Sunday, June 19, 2011

Old TR: Summer Skiing: Skyscraper - 8.22.2010

Ethan and I had wanted to ski this line for most of July and August but were turned around a couple times due to group strength and weather. We had also dreamed about going with a larger group and after skiing, riding our bikes from the top of Rollin Pass back to Boulder. I’d still really like to do this combined ride - ski, but I admit that some sections of that ride are not particularly exciting sections of dirt road, creek bed, and pavement. I used to think there were link trails all the way through, but I’m pretty sure most of them have been shut down or don’t exist.

Route
The real beauty of Skyscraper is that you can drive all the way to the top of Rollins pass from the winter park side, so although you still spend a long time in transit, its not with skis and boots on your back. From the parking lot at the top of Rollins Pass Ethan and I hiked quickly along the continental divide trail north to the entrance of the snowfield. This hike is particularly beautiful in summer time because of the 360 degree views and the wild flowers.

Ethan along the hike, Betty Lake in the background
At the top, the snowfield separates around a large rock buttress connecting to the ridge at two points, and even in late August most of the top still has a nasty big cornice. There are 2 options for dropping into the snowfield: one from each connection to the ridge. You can take the northern arm and traverse across a 55 degree snowfield above a very large cliff or take the southern entrance and scramble around the space that forms between the cornice and the rock down to the flat snow shelf directly below the cornice. Almost everyone takes the northern entrance above the large cliff. I think the main reason this is done is that it is more visible, including from the parking lot, so it offers both the more obvious line and the line of Kodak Courage.

Less than a month before this day on Rollins Pass our skiing community had been shaken deeply by the death of one of our good friends on a snowfield in RMNP. Standing at the top of this line, Ethan and I were both filled with fond thoughts of Lacy, but at the same time far more intimidated than we would normally have been about a line like this. Obviously, higher than normal fear on a line like this is a good and bad thing: it makes you more aware of the dangers around you that you might normally forget. At the same time, it makes it harder to execute and focus through those first few scarier and more dangerous moves.  

Considering how hard the August snow was, neither Ethan or I wanted to put ourselves in a position where we might fall and have to attempt a difficult arrest on the summer snow, so we entered through the south arm of the snowfield. 

Ethan above the skiers right entrance
Getting ready on the bench below the cornice
 Once on the snowfield the mamory of the natural motion of linking turns returned and Ethan and I enjoyed close to 1000 vertical of pretty nice corn right down to the lake.


Summer ski stoke!
Looking back up at the line
Some cool basal drainage!
At the lake we put our skis on our back and began the beautiful walk back to King Lake. I’m stil not sure if there is a trail that goes directly back towards King Lake from Skyscraper, but Ethan and I did a fair bit of bushwacking as we traversed back until we hit the trail a bit before the North side of King Lake. From there a short, but surprising ly steep trail quickly brought us back up to the parking lot.

Bushwacking
I would definitely rate this as my favorite late summer ski. It doesn’t have the long trudge with skis and boots on ones back that most summer skis are characterized with, although driving access does take a bit as one has to drive to winter park and then head back East up Rollins Pass. It should be noted that this can be a VERY dangerous ski late in the summer as large suncups and runnels form and the steep snow terminates in talus.

As seen from the parking lot, our tracks are visible on the lookers left side of the line. We entered where the  snow reaches the ridge, out of sight on the left.