(Last Updated On: November 29, 2007)
Previously posted on my Thrillhead Blog
Sometimes you find yourself in situations that you wonder later on, “What was I thinking?” That pretty much sums up Sunday for me.
Colorado’s snowpack has suddenly taken a turn for the worst. Cold temperatures from last week seemed to have quickly caused the formation of those lovely depth hoar crystals. Yikes! Frank and I discovered this in a harsh way during our adventure this weekend.
In search of better snow than Jones Pass had to provide, we tried heading up to Torrey’s. Higher up = better snow, right? It was sad that we were able to drive all the way up to the summer trailhead when it is nearly December.
Here is a picture of Frank at the trailhead, showing lovely lines on Kelso behind.
Despite these tempting lines, we decided to head up the trail and check out Torrey’s. We knew we could easily access the ridge to Kelso if we decided Torrey’s was not good. But when we rounded the corner we saw this:
The Dead Dog couloir was in, along with some other couloirs that didn’t go from the summit. So, onward we went.
A guy stopped me on the way up and asked, “So, um, where are you going to ski?” I laughed and pointed ahead. “That!” He replied, “It doesn’t look like much snow!” “Yeah, there’s not much snow anywhere right now!
We climbed higher and higher, and found ourselves at the top of Torrey’s. Another fourteener climb in lovely November!
Frank had visions of us skiing the Dead Dog. But we talked about it. I was a bit sketched by encountering really variable and unfriendly snow conditions in a pretty serious line, so we backed out of it. We decided to go for a couloir to the lookers left of the summit, as you can see in the picture above.
We walked down to the couloir from the summit because there was not enough snow to ski down to it. Now, there is a reason why I have no ski pictures below.
Originally we were a bit worried about the entrance to the couloir being wind-loaded. That was a concern, but we figured once we got past it, we’d be fine. Frank dropped in and tried to trigger the wind-loaded area, with a bit of success. He sent a piece that was about 5’x5’x1′. But as he continued down, he realized the snow was rotten. All rotten. Depth hoar to the max.
He spent nearly an hour trying to work his way back up and out of the couloir. We walked the rest of the way down the mountain, too scared of any existing snow.
It was a long day for 100 feet of skiing. It was a humbling reminder that even a “common” fourteener can catch you off guard. I found myself once again reminded about the majesty of these mountains and to always respect the snow.