For several days leading up to Sunday Brennan and I had been throwing back and forth ideas of what to ski on Sunday. Eventually we settled on returning to the north face of Grizzly, where we had seen some unique lines a couple weeks ago. Given the face's protected north aspect and consistent winds, we figured we could fit in 2 or 3 laps before the spring sun destabilized the snow for the day.
The morning started off a little late when I arrived at Andrew's house to find him quite asleep. Nonetheless, the team was soon assembled at Grizzly Gulch.
After some highly entertaining, albeit inefficient, four-wheeling we were on foot and headed towards the snow:
A look at Grizzly's NE Coulior, which we skied two weeks ago:
After 20 minutes walking up the startlingly dry road, we reached continuous snow, and after a mile of skinning we were above treeline, high in the Grizzly Gulch basin.
Soon, we diverged from the valley bottom and headed south towards Grizzly's north face. Andrew and Brennan in the lead as we approach our goal:
Reaching the apron of the north face's steep chutes, we put our skis on our backpacks and starting hiking up.
Brennan in the lead:
Despite the previous night's significant freeze, we were very surprised to find a very light freeze as we booted farther up the face. Even more surprising was the very wintery snow we found on the due north aspects. Startled and concerned by this discovery, Alex and I stopped to dig a pit, finding 2.5 feet of snow that had no evidence of water penetration. Despite this, our tests results showed that it was very stable. Knowing that aspects facing even slightly east were quickly becoming unstable, we realized we had time for just one north facing line. A short push brought us to the top of the chute, and a couple hundred vertical feet from the summit.
I have to admit, I have been feeling really weak the last four weeks, I don't know what it is, but every time I'm out I struggle. As I had recently been to the summit of Grizzly, I decided to wait at the top of our line as Alex and Brennan ran to the summit and quickly returned. Alex cranking turns back down to us.
Still great views even without summiting, can't complain!
Once Alex returned from the summit, we dropped into the line proper. Brennan dropped first, making smooth and symmetrical turns in the upper hanging snowfield.
Turns like his are the kind that make me want to snowboard!
Alex dropped next, I haven't skied with Alex much, and I was blown away by his extremely powerful and athletic ability on tele skis: strength I have seen in only a couple other telemark athletes.
Andrew followed, selecting his own unique fin high above the valley floor.
I was last to drop. This is probably the last winter-like snow we'll ski this year. Making turns in the steep hanging snow field above the large wall of cliffs was both fun and exhilarating.
Photo: Brennan Metzler
Photo: Brennan Metzler
I briefly met up with the group before taking the lead heading towards the choke. From below it doesn't look that intimidating, but standing above it, I needed a moment to collect myself: dropping bllindly into a 3 foot wide winding choke down a 45 foot face degree face was a bit intimidating.
Once I was collected, I waited a moment for the light to improve before pointing my skis into the wiggle. Before I knew it, I was out the far side arcing big turns down the apron. Brennan followed:
Watching Brennan arc powerful turns down the apron was incredibly fun, I've loved watching him become an elite snowboarder over the last two years.
Alex came next, I think he he made two turns down the lower half of the line. Like I said before, Alex is an athlete and watching him ski is a privilege.
Alex was stoked about it too!
Andrew was last to go. This was his third day on skis since his bad concussion. After giving it some serious thought he made the wise decision to downclimb rather than risk a high speed fall near the large rock walls.
After a quick break to look back up at our line we headed out together.
This day may not have been everything we hoped for, but it leaves more lines for next year. I can't wait to get back up there with a deeper snowpack and check off the rest of the lines on the face!