Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Santa Ski Tour - 12.23.2015

At the headwaters of Lyon Creek there are a series of lines with a Christmas theme: Fat Santa, Skinny Santa, and Bad Santa. They are all different, but they have two things in common: 1) They are a pain in the ass to get to. 2) They are awesome.

By sunrise we were past Pastoral, quite cold, and very ready to drop into Skinny Santa. Photo: Andy Milauskas

Bad Santa and Fat Santa are guarded by an exposed and rime covered ridge. It looks like this:

Photo: Josh Wulff

To avoid that ridge, you can start by skiing Skinny Santa.

Andy on the first turns of the first run.

But, Skinny Santa is guarded by a down-climb from that exposed ridge. Said down-climb is over 1,500 vertical feet of tight chute, rocks, and cliffs.
Done with the down-climb. Photo: Andy Milauskas

The entrance quickly woke us up, as, one by one, we slipped over the overhung edge, felt our feet hang into space, and dropped into the snow below.

It was a nice way to start the day. 

Photo: Andy Milauskas

Josh working it above the choke.

The line was great: tight, sloughy, and long.

Photo: Josh Wulff

At the bottom we regrouped, tried to warm up, and followed Andy as he led a wonderfully fast march to Bad Santa. On Bad Santa, concerned about a wind slab, I went first to cut the slope. With no signs of instability, I dropped into turn after turn of alpine blower. Josh:

Photo: Andy Milauskas

Different photographer, same Josh:


So ridiculously deep.

Two very happy friends. Possibly also cold:

Below us the slope aspect changed from S to SE. The change instantly brought signs of instability. So, we stopped skiing, turned around, and skinned towards Fat Santa.

Fittingly, Fat Santa was! As they dropped, I watched everyone disappear into a powder cloud of their own making.

At the bottom of Fat Santa, it was time to retrace our steps. Throwing skis on our backs, we started walking.

Trading off the lead, the climb went quickly. The top was especially fun; to get us through it, Josh somehow managed to stick his foot into the snow next to his ear.

Josh and Mary developing a new and patent pending whippet-belay technique.

At the sunny loft above we ate chocolate, laughed about three deep lines, and tried to warm up. Refueled, it was time for a party ski down Pastoral Glacier. Some of us turned, some of us tucked, all of us laughed.

Back at Taylor Pass, it would have been a waste to not head up for one more run. On the top of Sunburst, we ate more of Mary's chocolate and watched the sunset.

Then, in the perfect soft pink light we skied our last run of the day.

Another day begun and finished under the stars.

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