Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Peeking Mountain Skiing - 5.6.2018

Updated 3.6.2019 to include another great day in Peters Creek. 

Sunday morning found us in Andrew's dark living room sipping coffee and negotiating ski plans for the day. I wanted to return to the dry powder we'd found in Falling Water the day before; Alex wanted something bigger and badder in the Front Range, and Andrew wanted a "moderate" day. A couple hours and one false start at the Basher Trailhead later, and we were changing from running shoes to ski boots at the entrance to Falling Water. Hidden by a curtain of falling snow is Eagle Peak - what a classy line:

We'd seen Seth's truck at the trailhead and ran to catch them. They too were headed for the X Couloir, so we joined forces and zipped up the booter together. Behind Seth and Kate are the Raina couloirs that we had skied on the previous day.

None of us were entirely sure how wind loaded the entrance would be, but protected under the rock buttress it seemed to have escaped the wind. Kate and Ben dropped first between the incised walls, quickly disappearing around the dogleg.

We've skied the skier's left side of the X a couple times over the years. It provides reasonable access for Rumble, but I was blown away by the pitch and atmosphere of the gash that makes up the skier's right side.

Its a rare thing to have so many people stacked in one big line like this. But, with so much soft snow and good stability it was fun to kick back and enjoy it together. Tucked away under the vertical rock I watched as Alex skied by Seth. There have been so many fun memories (and much oozing of stoke) with these two over the years.

At the intersection of the two lines, I leapfrogged past the crew and across the hanging bowl to the lower X. The skier's left entrance sneaks in from the other side of the rock massif.

Seth and Jesse opted for the wider lower chute while the rest of us went for the tighter line on the left. From our perch above, we watched Ben. The snow was firmer here - Ben described it as more typical couloir conditions.


Done with the run, we met back with Seth and Jessie in the afternoon light under the giant north face. We parted ways with Seth, Kate, Jesse and Ben as they headed home while we traversed east to the next big north coolie. The climb was a matter of wallowing up thousands of feet of deep new snow. As convective snow drifted lazily down around us, we wondered why why why we had yet again not packed our Verts. We also calculated how much faster it would have been if the other four were there to help break trail.  

Just short of the ridge, the line thinned into a streak of snow through the cliffs - wide enough to climb, but too thin to ski in its current condition. Alex climbed a little higher to make sure we weren't missing out on bonus gnar. In the process dumping several tons of slough into my backpack.

Andrew and I transitioned while Alex came skiing back to us with a big grin on his face. I think he likes bonus gnar.

Then it was time to ski! Alex dropped first into the steep upper pitch:

It was awesome: steep turns in soft snow with easy slough management. I'd almost forgotten how much good, clean fun steep skiing is when its not above cliffs.

The pitch remained above 45 degrees as were worked our way towards the hanging bowl in the middle of the line. I really enjoyed pulling off and watching the slough cascade off the rocks that along the line.

Alex above the flow lobes left behind by an extinct glacier. That moraine was littered with bear tracks when we skied across it last last spring.

Andrew above the lower fissure:

Skiing lower, the sun came out and lit up the walls of the amphitheater above Andrew:

Once to the apron we traversed hard left and were soon looking at our exit back up and out the X.

The climb was a grind, thank god Seth and Kate had already put in the booter - otherwise it would have been a dark night. I did my best to repeatedly bang my head on Alex's skis and tailgate him as he forced us to remain at a sustainable pace.

Andrew was all smiles as we popped out at the pass from Peters Creek to Falling Water. He was probably stoked that my negotiating to ski another half lap at 10 PM failed.

Across the way, sunlight had snuck past the snow squall to the north face of Raina.

Then it was just a matter of snaking down 5,000 vertical feet of ice, corn, mud, and bear tracks back to the car.

It was fun to finally ski the north line on Peking; the top was steep and its longer many of the lines in the area. With reasonable access from the top, it would combine nicely with Mount Pleasant for a full value day.

In early March 2019 we went back to link Pleasant's north coolie with the Peking King. Clouds and light snow rolled in and out as we followed the familiar route to the Ram Glacier and then up the south gully of Pleasant. Somewhere behind us Korohusk was lurking in the fog.

On the north face of Pleasant we found delicious settled pow. Rolling over the bulging ice brought the same giddy awe as last time.

The ice cave had grown substantially in the last three years; maybe by 20 vertical feet. Next time we'll have to crawl up into it and see what kind of ice monster is living there.

From the bottom of Pleasant we wrapped under Raina and towards the southeast face of Peking. Crossing the strange ridge that bisects the valley was a little tedious. It looks like a lower crossing would have allowed less exposure. Here's a picture of Alex for his mother:

Finding the correct ascent gully was easy - it was basically the only one without cliffs or waterfalls. Even in early March the solar face already had wet slide debris, this would be a scary place on a warm afternoon. At the ridge we peered into the depths of the King:

Then dropped into the tight line.

Protected by the huge walls, the snow was deep, sloughy, and fun. Garth:

This time we decided to give the lower hallway a go. Unfortunately, near the bottom of the tight lower chute was a large ice bulge followed by 30 feet of air. Without a rope the only option was to boot back up to the Y. Bonus vertical.

The snow in the other fork of the Y may have been the best of the day. Which meant that breaking trail back out the X was also the deepest of the day. It was hard not to ski a bonus lap in the X once the booter was set. At the ridge we broke thru the clouds to find beautiful Raina in the evening light.

Then, in the last light we dropped into thousands of feet of cream back towards Pizza Man.

No comments:

Post a Comment