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The Northwest Couloir on Mount Shuksan

Steep, demanding yet of so fun.....

Ski Touring Severe

17 km
2.9 km
2.9 km
1 day +
Low Point
882 m
High Point
2.5 km
The Northwest Couloir on Mount Shuksan Map

The Northwest Couloir is an almost legendary line within the North Cascades and once you see it you can see why. Being based off the northern rock mass of Mount Shuksan this line descents a consistent 4,000 feet down to the basin below being steep most of the way. This is a very serious line where both avalanches in snow and uncontrolled slides in ice could have fatal consequences. One of if not the main reason this line isn’t a mogul field is because of the exposed traverse up top. Just getting into the line is a mental ordeal as you need to make your way across an exposed shelf before arriving on top of the steep face. While this line is semi popular it must be treated with upmost respect.


Leaving from the White Salmon Parking lot at Mount Baker follow the lowest ski trail East towards the base of Chair 8. Just below it you will find a small side road that brings you to the edge of the slopes which run down to the White Salmon River. Descend down the steep trees making sure to stay away from the creek and before long you are in the valley and ready for a long slog up the Northwest side of Mount Shuksan. Heading up the basin you will pass by a huge debris field which you should do as fast as possible and once near the top of the next bench start traversing lookers right onto a tree covered face which semi safely allows you to climb up onto a small ridge just below the White Salmon Glacier.

Heading up the White Salmon the first few switchbacks are the biggest challenge as it starts steep then mellows out the higher you get. Sticking to the lookers right on the glacier you will find mellow slopes until a small but steep 200 foot climb up to the col. From here wrap onto the Upper Curtis glacier and keep heading East up the ramp. Soon enough the terrain to your left will drop off and this is where you just transferred over to the Hanging Glacier making your way northeast to the high point.

Riding down you need to start heading west sticking to the skiers right on the Hanging Glacier. Around 7,500 feet you will notice an obvious small chute heading off to the north and this is the entrance to the Northwest Chute, ski this section with caution as you are on top of a cliff. Edging your way down to around 7,400 feet you will notice a small and steep ledge on the skiers left which you need to cross, being a regular footed snowboarder it was a sketchy heel side traverse. If all went smooth you are now standing finally on top of the Northwest Couloir.

Riding down make sure to not keep making fall line turns as you could cause a sluff above you so it is better to slowly make your way skiers right with every turn. Once around 5,800 feet it is an open apron all the way into the valley. Before long you will connect back to your climbing trail which you need to descend all the way down to where you ended your first descent. With one final climb up the steep and dense trees you will be back at the ski resort and riding the flat trail with the help of poles all the way back to the parking lot.

To see my trip in the area and more photos check out this link https://www.whereiskylemiller.com/mt-baker-542/mount-shuksan-nw-couloir/



Steep skiing at 38-45 degrees. This requires very good technique and the risk of falling has serious consequences.

High Exposure (E3)

3 out of 4

In case of a fall, death is highly likely.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between February and May


  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Cliffs
  • Couloir
  • Single Descent
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area