Thursday, November 8, 2012

Old TR: Meadow Mountain Bowl - 5.12.2010

Meadow Mountain holds a special place in my heart, not only was it the first place that I went backcountry skiing, but it was also the first place I went snowcamping.  In May of 2010, 14 years after those first turns, Erik and I chased a huge upslope storm to Rocky Mountain National Park. We planned on touring near the old Hidden Valley ski area, but closed roads throughout the park pushed us south towards Allens Park and Meadow Mountain.

We headed for Meadow Mountain's east bowl, which we reached after mile of skinning up the valley floor.

At the base of the bowl, where the trees start to thin to a perfect width, we took a break to dig a quick snowpit; finding 18 inches of heavy spring snow on top of a ball bearing graupel layer. As the Meadow Mountain bowl isn't steep enough to slide, we continued.

However, I found this graupel layer to be very interesting, as the next day we skied Dragonstail Coulior just 15 miles north of Meadow Mountain. Low in Dragonstail, where the pitch is barely 35 degrees, a large slide released while we ascended the ridgeline above, when we dropped into the steep pitches of the upper couloir we experienced extreme sloughing, but no slab activity. I assume that the slide in the lower couloir slid on this graupel layer. If the graupel had been present in the upper couliour, a very large slab avalanche would have occurred.  I attribute this highly localized variability in snowpack stability to be due to the graupel actually bouncing down the steeper upper pitches and coming to rest on the lower angle, but still avalanche prone, pitches of Dragonstail. Another lesson in the extreme importance and challenge of local variability.
 

Other than the the graupel, Meadow Mountain was a pretty normal day out in the mountains. The skin up is mellow and the run down through well spaced trees is the kind of terrain any skier getting into the backcountry can enjoy. 
 








Looking north toward the true summit of Meadow Mountain:


the route:


Meadow Mountains's well spaced trees and proximity to the Front Range make it a good option for checking out the backcountry. Plus, with its unique location, offset far east of the divide, it does very well in upslope storms. Definitely worth checking out!