Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TR: Black Lakes Ridge 2.12.2011

This past Saturday Jordan, Josh, and I went on an exploratory tour of the Black Lakes Ridge on Vail Pass. I have only skied Vail Pass one time before during a hut trip to the shrine mountain inn, that unfortunately coincided with extremely high avalanche danger and an extremely shallow snowpack. So, we skied some long tree run (filled with stumps) way to far towards Red Cliff which led to a way way to long skin back to the hut.

The Black Lakes Ridge is clearly visible from I-70, and it looks pretty darn awesome: filled with open trees, cliffs, and pillows. We started our day from the parking lot and skinned up to the prominent radio towers. After a rutschblock test that failed when Jordan stood on it we came to the conclusion that the snow was way less stable than we had anticipated. So, we skied a run from the radio towers down to the dam on Black Lake. the top of the run has an awesome cliff zone with lots of very flat landings. The rest of the run is REALLY mellow and would be quite safe during an avalanche cycle.

Next, we hiked the radio tower cliffs for a couple laps. None of us felt up to hitting the largest drops simply cause the landings were flat. However, while skiing a smaller double drop a trigger a small fracture, which although harmless underscored the fact that we needed to be very careful in this area new to us.

Finally we skinned to the next high point to the north on the black lakes ridge, and skied towards just bellow the dam on Black Lake 2. We found another small skier triggered slide at the top of this run. With another sign of instability and given that it was getting late we skipped hitting any drops here and exploring the top of this mini zone. I wish we had had time to go a bit farther north, I suspect this is where the really awesome terrain is. Just like the first run, this run was very benchy: very flat to not very steep. However, at the bottom we did get some redemption finding a few nice drops.

Th skin out was a process in itself, taking me about 50 minutes to gain the very little elevation back to the parking lot. I know there is good terrain around here with fun drops. I just don't know how to access it. Farther north along the ridge towards East Vail there is obviously good terrain. The question is how to access it: do you need a sled? do you have to be OK with a long skin in and out? Or is there another access point somewhere along I-70?

Josh Nunnamaker

Josh Nunnamaker

Josh Nunnamaker

Jordan Scheremeta

Jordan Scheremeta

Josh Nunnamaker

Radio Tower Cliffs

Josh Nunnamaker