Location: Ten Mile Range
Elevation/Length: 12800ft on the ridge with 3000ft gain and about 2 mi RT.
Location: Ten Mile Range
Elevation/Length: 12800ft on the ridge with 3000ft gain and about 2 mi RT.
The SKY chutes. If you have ever driven I-70 heading eastbound past Copper, then you have feasted your eyes on these local gems. After all the years I have lived in the county I have never skied any of them so I was pretty stoked to have this on the agenda for the day. The backcountry has still been pretty touchy lately after all the snow and wind we just had so I figured that these nice west facing and fairly sheltered chutes could be a good call. I had heard that the S chute was pretty low angle chute (average around 28-30deg) so Erich Tucker and I set out in hopes of skiing the S chute. As we got up there it seems like we weren't the only ones with this bright idea.
I was a little surprised to see other tracks in here but probably because I have been in the Gore a lot lately. You will rarely run into other people/tracks out there. No disappointment here as there was still plenty of fresh snow to slay. One good thing that came from it was that there was already a skin-track. Turns out that there are tracks in all the SKY chutes right now, go figure. People like to get off the resort and ski?? WTF? Once we reached the fork in the chute we opted to stay right and follow up the gladed tree area.
We hit the snow-line at about 12,200ft or so. Tucker opted to hang out while I pushed onward to hit the summit ridge. With it being such a beautiful day I just wanted to get as high as I could to soak in the views. So after hitting the ridge and heading up higher towards Peak 5 I hung out for a bit and took some pics.
I hit the summit ridge at about 12:30 (3hrs). After about 10 minutes or so I snapped all my pics, soaked it all in, and then headed back down towards the S chute to meet Tucker and get our ski on.
On the ride down we found some great turns! We stayed in the trees for the first couple hundred feet until we came out into the chute. The snowpack in this area was facets, sugar, and more facets with the occasional wind slab on top in an area or two. This actually made for some great skiing on the low angle terrain that we were on, all the while still making sure to be on our toes.
We ended up being able to ski a total of about 2000ft vert. The bottom few hundred feet was too shallow of snow in the trees to ski and the top few hundred feet to the summit ridge was too wind scoured. Great turns on a bluebird day! Stoked to finally ski one of the SKY chutes. Now just I just need to tick off the K and Y. ....And how about one more pic of the Gore :)
8 Miles. 2700ft Ascent. 4300ft Descent. 4 Hours.
Red Peak Round 2. I don't think there will be a round 3 for awhile. Today was a successful trip in the means that we made it home safely. The plan was to go for the same route that Greg Dumas and I had went for last Friday. Weather was supposed to warm up today to the 20's and the winds forecasted for moderate 15-20mph with 40mph gusts. There has been a huge wind event over the past few days so I knew that wind loading and wind slabs were going to be a concern to keep an eye out for. I also figured that this tour would go much quicker due to the fact that I had already broken trail a few days prior and A.) having to only break on a few inches is much quicker/easier, and B.) its much easier to have a trail to follow. This proved to be true as the point that we got to the other day took 6hours and we were to that point today in half that..
Another graveyard shift. Off at 7AM, Greg Hansen is at my house by 730 and we were on the trail by 8. We very quickly made it to the base of the ascent gully by 1030 as we started our way towards the summit.
Shortly after this picture we got to a fairly low angle slope (guessing mid to low 30's) just beyond the scree and so switched back to skinning. While on the ascent we had discussed our plan for the ride down once we reached the summit and both agreed to stay away from the southeastern aspects as much as possible with all of the crazy windloading. Our plan was to follow the path of least resistance with lowest slope angle our main objective and to also stay on the more South facing aspects. While on the ascent we never dug a pit (which I will discuss later) but we didn't find any real signs of instability throughout the tour. I did have a few collapses on the valley floor in the shrubs but I did expect some of that. Anyways, we switch back to tour mode and start our way up. I lay a track straight up for a little ways, again looking for lowest slope angle and then I made a cut to my left and got a collapse. It's the most unnerving feeling to have a collapse while you are a sitting duck on an open slope, on the ascent let alone. I look back at Greg and we both discuss how that whompf had solidified how cautious we needed to be from there on out. We decided to again try to stay as low angle as we could and try to stay away from the SE'erly slope to our left. In the back of my mind I wondered if we should bail right there. I make a cut back up to the right for about 20 steps and again looking for lowest slope angle I make a cut back to my left for about 5-10 steps and WHOMPF, another collapse. I was shell shocked. After a few seconds I yell "AVALANCHE" and look back at Greg. It remotely triggered about 15-20 yards away to my left, sure as shit on the SE aspect. This was the closest to being caught in and closest first encounter I have had. I know that this sort of thing is bound to happen in some sort of way doing what we do, but Fuck. What a scary ass feeling! Greg and I both have our stomachs in our mouths. Luckily, I think that both the aspect that we were on and the angle of the slope that we were on saved us. ROUTE SELECTION. ROUTE SELECTION. ROUTE SELECTION. More on that later. Even though it didn't break on us the slide did span the width of the gully a little bit down further and it ran about 1000ft or more. We would have gone for a bad ride over a lot of exposed rocks and small cliffs and even though the snowpack was luckily fairly shallow, we could have easily gotten buried. If we had got any closer to that aspect we could have triggered it on top of us and been screwed. You have alot of scenarios play through your head after the fact. And so even though we were probably only 500ft or so shy of the summit, it was time to get the hell out of there. From there we took a few minutes to regain composure and discuss our best plan of attack to get out of there. There was still a huge flank of hangfire that didn't go and we were a little shook up about being on the slope any longer so we ended up hiking down the scree and rock on the climbers right side (SOUTH aspect) of the gully down a ways and then rode the debris out.
After an event like this you have to sit back and contemplate what went wrong, what went right, and what you learned. First of all, what I feel we did right was to communicate. Although we could have always done this more and done it better which is always something to improve upon. Communication is very important whether its before the tour discussing plans, on the ascent discussing the intended route, or on the descent. One thing that I think we did wrong was to not dig a pit. Although we didn't see any signs of activity for the majority of the tour, we still should have dug a pit or two on the ascent just to see what we were looking at. The biggest thing I learned from this was how truly important route finding is. In most cases I feel that this can be one of the upmost important things in winter backcountry travel. You always need to be cautious and aware of your surroundings and to never let your guard down. I am truly glad that the day didn't turn out worse and that we both made it back home safely. Be cautious. Be aware. Be on your toes at all times. Live to ski another day. Stay safe out there!!
Weather forecast for the day called for a high of -1°F with winds 14-18 G29 and a wind chill of -37°F. A brisk day in the rockies but we can't let that stop us from enjoying the presence of the mountains. Ahead of the Artic cold front we had a nice dump of snow across the state favoring the central region where we had well over a foot of the good stuff fall. Although we found some nice stable snow today on southerly faces(besides snow sliding off steep rock faces), avalanche hazards were raised to high on Wednesday. We saw this first hand on a tour up Dry Gulch. While the zone we skied has seen a lot of skier compact all season, we did see both natural slide activity and cracking/ collapsing along the valley floor. This was to be expected from the heavy load of new snow on weaker layers that have been forming over the past month. We played it safe while still enjoying some nice face shots for a few runs that day. Thursday we saw the clouds clear for most of the day and the sun out for a beautiful but brisk cold day. I ended up feeling sick and had errands to take care of so I took the day off but in hindsight it was the window that we missed for our objective today. . .
Greg Dumas and I had been in contact over the past week wanting to get out today for a good tour around the area. We ended up deciding to head into the backyard for an attempt at a line I had been looking at on the south side of Red Peak. We both knew it was going to be a cold and low visibility day but we were both willing to go for it. We both completely underestimated the amount of time it would take and ended up falling about 1500ft or so shy of the summit. Never underestimate a Gore bushwack, especially in winter and after a good snowfall. We were on the trail by 630am and at the bottom of Silver shortly after 8oclock. That was the quick and easy part. Once past the falls the trail was quickly lost and the wacking begins. Downed trees and mini creeks everywhere was the name of the game for the next few hours as from there we didn't find ourselves at the bottom of the chute we intended to climb until a little before 12oclock. Already over 5 hours in we knew that time was working against us as I had to be back in town for a fundraiser in Breck by 4oclock. We figured that because we would be able to ski out most of the way that we had about 3 hours or so to get back to the car and so from there we decided to climb up as quickly and as high as we could for the next 30 min or so. After that we would get to savor as many turns as we the terrain would allow. We made it about 3/4 of the way up the chute and to about 11,500ft. It was at that point we realized that it was time to turn around, to savor what turns we had below us, and to return another day to complete the mission. I couldn't be disappointed as my last two Gore missions had come out with success. You can't win them all!
Our ascent gully. While skinning up we did see quite a bit of natural slides most of them being off of steep rock faces, which is to be expected. We saw no other signs of instability throughout the skin and when we started up the gully the depth of the snow drastically decreased. Most of the snow throughout the gully was only a couple of feet deep with deeper windloaded pockets here and there. We did see some of the new snow stiffening up into a windslab but it was infrequent.