Rook Mountain (South Couloir)

Looking at the S Face of Rook Mountain from Crow Pass. The South Couloir is the obvious line left of what appears to be the summit (the true summit lies right above the couloir). The dog is the infamous “Nook” who gloms onto every other skier. His tag reads “Nook. Your Crow Pass Guide. Please return when you’re done.” Photo by Eric Parsons.

A spectacular peak from all directions, Rook Mountain lies North and 2000′ above Raven Glacier. There is no easy route to the summit which makes it a worthy objective that you must plan for in terms of weather, conditions and route. It’s a mountain I’ve been staring at for 10+ years waiting for the right combination of good snow conditions and solid partners and I’ve spent many a day walking or skiing past, looking up and waiting.

The South Couloir in particular has been on my mind ever since Ross Noffsinger invited me to climb the route in 2009. Unfortunately I had plans that day (Yvonne, Eric and I climbed Flute the same day that Hart/Lindholm/Noffsinger climbed Rook) but I saved the email and subsequent photos shared from the route in the hopes of one day getting a chance at the route. Finally, conditions and weather lined up for an early spring attempt with Eric Parsons and we set out for Crow Pass on perfect day in late March 2017.

Concrete, ice & sastrugi above a 500′ slide for life slope. Nearing Crow Pass.

Getting up and over Crow Pass in the dead of winter is not a particularly easy task. The trail, which is an old road bed built into a hillside, gets packed in with snow and you have to side-hill for several miles on a wind and ice packed 40 degree slope above a 500′ drop into the creek before finally gaining a bench. Once you gain the bench the travel gets easier but the avalanche exposure gets worse and you go from worrying about a slip to worrying about being buried.

Dropping down to the Raven glacier (photo by Eric Parsons). Eric heading across the Raven glacier. Nook leads the way. S Face of Rook Mountain. The true summit is actually the far right bump just above the South Couloir.

Eventually we reached Crow Pass and then quickly skied across the pass and dropped down to Raven Glacier where we donned the climbing harnesses and pulled out the rope and crevasse gear. Across Raven Glacier – which had good coverage and minimal crevasse danger – and then up onto the pocket glacier that lies at the base of the South Face of Raven. (Note that older maps show the glacier having continuous coverage from the Raven proper all the way up into the basin at the base of the South face – however in recent years the glacier has melted out to the point where it is no longer connected.)

Across the bergschrund, rope packed away and booting. Halfway up the couloir (photo by Eric Parsons).

Once up onto the pocket glacier we continued to the base of the couloir. We stayed roped up for the bergschrund crossing, but once across we untied, packed away the rope, threw the skis on the back and started booting up.

Nearing the top of the couloir. Photo by Eric Parsons.

I should mention that this was the first climbing trip I had done with Eric in over a year. In April 2016 Eric had done the Winter Classic and tweaked his Achilles. His recovery had been a long painful process, but given how he embraced the boot pack and took off you wouldn’t have known it. I watched him take off and then comfortably ascended 1500′ of solid shin-deep bootpacked snow to the summit ridge.

The South couloir is a straight shot from the pocket glacier to the summit ridge. At times the couloir steepens to around 50 degrees and is all of 20′ wide. The top has a short pitch of wild exposure as you traverse from the couloir proper to a snow rib that takes you to the final rocky summit pyramid. I cached my skis just before the final snow pitch and once on the ridge booted the final 100′ of easy and exposed rock to the summit.

Final snow ridge to the summit. Photo by Eric Parsons.

We topped out on a perfect winter day. Temps in the 20s, zero wind and not a cloud in any direction. We sat around and looked in all directions recalling past days spent in the mountains with friends and family.

Snapped this photo of Eric at the exact second that Nook stole a bite of his sandwich. Looking across the Eagle Glacier at the icefall leading to Whiteout Glacier. If you look closely you can see ski tracks in the morain skiers left of the glacier. Looking down at Raven Glacier and Crow Pass.

Eric & Nook heading down. I’m particularly fond of this photo because a few weeks after this trip Eric and I would head into the Eagle Glacier area and climb a number of peaks that can be seen in this photo.

And then down. A careful downclimb of the ridge and exposed snow rib to a safe stance in the couloir. Then skis and snowboard strapped on and down we went. I’d like to say the run was perfect powder but it more like refrozen crust. But aside from a couple steep pitches of mank that I sideslipped it skied well enough and soon we were on the glacier and zipping back to Crow Pass where we skied breakable sastrugi, ice, concrete and slide for life traverses all the way back to the car.

Go time. Eric psyching himself up for the steep descent back to Raven Glacier.

Me demonstrating my questionable survival ski technique: contemplation, sideslipping, strange balance moves and eventually… turns. Photos by Eric Parsons.

Exit stage left. Photo by Eric Parsons.

In short… a beautiful mountain with routes for everyone from choss loving ridge climbers to skiers looking for steep couloirs to mountaineers looking for a challenging spring glacier route. A good spring objective – Go for it!

Edit – June 4th, 2017: A few weeks after posting this Joe sent me an email asking for beta. Of course he wanted to ski the north glacier… and he went up there, booted up a gully on the south face and then skied the North glacier, skinned back to the top and skied the Northwest face. He said getting around the crevasse on the North glacier was fine. His photos looked awesome. Contact him if you have questions.

Eric & Nook heading home.