Trip Report    

McClellan Butte/North Couloir

Fun winter route close to Seattle with a short approach. Only attempt in stable snow conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Trail was snow free until ~2500 ft.  Easily navigated moat entering the North Couloir at  ~3500ft.  Couloir was hard snow with several steps of exposed rock/running water that could be navigated to climbers right.  NE summit ridge gained at lowest notch on climbers left - steep snow over rock that was difficult to protect.  Small ice flow was used as an anchor for short pitch to gain the ridge (1 stubbie, 1 13 cm screw), picket used below moat to protect short traverse, bugaboo knife blade piton to protect crux move onto the NE ridge.  Small cornices on summit ridge - stick climbers left of the ridge proper.

Parked just past McClellan Butte trail on FS Rd 9020 (saves ~700 ft gain from lower lot) - small pull off can accommodate ~5 cars.  We hiked the summer trail to the top of the switchbacks at ~3500ft and then dropped into the North couloir which was filled with avalanche debris from earlier slides.  The snow was firm which made for secure steps and easy climbing - we chose to ascend the couloir without a rope although there were ample optys to protect with pickets, ice screws, slinging small trees, etc if desired. 

The route steepened as we approached the summit block and we had read that there was a passable 5.6 pitch to gain the summit and that there are possibly ways to navigate around to the left of the summit block.  We chose to gain the ridge by ascending a short section of steep snow (~30ft) at an obvious notch on the left side of the summit ridge.  We found a small ice flow at the base of the final pitch below several bushes which we used to build an ice anchor for the pitch up to the ridge.  We traversed right below a moat to just below the notch (placed a picket here) and then ascended on steep snow over rock to just below the ridge where there was exposed rock that took a bugaboo knife blade well.  Once on the ridge, there were several exposed rocks with opportunities to protect with pitons as well as an occasional small tree to sling.  We stayed roped up to the summit and then down the south ridge (class ~3 scramble) and protected it with a couple of lost arrows.

We then followed the summer trail traversing steep snow through many avalanche paths back to the cars at 2200ft.

Gear notes:

  1. 2nd tool
  2. small rock rack including 2 lost arrows and 2 bugaboos (only used pitons)
  3. 2 short screws
  4. 2 pickets
  5. 50m single rope
  6. Snowshoes (did not use)