I’ve wanted to make this trip for the last few years, but it has been consistently difficult to get the weather forecast to line up with a free weekend. Things finally fell into place last weekend. On Friday afternoon, we left Boulder and drove to Rock Springs, WY. On Saturday, we finished the drive to Jackson, stopped to grab groceries, navigated our way to the backcountry permitting office, and started the hike up to Garnet Canyon. We were incredibly fortunate that the JHMG high camp had been installed the weekend prior, but was sitting empty for this entire weekend. This meant we didnt need to carry sleeping bags, pads, stove or fuel. Instead, we brought better food.
We went to bed early saturday evening, but sometime in the middle of the night we heard the ominous sound of rain on the tent walls. When we woke at 3:30 AM, the rain had turned to snow and was coming down quite hard. We went back to bed for 1 hr blocks, but each time we woke up, the weather was still grim. Finally around 6 AM, we figured we may as well make the best of our situation so we set out to ski the Middle Teton. We ascended the Middle Teton glacier, but decided the runneled 55-60 deg slope wasnt the best choice for a ski run in the absence of any sunlight to soften it up. We decided to seek out the SW couloir, which we eventually sniffed out after a bit of wandering. Things were thoroughly socked in at this point, with only occasional clearings blowing through. We had to down climb the top 200′ of the couloir, which had melted out. There, we dug in and waited in hopes that the sun would come and soften the snow. After 1.5 hrs, we grew tired of waiting and decided to just ski the ice. The skiing was fun, although a bit thin in places. Eventually, we dropped down far enough that we found good corn, and then too soon over ripened muck. We had to pay a bit of a price hiking back up to the high camp, but it was still a fine day out with beautiful unsettled weather. The forecast said that high pressure would move back in Sunday evening into Monday, so we spent the afternoon napping and eating and preparing for Monday.
When 3:30 AM rolled around, we all got out of bed surprisingly quickly, although we proceeded to move pretty slowly making breakfast and gearing up. We stepped outside to beautiful clear skies everywhere, except the Grand Teton which was fully socked-in. The cool temps on sunday and overnight meant a very hard freeze and outstanding climbing conditions. Perfect neve, water ice, and alpine ice spread from the base of the Teepee Glacier all the way to the summit. We broke out the single 7.8 mm rope for the Chevy couloir, which seemed like a prudent decision. The summit was quite cold, with clear skies making up only about 5 % of the time, and clouds the remainder. We downlimbed from the summit and started the waiting game. None of us was eager to ski the Ford Couloir in bullet proof ice, so we’d either wait for sun, or have to down climb the Owen-Spalding. We had strong cell service at the summit, and the realtime weather forecast decided to taunt us with statements such as “100 % clear”, “0 % chance of precip for next 20 hrs”,and “strong high pressure”. We didnt find it very funny. I was even able to bring up the AAC web cam, which showed beautiful blue skies throughout GTNP. If one didn’t know better, they wouldn’t have even noticed the small cloud in the photo that just barely obstructed the summit of the Grand. Unfortunately, we did know better. We passed the next 3+ hours with a combination of shivering, telling jokes, and watching Dave perform dance moves from Thriller. Finally, a window of sunshine came that lasted longer than 10 seconds. We walked up to the summit ridge and saw that clear skies dominated the horizon. 20 more minutes in the late morning sun and the snow surface had quickly softened to edgeable corn. With some anxiousness, we set about transitioning to ski mode and getting ready to drop in. Our leg muscles are cold from shivering and the previous day’s climb. Committing to the opening turns is rather intimidating, with the convex nature allowing your imagination to run wild with the exposure just out of view. The terrain turns out to be quite manageable though. Eventually we transition to the Ford proper, which provides fantastic steep skiing at the top, before forcing us to skiers right to avoid a deep runnel. The steep double fall line into the runnel causes us to side slip one section more than we’d like, but we still manage a few very intense turns. From there we ski to the 1 st rap station and work with another party of two to tag team the rappels through what will quickly become a shooting gallery in the afternoon sun. We move efficiently on the rappels until we stick one rope on the Chevy couloir. I am already 200′ below at the next station, but I try to yell up to leave the ropes behind. Nobody hears me. Eventually they free the other ropes. The final rappel was possibly optional, although the skiing would have been rather unpleasant. At the end of the rappels, we remove our harnesses, coil the ropes, and breathe a sigh of relief. From there the skiing across the traverse to the teepee is quite fun. The teepee itself didnt benefit from any cloud cover in the morning, and is now too soft in the sun and too hard in the shade. It is still a fantastic ski to cap the run above. We quickly pack up camp and thoroughly clean the tent, then continue the last 1000′ of skiing to snowline. At this point our legs are a tired, but occasional patches of perfect corn elicit a bit more hard skiing. We walk the trail and are quite pleased to arrive at the car and find the beers in the cooler are still cold.
Specific gear notes in addition to touring gear:
2 technical ice tools and steel technical crampons
Harness, belay device, carabiners, etc
2 ice screws, 1 set of stoppers, 5 slings
1 7.8 mm 60 m long half rope (the 2 seconds climbed 10 meters apart on the one belayed pitch. this required about 20′ of simuling for the 1st second before the leader reached the anchor above the steeper ice step)
1 6 mm 60 m long aramid tag line
A bold claim, but one that I’ll stand by for the various tours that I’ve done in the front range.
For whatever reason, I tend to obsess with how ski tours look on a map. For that reason, loops and logical link-ups tend to get me way more excited than simple out and backs. In spite of all the skiing we’ve done in RMNP the last few years, I hadn’t yet skied from the summit of Longs Peak. For clean ski descents there are generally only two viable options from the summit: the North Face and Keplinger’s couloir. Both are very appealing. The North Face wins for position and exposure, but is very short when it can’t be linked past the camel or the boulder field. It is also rare for the NF to go clean. Keplinger’s isn’t quite as steep, but is around 3x as long and in a remarkable location. Both runs are fickle, sometimes coming in for only a few days, and other years not at all. Both runs also have fairly long standard approaches, so it makes sense to ski something else when you’re in the area. That brings one to the question of what link-up looks the best on a map, and provides the correct aspects for a solid day of good skiing. Ideally the day should start with S or E facing runs and end with N or W facing. After some thinking, I decided that a link of Keplingers and the Flying Dutchman would be the best choice, possibly including a run on the North Face if time and conditions allowed. In the end, there wasn’t time for the N Face, but the rest of the tour was awesome.
Our approximate route is below: cheap Cialispurchase orlistatCialis super active online
At around 7000′ of vert, it isnt much more than the standard wild basin approach to Keplinger’s (6kish), but it has the added benefit of mixing in the awesome run down Flying Dutchman and a bit of proper climbing on the NF. The only other consideration is that it is probably prudent to bring a rope, harness, and super light rack on this tour, both for climbing the NF of longs, and for rapping the crux on Flying Dutchman. There’s also the risk that Keps will be out, but there is plenty of other snow sliding to do in the area if you look past the desire for a summit descent (Trough, Notch, Lamb Slide, etc).
Gear notes in addition to the standard ski kit:
1x lightweight ice axe
1x Al crampons
2x 30m x 7.8mm ropes
1x 0.5 Camalot
1x set of nuts
1x ultralight harness/belay device/carabiners
and most importantly, carry over your approach shoes for the hike back to the loft. That kind of talus is no fun in ski boots.
As the last pictures below might allude, you can no longer get gas 24-7 in Lyons, so plan accordingly or face a very stressful drive home.
If skiing is fun and climbing is fun, doesn’t it make sense that climbing to ski will be even more fun? It would probably be pretty hard to beat the alps in this regard. Likewise, the Cascades or Tetons have excellent options. Despite the numerous mountains in view from the front range (or even throughout CO), surprisingly few provide logical combinations of great climbing and great skiing. Too much wind, inconsistent ice conditions, early warming, poor rock quality, or the even more common complete lack of technical climbing on a mountain. With that said, a little creativity goes a long way towards making the best of what we have.
I have little interest in carrying skis on my back up multiple pitches of 5.10 rock or difficult mixed. The ideal ascent routes can be done with minimal gear or rope work. If skiing on a spring snowpack, one will have limited time to reach the summit and be on the descent before wet slide danger increases. I’d tend to look for routes with 4th class to low-5th class rock, or moderate (WI3/M3) ice and mixed. For rock routes, ridges provide good options, whereas ice routes are likely to be in gullies. Remember, you’ll be climbing in ski boots, and skis on your back are fairly obstructive. The idea is for the skis to make the day more fun and interesting, not the other way around. Below are two highly recommended combos from past seasons.
Mount Bancroft – East Ridge to Various Descent Options
Xenical 120 mgClimbing description buy Plavix
Due to weather, it took us two attempts during different seasons to make this itinerary work. First attempt was on a knowingly unsettled day in April 2011. We made fast time to the route and up the snow covered solid talus that starts the ridge. By the time we reached the notch, weather was looking pretty grim.
Doug heads up the short crux
Pete follows the Crux variation chimney
Bailing into a cool couloir
We continued up the short crux, taking a slightly off route chimney instead of the usual face pitch. A few hundred feet above, it became clear the weather wasn’t going to improve, so we bailed back the notch and rapped into a narrow S facing couloir. The east ridge of Bancroft actually has a bunch of cool descent options on the way to the summit. 0
The next attempt went much better, with perfect weather. Again we scrambled to the notch, rapped in, climbed out through the correct line (which is excellent low fifth class with good gear and large boot and glove friendly holds. Above we scrambled upwards, occasionally setting impromptu belay for the less frequent climbers. Upon reaching the top, two of us skied the direct SE face from the false summit, while the other two skied the standard moderate east ridge route. The SE face makes a fine descent with a steep entrance and moderate exposure. There were a few narrow passages that typically cleared on skiers left.
In spite of icy ski conditions, this was one of the most fun days I’ve had in the mountains. Dreamweaver is an excellent beginner ice and snow climb, with short cruxes separated by moderate snow. Although Dreamweaver itself makes an admirable ski option, the traverse over Meeker and down the Dragon’s Egg provides much more skiing and a beautiful tour. I recommend a car shuttle for this tour, dropping one car at Wild Basin, then taking the other to Long’s Peak trailhead. Depending on conditions on Dreamweaver, one could find a mix of soft snow, hard snow, ice, or rock. Some folks will prefer a rope for the short cruxes, while others will feel comfortable without. Being such a windy aspect, Dragon’s Egg wont come in every year, and the top will only stay in for a short amount of time. A few sticky windless spring storms are required for optimum conditions. The good news is you can see the line from all over the front range and peak to peak highway, so there wont be much of a secret.
I’ve decided to post to the blog again. I’ve made a few short ski movies the last few ski seasons. The most recent here is from a day skiing around Guanella Pass with Ben. We went out on our race gear, which is incredible for the touring, but always takes russianbridesdating/ a bit of adjustment for the down. We started out at the winter closure, then headed up past Naylor Lake to the northface of Squaretop. We climbed and skied the face, then continued up to Argentine Pass, and eventually the summit of Argentine. The NE face of Argentine has a bunch of short and relatively steep options, but most are guarded by large cornices. On the NW side of the face, we found a break and dropped in. The surface was a bit reactive, but nothing deep. Fun skiing down to the basin below, then we ascended again to the NW shoulder of Mount Wilcox where we proceeded to ski the lower NE face back to the car. I think this is an excellent little outing for anybody looking to link a few peaks close to Denver.
Although the climb is easy, catching it in condition is not. I probably made 5+ actual attempts to climb this thing over the last few years. Not to mention all the numerous winter days I speculated whether it was in…
So cool to have this kind of climbing less than a mile from your office! buy Premarin onlineFluconazole no prescription
change to full screen 720p for best results
(note: I asked around and nobody seemed to know any history for this line. It might be the first ascent/descent, but it might not. It is still a rad couloir, so I slapped a name on it)
For the past 10 or so years I have been a climber much more than a snow slider. With the amazing ski conditions in the rockies this year, it was time to swing the pendulum back.
Now, while I’m not usually one to complain about endless days of powder skiing. It seems pretty obvious that the real reason to be a skier in the front range is the spring skiing. True spring was quite reluctant to come this year, but in the last few weeks, the bigger lines have finally opened up.
This brings me to the point of classic ski lines; Unlike most climbing lines that really must be seen and attempted to appreciate their status, quite a lot about a ski line can be appreciated from a simple topo map. Nowhere is this more evident than couloir skiing. The recipe is very simple:
1) Look for U-shaped contours on map. The deeper the “U”s, the more classic the line
2) Evaluate length of the couloir. The longer the couloir, the more classic the line
3) Evaluate the angle of the couloir. Generally steeper is better, to the extent you can still ski it.
With this mindset, I passed a few hours of our never ending winter staring at maps of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The next question was whether the line might be continuously skiable, or even held snow. This line turns out to be in a fairly remote region of RMNP; The west aspect of Mount Alice has surprsingly few pictures. Extensive google sleuthing revealed exactly one image:
But, the image revealed what I hoped for. A line choked with snow, even in the middle of summer.
Now, the next challenge was how exactly to reach this line. It is in a fairly remote region of the national park. There are no trails to the base, or even near it for that matter. Thus, the options included:
1) Skiing to the divide from Bear Lake, then descending to the base (~20 miles RT, ~9000′ vert)
2) Skiing to the summit of Mount Alice from Wild Basin, then dropping in blind (~20 miles RT, ~8000′ vert)
3) Skiing up the North Inlet from Grand Lake (~19 miles RT, 5000′ vert)
4) Skiing up the East Inlet from Grand Lake then dropping in to North Inlet drainage (~18 miles RT, 6000′ vert)
We chose #4, although in retrospect, #3 may have been easier, and would have certainly been a safer exit in the warming afternoon.
The final two ingredients were a stable weather forecast, and a willing partner. I floated the idea to most of my ski partners. Everybody was tentatively interested, but they also had various summer activities getting in the way.
Finally, a free weekend with a good forecast showed up. I floated out the plan to previously-interested parties, but Joe was the only possible taker. It took some convincing to talk Joe out of climbing ice in 90 degree temps, and instead having a nice suffer fest on skis. Joe hasn’t skied much this year, and probably never on a line like this, but he was still game for the adventure and a chance to scope out a less-visited area of the park. So, we left Boulder on Friday night at 9:30 PM and drove the long way round to Grand Lake. We arrived at the trailhead around 11:30, then packed our bags and turned in for a whopping 2 hrs of sleep.
2AM – the alarm goes off and we get stirring. A few minutes later an officer does his rounds through the parking lot. Luckily we are already awake, so our short nap goes unpunished. Around 2:30 we set off.
It was awesome getting to see so much new beautiful terrain. All sorts of ideas for ice climbing, rock climbing and skiing were inspired.
The approach is long, but mostly flat (+2k/8miles) to spirit lake. From there we followed a minor drainage up to the saddle between Mount Alice and Pt 12,241. The views opened up even more!
From the saddle, we made a descending traverse to the west aspect of Alice.
We passed more skiable lines along the way, but these were not what we came for.
I misjudged the map a bit, so we ended up doing a bit more booting on the traverse than I expected. Still this saved us dropping down further and having more vert to regain.
Finally, we got our first view of the line. The lower half looked great, but it quickly split and disappeared. Hopefully the lines were continuous and we were in the correct spot.
Soon we were starting up. There was some wet slide debris that I though might ruin the descent a bit. Mostly the couloir provided easy and aesthetic climbing, with a few sections of 45 degree or so snow.
At the top, I threw down my pack and took a nice break. Joe followed came along shortly. Joe was pretty exhausted at the top, and he decided he wasnt up for skiing the couloir. We discussed alternate descents, but I didnt really want to descend the couloir and ascend the saddle alone in the afternoon warmth. Thankfully, Joe decided to down climb the couloir while I skied. The snow stayed perfect the entire run. The skiing is extremely classic, with steep rollovers and turns revealing more and more beautiful skiing. Because of the aspect and deep walls, the skiers left side softens more than the right, allowing you to choose whatever snow consistency your prefer.
Chris and I made a last minute 5 day trip to Vegas. We did things in fine style, staying in a hotel, and climbing every day. The result was a great trip filled with super-classic routes.
Day 1 was shortened by the flight and a need for supplied. Still, it was a great chance to test the waters for future shady climbs. We headed to Whiskey Peak in Black Velvet Canyon, where we climbed the short, but super classic Triassic Sands.
Day 2 was the big day for the trip, climbing Levitation 29 (IV, 5.11c). One of the the all time Red Rock classics. I thought this route was a great challenge, with numerous difficult (for me) pitches. While the quality of the rock varies a bit over the route, the steep, well-protected climbing made the climbing awesome. Chris and I both climbed the route with no falls, which I am pretty happy about. This was the most technically challenging long climb I’ve done, and I had to fight pretty hard for the crux.
Day 3 – “Rest Day” We climbed the classic 5.7 Olive Oil. I was pretty blown away by the quality of this one. It is really a beautiful climb, and a great way to spend a mellow day. The downside came when I ripped a gear loop off my harness while leading the 2nd pitch, dropping a significant amount of our already spartan rack. We still made it through, and some surly Austrians returned our slightly banged up gear to us.
Day 4 – We climbed Dream of Wild Turkey’s on Black Velvet Wall. 10 pitches of awesome crack and face climbing up a remarkably steep and moderate wall. Considered one of the world/country’s great climbs for the grade, I’d be hard pressed to disagree. On the 4th pitch we bootied 2 cams and a pretty new 60m climbing rope. Unfortunately, our luck would run out on the 2nd rappel, when our own rope became hopelessly stuck. Chris had the honor of ascending our 7.8mm ropes and fixing the problem.
Day 5 – Another late start day, with a climb of Unimpeachable Groping on Ginger Buttress. We thought the climb would be in the sun, but that isnt true if you arent there first thing in the morning. Nonetheless, we stayed warm enough. After the somewhat hollow and low-quality first pitch, the climb delivered a lot of enjoyable and varied 5.10 sport climbing, with a great 5.8 slab finish to a pretty cool mini-summit.
It has been a while since I had a really long day in the mountains. Luckily that was remedied last weekend in RMNP with Doug and Kevin. Kevin has the whole story on his website (Alpine AmbitionBuy cheap Accutane ), but the short story is: change of plans + unknown route + difficult terrain + deteriorating weather + short days = bail
Anyhow, here are some of my favorite pictures. Notice the rapid change in weather.
In addition to Pervertical Sanctuary on the Diamond, our other big summer goal was to climb the Scenic Cruise in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The Black Canyon is famous for high adventure, poor rock quality and generally scary climbing. Bits of this are found on the Scenic Cruise, but luckily those parts are few and far between, separated by some of the finest sustained moderate free climbing I’ve ever seen. The climb is about 1700′ long and it feels as though more than half that length is on moves 5.9 and harder. In the middle are two beautiful sustained 5.10 pitches, and in between them the fearsomely reputed 5.10- pegmatite traverse. With the shorter days of fall, we knew we’d have to move fairly quick to finish the route in the light. This seemed like an easy proposition as we quickly dispatched the first few guidebook pitches. By the time we encountered the first sustained 5.9 pitch, the true nature of the route revealed itself. From here on nearly every pitch would present some form of challenge. We kept at it, running out of water regrettably early in the day. We brought 3 L compared to 6 L by the party climbing behind us. Chris did a great job on both of the technical cruxes, while I dispatched the peg traverse with only minimal whimpering and a few hesitations. The climb had so many memorable passages, it is staggering. It certainly ranks among the very best climbs I’ve had the luck to complete.
Chris scopes out the route while we wait for daylight
A day after returning from Europe, I was eager to get out climbing. I wasn’t too psyched on waking up early, but for the right adventure, I made an exception. After perusing various pictures of rocks in RMNP, we settled on an attractive looking buttress on Otis Peak. We have no idea what the buttress is called, or if it has ever been climbed before. We certainly didnt see any evidence on route.
The buttress is located in the center of this photo, just right of Otis Flower Tower
Chris took the next pitch, which even from below was obviously going to be the crux. Initially we thought the line might go directly through the roof. Chris started from the right side of the ledge, with just enough pro to keep things reasonable. After sussing out the direct roof, he instead opted for an awesome, airy underclinging traverse to the right. It took some pressing from me and Joe, but eventually he committed to the moves. After the traverse the climb entered a great right facing corner, reminiscent of the upper pitch on the SE corner of the Saber. One more spicy move, and Chris found a decent belay to bring us up. Even on TR, the climbing was quite exciting. Definitely a great lead by Chris! (5.9)
From the belay, it looked like a cruise to the top. Joe took over, and was immediately stumped by the 5′ headwall in front of him. It turned out to be some fairly tenuous 5.8 climbing that then broke way to much easier terrain above.