With last weeks storm dropping almost 4 feet in areas across the state we were left this week with some nice soft turns across the board. We are now starting to create a good base as long as some more snow starts coming in soon. Which is supposed to happen tonight through Monday! With all this new snow and strong winds the avalanche danger is still pretty high and lurking mostly on Northerly aspects. There were reports of a few slides this week with a couple of the incidents being friends of mine. Be careful out there folks. Now is not the time to risk it just for the shot. Always be on your toes, listen to the mountain. I constantly have to remind myself of that as well. The ole human factor. Something that can and will always be a major factor in decision making. Anyways, this week we stuck to low angle slopes and stayed off anything of Northern aspect. Some great turns were to definitely had!
They are forecasting for over a foot of new snow to fall by Monday. With it comes a lot more wind, cold temps, and a rise in avalanche danger. Back to Gnartica we go! Time to head below treeline and enjoy some more of that powda!!
It's hard to express how great it feels to be back into the winter season. Actions speak louder than words as my fellow ski partners and I have been trying to get out and enjoy it as much as we can and what a great week it has been. We had 3 waves of snow make their way across the state dropping over two feet in some places. A lot of wind came with it and the past couple of days the visibility has kept our tours short. Before this week we literally had no base besides some Northerly aspects so we have still been having to keep most of the skiing above treeline. By next week that will hopefully change as we are now starting to get a nice base in lower elevations.
The forecast for yesterday showed a break in the system for the first half of the day and so Gary Fondl and I decided to head to a local zone in the Gore in search of some fresh snow. Its always nice when you can drive 5 minutes from your house to the TH. Skinning from the truck we found ourselves grinning as we make our way through all the fresh new snow. Winter sure came fast.
We were just ahead of the third wave of snow and found ourselves in a perfect donut hole. The winds though kept ripping throughout the day with gusts up to 40mph.
A little over 4 hours from the TH we find ourselves on our summit and atop of our line. We didn't hang out up there long due to the howling winds and the next front nipping at our heels. A quick summit register sign-in and transition and we enjoyed over 1500ft of excellent turns.
As we made our way back down valley the everything got socked in and the flakes started falling. Great timing. We were able to ski/skin all the way back to the truck. It felt pretty damn good to put a decent day in again. 3000ft a day keeps the doctor away!
With a strong aroma of wood-burning stoves and an Artic chill in the air, it seems as if winter is finally here! After a relatively dry start to the season we are now starting to see a series of low pressure storms and precipitation make their way through and across the state. Along with it came a cold Artic air. With clear skies in the forecast today we chose a zone, grabbed out gear and headed out for some fresh fun. Cheers and thanks Greg for some awesome pics today!
Mostly clear throughout the day but winds howled with gusts of +60mph. The architect at work.
Then we made it to our zone. Especially with all the wind-loading we made sure to assess the new snow and stay somewhat cautious. We dug a small pit and did a few hand sheers in the lower slope and didn't find anything too reactive. We then did a first lap in the gully on the left of the below picture. Feeling good in the gully I decided to ski the main face in the pic. A bit steeper but we both talked it over and decided on me giving her a go. Second turn in and I initiated a small slide R1D1 on this NE face. Shortly after, Greg dropped the gully again and we assessed from there. We both decided to hike up and take a closer look at the slide. The slide was a soft 30cm windslab of new snow that slid on a pencil hard 5cm thick old Fall crust. The slope angle was about 36-38 degrees. While we somewhat expected that this might happen, we both felt the risks weren't that high if it did. It was a good indicator of how the wind has helped the new snow bond poorly to the old North facing Fall crusts.
After that we decided to keep it low angle the rest of the day. We ended up heading up higher to the summit bench and skied a couple more low angle lines before finishing off with one last ski down the first gully. A super windy day but it feels good to be in the doorway of winter!!
Next bout of snow is due to make its was through here tomorrow!!
After a day of running errands and being lazy it was time to get back out. I got a message from Scott Bellow a few days ago looking to get out and so we decided on a zone to ski and headed out. A beautiful day out for a couple of laps in the high country! We found some good turns but you could definitely see how the architect of the snow has been doing some work around the area. We didn't see any recent activity around the area but there is a crust formed and forming with the ever-so present faceting going on below. Oh Colorado. Thanks for the pics Scott!
This marks the beginning of my 14th month of consecutive skiing. After missing on two opportunities to make it 13 months of couloir skiing last month, I knew I had to get one in for November and she delivered very nicely!
A little cold front came through yesterday producing a few inches of snow with the white stuff falling down all the way to 7500ft. Time to search for some pow turns! Gary was looking to get out today for some birthday turns and so along with Eric, Fritz, and Allison we decided to head up to a perfect zone for some early season pow turns! And boy did it not disappoint!!
We ended up the day with 3 laps and almost 3k vert. And smiles on our faces from ear to ear! Finally, some good snow!!
The first lap we skied from the saddle and then headed over to Pt 12,700 for the rest of the day which held about a 1k ft line of fresh.
It felt great to finally lay in some deep turns today. First face shots of the season and a Happy Birthday to Old Man Fondl!! :)
So we weren't able to put in as big of a day in Montezuma basin yesterday as we had planned. Time to get out again. After getting into contact with Greg Dumas we set plans on a mission for the day. I am still driving the I70 corridor to Idaho Springs and back 4-5x a week and catch a glimpse of this guy on Kelso daily. Nothing crazy but it looked like we could get some turns in. We were actually able to get in about 1000ft of turns as we dropped in off the ridge and linked our way down. It was only about a 10ft wide chute most of the way but we'll take it!
So the 2014/2015 season is officially here and along with it comes the never ending itch. I've been able to get out locally a good amount to take advantage of the early season snow but now it was time to drive elsewhere. Last weeks storm brought a good amount of snow and after talking with Joel Paula about a recent waist-deep venture he had last Monday, I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to head. And so the plans set in motion for Joel, Mark Koob, and myself to head up into Montezuma basin just outside of Aspen/Ashcroft. A well known early/late skiing destination I was stoked to get out for my first Elks mission.
High hopes were stirred as we were planning on a big day. We were hoping to be able to get in a double-whammy and ski both Conundrum Couloir as well as the North face of Castle Peak. We kept our fingers crossed that the week of high pressure and melt/freeze on the snow would possibly grant us with some fall corn but not quite how it worked out.
Mark and I left Summit at about 7pm on Sunday night and drove up to where Joel met us on Castle Creek Rd up towards Montezuma mine nearing about 11k feet. From there we enjoyed about 4 hours of sleep and woke up to our watch and phone alarms a little before 3am. On went the headlamps which we would not turn off again until we were above 14k ft. A clear and warm night we quickly gather our gear and off and up we went. We walked up the road until we reached the lower headwall of the basin at 12.8k ft and from there switched to skin mode. Up the lower headwall and eventually we made it to the base of our couloir where we transitioned into crampons, donned our axes, and commenced booting. I have to admit that it was a blast booting up a 47 degree couloir by headlamp!
Conditions seemed to be ok during our ascent of the bottom portion and apron but quickly changed as we neared the bottom choke where we encountered bulletproof snow. Front-pointing and picking our way up we continued encountering a mix of conditions with a lot of hard pack. At this point we figured we were going to definitely have to wait on the saddle/summit for the sun to hopefully do some warming and so up we went hoping for a gorgeous sunrise at 14k ft. Little behold as we near our top-out the clouds roll through and sock us in.
So much for a summit sunrise! Within 5 minutes of us topping out we were completely engulfed with clouds. Hoping that the sun would eventually burn off the clouds and warm up our descent we hunkered down behind some rocks to help stay out of the cold wind. Here we waited over 2.5 hours in hopes of a warm up. While the sun did eventually burn off clouds, it did so everywhere else but around us. Eventually we had to make a call, and the call was to bail and find an alternate route down.
So eventually we took a stroll up the ridge to scope out a way down from the saddle of Castle/Conundrum.
After scoping a line down from the saddle we went back, grabbed our gear, and headed down ridge until we found ourselves on top of our line. The snow ended up being much better than what we had ascended in the couloir and included a short downclimb through the cliff band.
From the saddle we enjoyed about 1000ft of skiing back onto the road. The clouds still seemed to never dissipate around the upper basin but once we reached the bottom of the lower headwall the sun was in full blare. Imagine that.
So we didn't get to ski either of the lines we wanted but; we had an awesome headlamp couloir booter to 14k ft, it was my first ski in the Elks, and we all made it home safely. Chalk that one up as a successful mission! Oh yea, its only October 20th!!
3,350ft gained, about 9miles RT, and 6 hours car to car. Mt Baldy East chutes. (Bald Mountain) I was originally going to venture around Kelso Mt with Brennan Metzler but plans fell through and last minute I got ahold of Frank Bowman and locked in some plans to head up to Baldy. We met up at Blue Moon at 630 with Frank's new coworker Dan, and headed en route to French Gulch. Onward and upward we went up the Gulch Rd passing beautiful cabins and getting glimpses of our intended route and line.
We reached treeline within about an hour and a half. We then hiked up the trail until about 1/2 a mile from the pass and cut up and right to gain the ridge. From there we hiked up the ridge until we contoured back north and eventually found ourselves on the summit at 13,700ft.
Three and a half hours after leaving the car we found ourselves standing atop Mt Baldy. After a quick refuel and transition we hiked down about 100ft or so to the top of our line. The top portion of the line was decent with the middle choke pretty variable but once in the chute proper we enjoyed some great turns down.
We ended up skiing about 1700ft vertical until we transitioned once more and started our hike back out. Another great day in the hills!! Let it snow, let it snow!!