We seemed to skip spring altogether this year, going from heavy May snow to 90 degree temps in the course of 2 weeks. My plans for the spring involved lots of great skiing, but unfortunately the means for many of those plans are rapidly swelling the local creeks and rivers. Luckily, I managed to ski one of the classic lines of CO a few weeks back. Even this trip almost wasn’t though. With the weekend nearing, the forecast seemed to get warmer and windier. After waking up at 4 AM on Saturday, I checked the Snotel to find 40F temps and 60 MPH winds. I went back to bed…
The forecast the next day wasnt much better, but we were desperate and decided to go more or less regardless. We modified the plan a bit, waking an hour earlier, and heading for the more difficult Dead Dog Couloir instead of the Tuning Fork. Having never skied a long steep couloir, we decided to boot up it and check it out, rather than taking then standard summit hike and dropping in blind. This also provided Pete with his first experience in steep snow climbing. The route was severely runneled, which made for nice climbing, but foreboding skiing.
By the top of the couloir, the snow had started to soften, and skiing was starting to look a little more appealing. We finished the short hike to the summit and relaxed a bit to allow some additional softening.
It turned out that some of the 1st turns off the summit were the most serious of the day. With tired rust legs, one must make a tight turn, where the consequences (however unlikely) of a screw up would result in a potentially bad fall down the main face. From here, we reached the entrance to the couloir. The steepest turns (55 degrees or so) are right off the bat, making for an exciting drop in.
Snow conditions in the couloir were pretty difficult, with a choice of the rough runnel in the middle, or the steep double-fall-lined edges. It wasnt always pretty, but we made it down safe and sound, skiing 99% of the way back to the car.
After being out of town the last two weekends, and now staring at a wet and cloudy weekend forecast, this may have been the only real spring trip of the year , but I’m still holding out hope that the heat wave will leave enough scraps for next weekend.