-New TR up-
If at first you don't succeed. Dust yourself off and try again!
We headed up BigHorn in hopes of skiing a line off of the GT. About 4 hours in we found ourselves at the base of the face with clouds socked in covering the entire face. We couldn't find our intended line and so decided to post up and wait for the clouds to clear. By the time they did, it was about noon and the sun came out with a fury. Within a matter of half an hour or so the snow warmed up drastically with wet rollerballs coming down everywhere. We had missed our window of opportunity. Glop, Glop. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. There will always be a next time. It was a great day to get out and enjoy the outdoors, as always!
Three great local lines, two of them very rarely skied if at all; its been a great couple of days! Summit county mini golf in full affect. After seeing some signs of instability in the alpine the other day I figured it would be best to stay at treeline for a little bit longer. Perfect chance to go for a line I have been scoping out the whole season. After that Frank Bowman, Travis Williams, and I went for another new line that Gary Fondl and a few others scoped and skied a few weeks ago. What a perfect day with two new lines successfully skied! Then, this morning Travis and myself decided to go for another (although often skied) line, Dirty Books Couloir.
Royal Deuce Couloir:
This is a line that I have been scoping out for pretty much the entire season. Although it is Colorado and most all lines have been skied before, I have been asking around to some of the longtime locals and they don't seem to know of this being skied, let alone snowboarded before. Im sure it has been skied but for now it will be called Royal Deuce Couloir. The Deuce can be seen by the trained eye very easily and is passed by hundreds daily. Finally the day came for a crack at her and so Frank, Travis, and myself grabbed our rope and harnesses and set out into the unknown. Once atop of our line we were able to look down the rocky face and take a peek at what was in store. Hell Yes! Were about the words that followed. We found a perfect horn for an anchor, slung her up, and down went the rope. I was first to rappel, and I do have to say that it is such great feeling dropping into an unknown line. Although a bit a awkward of a rap, at the end of the rope I found myself looking down into pure bliss. There was even an archway leading into the couloir. We cleverly called it the "brown arch". Frank and Travis then followed and not but shortly after we were all strapped in and ready for the fun...
Once through the Brown Arch the chute opened up slightly before choking back up in the tightest and steepest part of the line.
Shortly after the choke the chute started to open up a bit. This is the spot where we were most concerned as far as avy danger goes. Below this point there is 3 large rock/cliff faces throughout the middle of the chute. I dropped first and carefully navigated my way to the bottom of the second cliff ban. A fall or slide here could have major consequences.
And the last cliff set leaves a little mandatory air to keep things respectful.
Rappel, steep, tight, exposure, mando air. What an amazing line! So stoked to have finally got that one in. Now.. on to the next one.
After such an amazing line on Deuce, we didn't want to stop. Round 2. Gary, Eddie, and Nate had scoped and skied a line around the area and ever since I saw it, I knew that I had to check her out. This is a line that is hidden to all unless you summit a certain peak in the area. We drove to our next TH and were off. A little over an hour later and we found ourselves standing atop our next line. Wow, this line was way more awesome than I had expected. We also had perfect corn due to it being South facing and dropping in at about 3pm. Perfect spring corn, couldn't ask for better. This line stays nice and inset throughout 3/4 of the line and offers up a perfect angle for ripping turns. Once at the bottom the snowpack got fairly thin but we were able to ski back to the trail and eventually right back into town where we caught the bus back to the car.
This line absolutely exceeded my expectations and one that I will definitely ski again. Thanks for scoping this one out guys! I know that this line had been skied (Gary, Eddie, Nate), but it was nice to get a snowboard in it. If there hasn't been one in there before? A great end to the day skiing two new local lines. Throughout the day we had talked about skiing Dirty Books Couloir and so what was the plan for this morning?
Dirty Books Couloir:
After such a great day yesterday we wanted to keep with the pace and ski another mini golf line in the area. Frank had to work and so Travis and I met up at about 9am and drove to the Mt. Royal TH. We made quick work of the ascent and were at the Mt Royal summit in a little over 45 minutes. Another beautiful day out and we dropped in at a perfect time to allow the snow to soften up, but not too much. The gladed trees above the chute proper offered up great soft turns and we stopped at the top of the chute proper. I did a few slope cuts and then let Travis drop first as I wanted to get some pics of him. The upper portion of the chute was much steeper than we thought, we didn't measure but guessed 40 degrees or a little more. The entire chute offered up great soft turns all the way back down to the skin track.
Wow, those were some great lines! And also a great way to keep my mind off of the bigger lines for a little bit longer...
Two to five inches of fresh snow overnight, a powder day in the midst. But what about the high winds overnight gusting to 60mph and the weight of the new snow? A perfect recipe for wind slabs and an added stress to the existing snowpack. Frank Bowman and I had been in contact over the week and had planned on skiing a great local line West facing line that we knew is in fat. I have not dug a pit in the past few weeks and I haven't seen any signs of instability either. I know the deep persistent slab still lurks although low probability but still high consequence. Still, a perfect recipe for overconfidence. I am glad that today happened as it made me remember that we are still in a transitioning snowpack.
I still like to live by the thought process of "you never know until you get out there and look at it yourself". And I also like to remind myself to ALWAYS listen to the mountain. There were a few things today leading up to the bail and from the start I had a weird feeling about the day. First off, I get off of work at 7am and my co-worker asks me if I am ever afraid of getting caught in an avalanche and dying. Ha, that's not a great question to ask before I got out on a tour but I kinda just brushed it off and told her that of course I do and that safety is always my number one concern. Then, I get home, get ready, and then wait for Frank to come pick me up. I pull up Facebook and the first 5 or 6 posts in a row are about avalanches from various people. Hmmm, then I start to wonder. Is this a sign or something? Next, not a huge deal, but Frank was over an hour behind, and he was tired. That kid is never tired, ha. Again, not a huge deal, but things just started adding up.
So we drive up to our TH and start skinning up into the bowl towards our intended line. The visibility wasn't really too good and it was still snowing lightly. As we got above treeline a bit of vertigo sets in although the snow was feeling pretty good as we made our way further back and closer to our route. There was 2-5in of fresh snow but it seemed to have bonded fairly well to the old surface. We make our way up the apron, constantly talking things over and assessing our situation. We get about 1/3 the way up from the bottom and I get a whompf. Never a good feeling. You feel like a sitting duck and don't even want to move. I had just measured the slope at the 35-36 range so we were absolutely on avy prone slope. Given the circumstances; all the weird signs I had earlier, Frank not feeling it, and the mountain telling us to go home, we made the easy decision to turn around and save it for another day.
Up a little ways further is where I got the whumpf and cracking. At first I thought it was only the new storm snow but upon closer inspection the crack seemed to go through the snowpack. We didn't even want to dig a pit at that point. Sometimes all it takes is a bad feeling and a little sign from the mountains to tell you to go home.
I am glad that today happened as it kind of put me back into check in realizing that we are still in a transitioning snowpack and that we really still need to be on our toes. I don't believe that any decision we made going into the trip were bad. West facing, leeward, the start of a melt/freeze cycle stabilizing the pack, ect.. I would absolutely go for it 10 out of 10 times in this situation, but as always you still have to be very cautious and to not push it. I personally am going to back off a bit from what I had in my head of lines to start skiing. The time will come. Patience is a virtue.