Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:19 am Posts: 543 Location: Capitol Hill, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Radiobeacon Mountain Front Range (IPW), Rocky Mountains June 2, 2007 Alpinists: luca_brasi, Old Style
Having just purchased Front Range Descents, I was looking for a line in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that was quickly accessible with little approach. Since Rollins Pass Road goes almost all the way to the Continental Divide in the Summer, i figured we would try to see how far we could get on Friday night, bivuoc by the car, and hike the rest of the way Saturday morning.
We left Denver at 9pm on Friday, and got a flat rear passenger tire before we even got on the highway. Since we were in my Subaru, I thought about going back to the house for the truck, but scratched that idea and figured we'd rock the donut all the way up the pass.
We were able to drive a whole 7 miles up the rocky and potholed pass until we came to a snowdrift. It didn't look too sinister, but there was already another truck parked there, so we figured we wouldn't try to cross the drift in the Subee and just parked it there and unloaded the sleeping bags.
We woke at 5 and were hiking by 530. Once we cross the snowdrift, we had another mile of perfectly dry road until the first switchback (identified as Parking #2 in the FRD book). From this turn we headed straight into the trees, trying to maintain an uphill route as well as a due western route. Finally, after bushwacking for over an hour, we reached the Forest Lakes trailhead, with the entire cirque in our view. Radiobeacon, while just barely over 12,000 feet, looked a lot larger and more "alpine", and I knew it would be a classic climb.
Our original intention was to climb the "northeast couloir" that starts just skier's left of the summit. However, the narrow east-facing couloir further down the ridge looked more asthetic and more fun.
Radiobeacon from Forest Lakes
From the bottom of the couloir, I could see a very large runnel down the middle of the whole thing. It looked scary, but avoidable. It was about 9AM when we started climbing the east-facing route, and I could tell we were at least an hour late. With ice axes in hand, we kicked all the way up the couloir. The snow was almost knee deep in some places. Every now and then something above (??) caused a wet slide that fed into the runnel, and we would stop in a safe place and watch the heavy slush run down the mountain like concrete down a truck chute. It was intimidating! Nevertheless, we continued the climb as the snow got worse and worse, and finally breathed a sigh of relief when we were able to sit on the grassy ridge on top.
Looking up the couloir before the climb
Climbing the couloir. The runnel snakes down, just left of Old Style's fat ass
Near the middle of the climb, you can start to sense the dangerous snow conditions just by looking at it
View from the top of the couloir. The two wide chutes across the valley became our ski run
This was one of those occasions when the "climb it first" rule worked out in our favor. It wasn't tought to make the decision NOT to ski the couloir. We instead headed south to the summit. From the summit, we spotted two wide North-facing couloirs, and headed for them. We were able to ski directly off the summit down the east ridge, and then dropped into the couloirs, carving some sick turns in the stable snow, back down to the bottom of the cirque.
Gaper on the summit
View of James Peak and the Starlight Couloir. This was my first ever big couloir, way back in March.
Old Style skiing the broad east ridge
Luca Brasi carving up the chutes.
From the time we reached the summit, until the end of our run, we spotted 3 other Glisse Alpinists inspecting the couloir that we climbed. One of them climbed down into the start, then back up again. I sat on the rocks and watched them. Since they didn't climb the couloir like we did, they probably didn't have very much information about the conditions other than what they could see from the top. (The runnel was not visible from the top)
Finally, the first telemark skier dropped in. He made some hard kick turns, and I could tell he was not enjoying the wet slush in the couloir. However, he eventually made it down, and made some stylish knee-drops near the bottom, wider section of the couloir.
Next came the snowboarder, and after watching him, I was sure damn glad that I did not try to ride my snowboard down the thing. He made a couple of jump turns but then started to slide. I jumped up from my seat to look closer, and I gasped when i realized he was sliding into the runnel! The slush continued to pile up around him, and for a split second I thought we'd have climb up there to assist in a rescue, but he came out at the bottom of the runnel unscarred.
As I watched the other tele skier come down the couloir, the snowboarder rode over to me.
"Luca Brasi!" he said, to my total shock. The boarder turned out to be none other than Iridepow, who recognized my trademark orange board and pants.
After talking with him and his crew about their ride, I was convinced that we'd made the right decision by riding a different line. However, after seeing that the narrow couloir was able to be skied, I've got it marked for a future attempt sometime soon (preferably with a cold freeze overnight!)
The first tele skier at the bottom and Iridepow at the top
Our ascent and descent lines
_________________ Riding a '06 Voile Split Decision Freeride 173, '07 Salomon Malamutes, Spark Ignition I bindings.
Oh, oh....... my tobogganing down a 55 degree steep runnel published on the internet.
I probably have to explain a few things here.
Definitely the steepest line I rode so far in my life.
The couloir is a sustained 55 degrees with a rollover on top of 60+ degrees.
In some places at the top, the couloir was probably only one and a half board width wide.
Needless to say it's a pretty tough line to ride in a snowboard.
Dave (the first tele skier) has done it before in 1997. Back then it had less snow in it.
He said that was one of the hairiest lines he skied in his life.
So we knew it was going to be a tough one.
Standing on top we actually felt pretty good about the snow conditions. The boot pack we saw from Luca and his partner indicated that the snow was soft. So we did not have to worry about wiping out on some icy spots.
I recall encountering soft snow to a maximum depth of 5 inches in the couloir.
Not sure where you encountered knee-deep slush Luca?
Anywayâ€¦.. it probably would have been better to ride this line an hour earlier. But unfortunately we were running slightly late due to the early road block. But we deemed it still safe.
After sliding sideways into the top part I could do several good jump turns. Wet sluff was sliding, but I was able to easily avoid it with pulling to the side.
I am not exactly sure what happen, but probably I got a little too confident after the top half and started linking many turns together instead of stopping on the side to let the sluff run by. So suddenly there was lots of sluff moving around me and it wiped me out from behind. I got swept into the runnel and it was game over.
I managed to stay somewhat in control with my board below me, but I was going pretty fast. Two times I could almost get out of the runnel, but got pushed back again.
So I enjoyed a nice slide down a 55 degree chute on my butt.
I am still mad at myself that I messed it up.
But I might just have to go back there and try it again to ride it properly.
I do not think there was any big risk of being buried by snow. There was a large run out zone and there was â€œonlyâ€