trail. After about 3 hours we were in the choke of the chute and Ben who had already been taking long turns at breaking trail got ahead and took over for the rest of the way up. Most of the upper half of the chute was a steady 40-45 degree pitch but the last 40 ft were about 50 degrees and finished with a 4 ft wide choke between rocks. This pitch was the only part of the climb where I felt exposed and was relieved to pull through the choke onto the col but a bit concerned about how I was going to get back down between the rocks.
photo credit John H. Scurlock, Photographer/Pilot, Copyright 2002-2012,
The top was cold and windy so we quickly ate and changed over to downhill mode. The three boarders went first and side slipped their way through the choke. Cory went next and took about a minute to carefully finagle his skis through the rocks and meet the boarders on the small bench just right of the choke. I felt safer making a few turns on a steep but wide exposed ramp skiers left of their line and then traversed to the bench they were on. Ben dropped in first making careful hop turns on his snowboard down the 50 degree section and then rode the chute to the first safe zone. I went third after Garret and was super stoked on skiing such an aesthetic line in powder, but could only make so many turns before my legs started screaming. From the safe zone I offered to go first and film from where the chute opens up and enjoyed stupendous powder turns between the tall rock walls. The stoke overrode the pain in my legs and I skied right out of the chute with speed making huge GS turns down the open bowl that the couloir emptied into before constricting again. I watched and filmed with glee as the rest of the crew ripped up the epic line.
From the bowl we got to enjoy another 2000 vertical feet of 30 degree powder skiing in shots as long as our legs could take. By the time we were at the bottom there were only a couple of hours of daylight left so we transitioned back to skins (the approach went up and down a lot along the creek) and took off to get as much of the deproach done as we could before nightfall. I think we were all pretty beat by this point but only at the car could we truly rest so we kept up a good clip until nightfall. As the last light faded and the stars came out we enjoyed coffee by the creek and I fantasized about food at the diner on highway 2. We were only halfway done with the deproach but the darkness skewed my sense of time and sleep deprivation made me see faces in every snow-covered tree and the last two hours passed by easily. We got to the car at 7:30 delirious, stoked, and exhausted. The trip totaled 18.5 hours on our feet to go 15 miles and 6000 vertical feet. I slept all of the next day.