Getting to ski a line like Forever Young super early season is not something you get to do every year. Thin snowpacks, sketchy early season snow, and generally stormy weather are not exactly a recipe for an ultra committing line. Well, apparently the ski gods were smiling on us.
Every year I book the Asulkan Hut for a weekend to celebrate Paul OBK’s and Christine’s birthdays which conveniently fall just a day apart. Most years the weather up at the Asulkan Hut is classic Rogers Pass - puking snow, zero visability, and winds howling so viciously that you find yourself legitimately concerned the hut is going to blow off the side of the mountain.
Our usual MO in these cases is to play it safe and stick to the safer treed lines below the hut rather than trying to ski the whiteout above the hut. Always a great time, but generally pretty limited in terms of what we can get away with skiing. This year things were very different than usual.
Saturday morning we drove out to Rogers Pass and toured into the Asulkan Hut and then went for a bit of a tour. Conditions were suspiciously good - almost like we were being lured into a trap. We started speculating that maybe, just maybe conditions would be good enough on Sunday to get above the hut.
The next morning we woke up to extremely weird conditions to find in Rogers Pass during mid-December. Snow stability was pretty good, the sky was mostly clear and visibility was solid. Prime conditions for getting above the hut. We decided to give getting up Young's Peak a shot. Christine had been close a few times, but due to the usual puke-fests had never actually topped out.
With not a ton of powder to contend with, we made quick progress towards the headwall. Once there, we reassessed things and decided we were comfortable proceeding to the top and in short order we were on top.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, things had socked in on the ascent so we found ourselves facing skiing the headwall in totally flat light. We decided that Forever Young, with its vertical sidewalls would guide us down without the terrifying uncertainty of having no idea of what was up or down and instead trade it for the terror of a sustained ~45° couloir. Personally I was stoked, I'll take any opportunity to ski a fun couloir. Christine on the other hand is just getting into the couloir thing and was a little apprehensive.
Standing at the top of Forever Young I could see Christine trying to decide if she was confident that she could get down it in one piece. I told her absolutely did not have to ski it and offered to ski back down the headwall with her, but after some deliberation she decided to give it a shot.
We let the more confident people in the group drop in first and then Christine edged in. I let her ski down a ways and then dropped in behind her. The conditions were tough - lots of chop in the upper couloir. Christine cautiously worked her way down and I did my best to limit just how much sluff I rained down on her by timing when I skied to when she was out of the line of fire. I was not entirely successful.
Lower down in the Forever Young couloir, and particularly as we transitioned into the fan below it, the snow actually began to get great, so having survived the upper portion, we could legitimately enjoy skiing the rest of the line.
From the bottom of the couloir, it's a quick and easy traverse back to the tree triangle and from there we made short work touring back up to the Asulkan Hut to grab our gear for the ski out.
To safely ski a line like Forever Young, you need a pretty amazing set of conditions - and the spring is when you normally get them. To get to ski Forever Young in mid-December was just incredibly fortunate, one of those gifts the mountains give you every once in a while and a pretty perfect birthday gift for Paul and Christine.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.