(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.
deep “U”s – check
couloir length = 1600′ + 1000′ of bonus ripping – check
~45 degrees – perfect fun steepness
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:
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.