Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:19 am Posts: 544 Location: Capitol Hill, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Mikey-Oh had been bugging me since the day I got that second splitboard. "Dude, what are you gonna do with that? Do you want to sell it?"
"Relax bro, why don't you ride it first" was my usual reply.
Finally, we made plans to meet up, along with Briguy for a backcountry trip. I had been entertaining friends and family in Aspen for last two weeks, and while I gotten in some killer piste-riding at those great mountains, I was itching to get back on the split and also out of the Valley for a while.
Briguy, being the asset-less vagabond that he is, managed to coax Mikey-Oh into driving him up the hill from D-Town. We agreed that the most logical halfway point between us would be Vail Pass.
I split both boards and applied the skins, and left the house at 6:30 AM. After weeks worth of prolonged snowstorms, I was happy to see a bright orange sun crest over the eastern horizon, as I motored through Glenwood Canyon and out onto the wide open spaces of the lower Eagle Valley. It was as if the whole countryside was awaking with a yawn, ready to start a beautiful Rocky Mountain day.
A dreamy pic of the smokestacks in Gyspum (guess what they're refining?) cranking to life as the bright morning sun peeks over the mountains.
I pulled into the parking lot around 8:30, roughly 1/2 hour late. There were already two dozen cars parked there, and over in the other lot I could see many large trailers being offloaded of their snowmachines. My partners were already there.
"Sup dawg?!" Mikey-Oh greeted me, "so this is it, eh?" He started frantically handling the Voile, pulling pins, lifting bindings, getting to know the new tool.
"How much do you want for it?" he asked.
"We'll talk...just put it on." I said as he laughed.
The Vail Pass Recreation area is an enormous space of public land not as close to the popular ski resort as one might think. It lies in National Forest land, but because of the multiple public improvements made to the trails and facilities, there is a mandatory $6 fee required per person. This fee, along with others, has become a hot debate within the political realms. Personally I find no problem with the fee, as in the end it benefits the land user (me & my friends).
Briguy figuring out what rules he was going to break today
The most direct entrance to the area is via Shrine Pass Road, a summer jeep trail. During the first few miles, the trail is designated as multi-use, which means the skiers and snowshoers share it with the snowmobiles. The air was warm and we skinned along the massive basin towards Shrine Pass, stopping often to "gape-out" at the snowmachines high-pointing below a massive cornice high above treeline. On a day of considerable avalanche danger, like today, I remarked at how crazy those guys were. However, we witnessed no slides the entire day, and after watching one sled take a flying leap over the edge of the cornice into the bowl, I began to get more confident in the snowpack.
I seriously watched a snowmobile take a huge leap off this cornice!
"You guys feel like touring for a while?" the AT skier asked the two splitboarders. We didn't have much of a choice, but I was excited to find the Holy Cross lookout hidden somewhere on Shrine Pass that I'across the flat meadowve only been to once in the summer.
Splitboard repair on top of Shrine Pass
We skinned to the top of Shrine Pass and headed up the trees. While we never found the lookout, we toured right through the Shrine Mountain Huts (Chuck's hut, etc.) and met some friendlies on their way out.
Finally, Briguy excalaimed "Well I've had enough of this shit, lets go make some turns"
We headed back towards the trailhead, but hung a hard left and hiked to the far high pointabove Black Lakes, and finally stopped to changeover into downhill gear.
From our vantage point, we couldn't see much down past the steep rollover 20 yards in front of us. It appeared to flatted out below, but the first 300 feet was an untouched 30 degree slope of pure powder. I got down quick and dug a pit in a safe area above the roller. We observed crystal-like surface hoar throughout the entire morning, and this slope was no different. Below the surface, there was moderate consolidation of about two feet of snow from the recent storm this past week. Below that was an extremely hard slab. We dug the pit down about 7 feet, and probed another 3 feet to the ground. I put on my skis and did a rutschblock test. From up high the snow did not move even when jumping. I stepped about two feet down towards the edge of the ruschblock, and did another test. The slab moved on the second jump, and slid on the third. Our analysis showed that the top two feet slid, but the lower hard slab stayed intact.
The slope we were about to ski was about 30 degrees, which made it a bit sketchy. However, we all agreed to a "GO" situation, and strapped on our boards.
Brian dropped over the roller first. I lost sight of him immediately, and didn't hear much. Then he let out a triumphant holler, and I saw him reappear out on the flat spot below. I dropped in behind him and carved about seven turns in the wide open slope before coming to a halt in the flat spot. The snow was not deep powder, and almost had a springtime corn feel to it. However the turns were of prime quality.
Briguy dropping in
The author, shredding it
Looking back up at our lines
Mike followed and we tried to make our way past the flats. It was evident that we were farther west of the Black Lakes, and we agreed to skin back up to the ridge and head back east, to make our final descent all the way down to the lakes.
Me & Mikey-Oh, skinning back up for round two.
Just wanted to prove to myself that I can still move downhill on two sticks
From our second high position, we again made less that ten turns on the steep slopes before hitting a flat. We rode down three of these "benches", before finally coming to rest on the wide open frozen lake. We were greeted again by the sound of two-strokes zipping across the snow, and put the skins on one last time for the final push towards the truck.
Briguy hitting this feature
Mikey-Oh airing it out!
Back at the trailhead, this guy realized that he left his lights on in the truck, which resulted in two drained batteries. No worries: Mikey-Oh, feeling especially cooler than he really is, made good use of his new winch as his little Toyota pulled out the heavy duty Ford amidst a gauntlet of parked cars, without incident.
I can't believe I'm being pulled out by an import
On the way home, I scoped out some seriously sick looking lines in East Vail.
East Vail. Looks like a lot of the movies I see filmed in Jackson Hole.
_________________ Riding a '06 Voile Split Decision Freeride 173, '07 Salomon Malamutes, Spark Ignition I bindings.