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 Post subject: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:24 pm 
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Location: Auburn, CA
So this trip report actually starts on Memorial Day, the first time I laid eyes on Leavitt Peak's Y-Couloir.

Tim and I both had the day off so we got up at 4 am drove out to Sonora Pass to have a look around. We skinned from the car and made it to the top of the unnamed peak just West of the pass. We had bigger ambitions, but it was getting wet and sloppy real quick out there so we hit a short fun little chute back towards the pass. The line we rode splits that peak in the background.

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While up there I got my first look at one of those bigger ambitions, namely the Y-Couloir
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And, well, it was looking good.

I had a Shasta Trip planned for later in the week (hit me up if you need beta on Hotlum Wintun (although the June storm may have changed things for the better) so I couldn't get back until the the 7th, a week and a half later. And I was really excited, a lack of snow, followed by a lack of fitness had severely limited the number of "big mountain" lines I had the pleasure to ride.

Needless to say when the day arrived I was pretty amped.

I had my legs back under me (Shasta helped with that) and the Y still looked good from the now dry approach up the Deadman Creek drainage.
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We hit snow and I put in a bootpack up the snowfield to Leavitt's summit ridge.
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Yep, he ran back and forth between us the whole time. I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by how badly dogs put us bipeds to shame in the traveling travelling department.

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Make fun of that hat all you want, after nuking my ears and neck on Shasta I won't head out without it in the spring again.

We made reasonably good time and hit the summit on schedule around 12:00. Tim took the summit pics so I don't have them here. Perhaps I'll add them when he gets them up on the net.

After a quick lunch we scoped the entrance of the Couloir. A few rocks and snow chunks thrown onto the entrance showed that the snow was really soft. A small system had dropped a few inches of snow on the area few days ago and it was pretty well preserved in a 11,600' NE facing couloir. Unfortunately, eager anticipation quickly turned to apprehension as the small pinwheel gained size eventually triggering a small point release avalanche that ran, slowly the for the length of the couloir.

So Tim and I had a chat about what to do next.

We knew, based on the weather, ice axe and pole probes, as well as the sudden loading from the small point release avalanche, that the base was bomber: consolidated spring corn. The only avalanche hazard we had to deal with was the 2-4 inches of new snow that hadn't bonded properly to the older spring snow. It probably wasn't enough to bury someone, but definitely enough to knock you off your feet.

The other issue was a possible slide for life. The entrance to the Y-Couloir is steep, 50 deg or so, followed by 45 deg pitch for the next several hundred feet, and then a much mellower 35 or so deg for the remainder.

Like most POV pics and footage it doesn't do the pitch justice, but this capture from my GoPro gives you some idea what it looked like from the top.

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Of particular importance to our final decision was that there was no exposure to cliffs, and although there were a few exposed rocks here and there, there was nothing in the fall line that was particularly frightening. Most importantly, there was nothing at all of consequence until after the slope mellows out to the point we were both confident we could self arrest if we needed to. Still slightly intimidating though.

After 5-10 minutes deliberation (including making absolutely sure we were the only party on the mountain), we decided that I would ski cut the slope (since I'm goofy) on my toeside edge in attempt to trigger the poorly bonded new snow and then we would ride the bed surface down. We figured even if it was quite firm a slip would not be the end of the world. And we definitely discussed riding another, mellower, line but determined that we could manage the aforementioned risks.

Here's a quick vid of the drop in and first few turns.



As you saw, dropping in, cutting the slope, and letting the sluff run went well. Attempting to ride the 50 deg bed surface didn't go so hot. I came onto my heelside edge on the bed surface with too much speed and lost the edge for a few hundred feet till I could get my feet back under me. As it happened, I wasn't particularly scared (due to the general lack of exposure and the mellowing slope angle) but pretty frustrated that I goofed like that. When I watch the video it seems totally obvious that I came into that turn way to hot for the conditions--it should have been a jump turn. At least the only injury was to my ego...good to learn that lesson where the consequences are relatively low I guess?

Anyway, Tim lost an edge up top as well and ended up resignedly sliding a bit further down couloir than I did.
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My dog handled the drop in better than either of us:
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I won't call it redemption, but we both made some much more controlled turns for the rest of the couloir. You'll have to take my word for it on my part since I'm not gonna post the water logged POV footage (I forgot to wipe the lens after my little slide), but I have photo evidence of Tim.

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Definitely no style points, but we had a blast, got to use our ice axes, and learned a little bit about riding steeps in the process. For example, a "barely edgeable" bed surface requires much lower speed turns at 50 deg (duh).

Looking back up at our line.
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There were few moments, both before and after riding, where I thought we shouldn't have ridden that line on that day, but honestly I now feel pretty good about our decision-making. From my current perspective, we identified the hazards, came up with a plan to manage them, and stuck to that plan. Although neither of us managed to ride the bed surface properly, we correctly predicted, based on objective data, that a lost edge would not be consequential.

Any other thoughts out there re: decision-making? Also, any pointers on proper steeps technique gladly taken.


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:54 pm 
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Location: Oregon
silver wrote:
My dog handled the drop in better than either of us:

^^^This made me laugh!

Nice trip report - the scenery looks awesome in there. Sounds like your choice to drop in the couloir given the new snow was thought out and cautious. I would likely have done the same.

Regarding the steep heelside slide, I'm not in a great position for advice on that one......I seem to get myself in similar situations occasionally and it's rather irritating. There's a thread on here from a year or two back which talks to the issue and has a lot of good pointers. For me, keeping my weight centered over my board while leaning away from the hill is key. Leaning back towards the hill causes the edge underneath you to not be perpendicular to the slope. The result is it gives out and you fall to your ass. Another thing that really helps is bending at the knees and squatting down low (don't bend at the waist though). "Broomstick up the ass" is what I remember Jbaysurfer talking about on advice he got from Jim Zellers on the subject.

Along with all the advice I've read and practiced, I'm still much more comfortable toeside and try to limit the amount of time I'm on my heelside as much as I can, and usually approach heelside with low speed and/or from a jump turn. Conditions really play a role too. Spring corn is much easier to edge in than ice, or snow like you encountered (a few inches of fresh over a hard crust). In corn you can feel like a rockstar ripping from edge to edge, while in ice it's a different story......

I'd be interested to hear more about your Shasta trip......I've always wanted to do the Hotlun Winun route. I imagine it'll be good down there for awhile yet......

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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:39 pm 
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Location: mountains of portland, oregon
if you dont pay attention to your forward lean adjusters on your bindings start doing that. the spark ones go back way far to accomadate a longer touring stride.

my days of halfpipe ridin taught me that that is the most important peice for heelside control.

leavitt is a great area! shred potential to the max. i almost had my sleeping bag fly into leavitt lake on a windy night once. i dont know if the dardenelles resort is still down the road there but those people were some serious trail angels!

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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:53 pm 
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That slide was intense! One thing I learned making steep heel side turns (I'm still learning) is bringing your rear arm across your body (and opening your lead shoulder) helps keep you centered and your brings your body away from the slope and over your edge more. I remember watching bcd in person do this (bcrider too) and it was an "ah ha" moment in my riding. This technique is more suited for firmer snow I've found. And always stay low! You NEED forward lean too. If you don't use it you end up standing up too much in your heel side turns and you look all stiff and goofy too.


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:16 pm 
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Heelside can be fun. I played reciever and runningback in college and learned that through weight training (specifically doing cleans and plyometrics) are the best thing for your core strength and balance. They teach your body how to explode under load, (50degree+ steeps) and maintain proper balance through your entire person. Imagine the broomstick straight up your ass, and your hip flexors pulling your lower body up into a ball. This will initiate your abs, obliques and lower back to stabilize your body under load, teach your body balance during high stress circumstances and prepare you for further explosion.

Killer Line and footy tho. It's always good to make a mistake because your mind will teach your body other methods in the future.

As for the quadrupeds, they were definitely born to climb run and kick our ass anywhere we go. My dog Gnarly is the same way on climbs, but freaks out with vertigo on steep descents.

Id love to get out with you guys sometime. The Hotlum-Wintun is pretty much my fave run ever. :rock:


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 1:01 am 
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Posts: 62
get up earlier and you wont have wet slide issues.......usually.

thanx for the pics


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:31 am 
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Location: Auburn, CA
gimpy wrote:
get up earlier and you wont have wet slide issues.......usually.

thanx for the pics


Generally good advice for sure. Still, the bonds between the new snow and the corn below were super weak. I wonder if it would have helped enough in this particular instance, say if we were dropping at 10am instead of 12:15...

And thanks for all the advice on steep heelside turns. Tim put up some pictures and looking at them and hearing the advice I definitely have some things to work on.
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To me it seems like my legs are prolly bent enough, but I need to push my knees forward over that edge, straighten my back, and bring my rear shoulder forward across my body. Am I getting that right? Anyone want to put on a little clinic on Shasta in few weeks?

Anyway, here are a few more shots of the day from Tim who is obviously a much better photographer than I am.

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Still pretty steep, but toeside is so much more comfortable...

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And stoked on the day
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Oh, and hoglord, I'd love to make that happen next year.


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:56 am 
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Sweet Pics again. I'm game for Shasta, and for next year. PM me if you want. Lets get that Vert.


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:41 pm 
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Location: June lk, CA
Go back for a rebate!

Most everybody that rides the backcountry and steep terrain beyond a casual basis has had a few 'incidents', although that was pretty epic. I doubt that'll ever happen to you again. That's how you learn, right?

Ride a bunch of short really steep stuff that's low consequence in crappy snow and you'll develop some muscle memory.

It looked like you might have been on a khyber? A great board but all the taper and the small sidecut make it a little squirelly on the steep and firm.

Also, if it's safe, don't cut the whole slope. Leave some snow to ride :).

The high sierra has gotta be the slide for life capitol of NA :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:40 pm 
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Location: Auburn, CA
hoglord wrote:
It looked like you might have been on a khyber? A great board but all the taper and the small sidecut make it a little squirelly on the steep and firm.


Good eye. And yes, I've noticed it's not ideal in the firm but didn't want to be that guy who blames his fuck ups on the board. Cause really, it's not about the board in the sense that there are any number of folks on this forum who could have ridden it just fine on a Khyber.

Anyway, a big mountain split is in my future season or next. I'm tempted by lots of boards but I'll probably go with a Prior Backcountry 164 as I've been really pleased with the durability and ride quality of the Khyber (at least in the conditions it was intended for).


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:50 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:11 pm
Posts: 77
Location: Venice, CA
I own a 170 Khyber. Love that board. And I'm sure there are plenty
of people on this board that can ride the Khyber in any conditions with style! But I learned
my lesson in February trying to ride bullet proof ice off St Helen's. The board was flexing and rattling so bad that the end clips came un done. I also took a long slide to my friends
amusement.

As for muscle memory...I was riding South Sister yesterday and I noticed
my riding stance has changed riding the steeps. I had a little trouble earlier in the
Volcano season holding down steep heelside turns.


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 Post subject: Re: Leavitt Peak Y-Couloir
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:04 pm 
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Isaac, great TR man! Wish I could have made it up there with you guys....I am starting to think the "Y" has it out from me, last year when me and Tim set out for it I ended up with the stomach flu at the trail head. Anyways, great write up and sweet pictures.


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