I have put in 3 days prior to last Sunday up at Glen Cove on the north flanks of Pikes Peak, and all of my perceptions were shattered. Over the past week and a half, I've tucked a few 14er and 13er descents under my belt, with almost complete solitude and a backcountry feel on each one. I had Sunday morning available for a short tour before needing to be at the colorado Springs airport at 1:00 PM to pick up my girlfiend. With the typical spring forecast for clear skiies, and the road opening at 9 AM, I left the Academy about 8. At this point, my goal was to climb and ride "Little Italy," a couloir with a little over 1,000 feet of vertical that lies on the western half of the Glen Cove cirque. It is a line that I've wanted since my two Pikes Peak BC days in April. Without consciously thinking about it, I suppose I was expecting more smooth north facing corn, few crowds, great weather, and a fun line ...
But that's not what I got in reality. With the road opening at 9 (I suspect it actually opened about 8:30), I assumed north facing snow would be in reasonable shape up to about 10-10:30, like I'd seen on Kelso the day before. After passing Crystal Resevoir and heading upwards towards the cirque, doubts begin to cross my mind. The first view revealed snow that didn't look very smooth, with lots of debris ... but not from wet activity. As it turns out, Glen Cove in spring reminds me of Berthoud or Loveland, with skiiers and boarders all over the place.
The first sign of trouble:
I parked at the first switchback above Glen Cove and was off, immediately seeing 3 skiiers working their way down the couloir and through the trees passed me as I skinned up to the corner. From there I started to boot up the already soft couloir, working my way up the east side that had less sun exposure. The climb was enjoyable, but I was less and less excited about the descent. I was booting up through a thorougly tracked couloir, and conditions were identical in the Bowl and the Garbage Chute. Strange I thought, of my previous days, I had the cirque almost to myself, even with the road open to the summit. Up until Sunday, the largest group I had seen was an alpine minded CMC class working on skills in the couloir aprons. Other than that, I had seen only a handful of skiiers, similar to the feel of my descents of the past week.
I continued booting, eventually getting lapped (I guess that's the correct term) by the first group of skiiers and their car shuttle. I was also passed by a couple with their dogs and a few random skiiers.
The crowds weren't exclusively human
While not a technical chute, Little Italy is still a steep pitch, and while I can't say for sure, it seemed like most that skied past probably had little backcountry knowhow. One couple passed with a woman who looked extremely uncomfortable skiing the line. And then I was passed by an entire family who seemed rather amused that I was climbing past them.
Am I at a ski area?
While the kids skied it fine, this seemed to be the mental turning point for me. I don't think I will ski Glen Cove again in May, especially on a weekend. I think it's great that that many people were out enjoying the weather and the snow, but at one point was a line of responsibility crossed? I don't pretend to know the answer, and I have nothing against car shuttling to ski/ride more ... but what if the slope had warmed and slid later in the day with a family or group of friends in the chute?
Despite my thoughts and the seemingly endless stream of skiiers, I did enjoy the climb, especially the top pitch where I booted up looker's left.
No people, only lot's of tracks ... with one going up.
After cresting the ridge by Devil's Playground, I traversed to the far skiier's left entrance and dropped in after letting a group of 3 ski through. The turns off of the top weren't bad, nothing stellar, but it just got worse. With the amount of skiiers, the chute was nowhere near corn, and instead almost had slush moguls forming, as the area appears to have been skiied entirely too late in the day too many times. The slush just got worse, so I cut left at the dogleg to make it back to the car easier.
I realize my tone is kind of negative, but it wasn't a bad day. I really enjoyed the day, and I'm glad to have reached my goal of skiing Little Italy. In the end, I think my discontent came from the differences between my expectations of the day and the reality of what I found. Like I said, I have never seen that many people at Glen Cove, so I was shocked at the crowds. Maybe I just wasn't educated enough, and now I know better for the future. I thought of Glen Cove as amazing access, even in winter, especially since it's so close to C Springs, and I was drawn in by nice lines and few crowds. Unfortunately, it turns out I was wrong as far as spring skiing in concerned.
Sorry for being wordy, I had never planned to TR this, but maybe I'm not the only one to feel this way or have experienced this ....
And a beta shot of the Y.
If you're still reading at this point, thanks for making it to the bottom.
_________________ - Kyle
"Oh man, that's like releasing a pack of wild baboons onto a keg of Icehouse next to a tied-up and gagged Lindsay Lohan." - Luca Brasi on TGR