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Participants: Nick Pappagiorgio (TGR Maggot) Kingpine Luca_Brasi Killclimbz Cody (the dog...)
Luca_Brasi had sent me a message about getting out on Vail Pass yesterday for which I had already been kind of planning on doing. Snow totals were looking huge and over 2 feet of snow ended up falling on the pass. Kingpine had plans to meet up with Luca and Nick Pappagiorgio joined the game late. Blue bird conditions were in order and everything was coming together perfectly. Well we couldn't have been more wrong.
Everything started out innocent enough.
Kingpine, Nick, and Luca closest to furthest away on the skin in.
Once we left the main trail to get to Black Lakes it got a lot harder to move through. There was 3-4 feet of snow drifted in back there. Slow painful going. Whoever broke trail did it at a snails pace. We finally got on our target ridge and dug out a pit and did a rutschblock.
We got a three. A red flag. Nick looking at one of the chunks that broke loose.
This was more of a wide open slope we did the test on. Just to skiers left the terrain is a lot more broken by trees and cliffs. Generally stuff can run, but with the flat bench down below it sluffs more than it becomes and avalanche. We went over there and could still see a lot of wind loading. So Luca_Brasi did a slope cut and broke loose the entire slab of new snow. A classic soft slab avalanche. Maybe 50 ft wide? Kingpine kicked loose a small slab riding through the path too. Stuff was tender. NickyP on top of the main fracture.
A closer look.
With the tension released NickyP went for a rock drop.
and got stuck in his own bomb hole.
A little doggie stoke. Cody doing his best imitation of a snow shark.
The flat section was a bitch to get across on skis much less a snowboard. The snow was near waste deep. We got to the next steep ridge and remotely triggered some snow to release. Not big, but it just went to show how reactive stuff was. The best turns of the day were off of this below treeline ridge though. NickyP
Right into another hole at the end.
Visiting the whiteroom.
and Kingpine mashing a mushroom.
And creating yet another bombhole. Pretty much every drop would get you one of these with 4ft of fresh on the ground.
The skin back up to the ridge was horrible. Knee to waste deep. No one could break trail for more than 50 yards. Challenging to say the least. Shooting cracks were seen. We went to check out a spine that looked to be a safer line. As I peered over the ridge I remotely triggered another slide from about 30 ft away. I didn't see the fracture, but saw the debris pile up below. There was a long shooting crack going over to the slide zone from my position. That was enough for us. It was 3:30 and we didn't need to take our chances anymore.
So we decided to skin out to ridge and take the tree run out to Black Lakes then skin out the Forest Service road. A 10 minute ride down to the lakes in over 30 degree trees. Well with 3-4ft of snow you couldn't move as it turned out. It took us around 3 hours to get to the bottom and then over 30 minutes to skin (breaking trail half the way) to the parking lot. We got back to the car after 7pm. At least the moon was out making for decent light. To top that off the A-hole plow guy, decided plow in Luca's truck big time. Another 15-20 minutes was spent digging his truck out. We were all exhausted.
It was great getting out with fellow sb.comer's and we need to do it again. Well at least without the high avalanche danger, snow you can't ride, and breaking trail up to your waste conditions. Other than that I had a blast...
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 9:57 am Posts: 34 Location: Denver
Here are a couple more pics. Rough day to say the least, but we definitely got our aerobic workout on! luca_brasi and Nick Pappagiorgio on the hike up, so optimistic...
Killclimbz scoping out the terrain.
Killclimbz with his first turns of the day. Cody approves.
So all and all it was a pretty rough one, but on the bright side we put in some pretty comprehensive skin tracks so taking laps in the near future should be a lot easier. Unless of course we get another 2ish feet of snow, in which case I'll be at Berthoud.
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 9:57 am Posts: 34 Location: Denver
I'm not used to being out with that much instability.
I was definitely a little sketched out at first, but there were some developments that turned my yellow light green:
1. We dug a rutsch block and while the first powder layer failed pretty quickly, the consolidated layer below held up to about a 6 or 7. 2. The powder layer was super fluffy, so even a high volume slide would be easily manageable. 3. The slopes we rode had benches immediately below the steeps, so the safe zones were easily accessible. 4. When it came to luca_brasi dropping in the first time we predicted a failure would be likely and he was prepared for it when it happened. When it broke loose he went parallel to the slope, let it slide and was good to go.
We also passed up some runs they we didn't think were wise to take, whether it was because of terrain traps, steepness or lack of safe zones.
Sooooo, long story short, crown looks a little sketchy but we did our homework, predicted the failures and lived to tell the tale!!
fuck yeah spicoli, we'll get out. I was hoping to make some turns with ya this week, but I am going to cancel my flight to Seattle and re book for March hoping for better conditions. Give us some dates as to when you are coming out.
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:19 am Posts: 543 Location: Capitol Hill, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
thanks for the stoke. I have to say though, seems extremely risky for my blood. Maybe I'm just a pussy maritimer though. I'm not used to being out with that much instability.
No doubt, it was sketchy as hell, but like Killclimz said, we played by the rules the whole way.
That was the first slide I've experienced like that. It was a surreal feeling. First I heard the "crack", then I saw the crown fracture. A split second later, the entire surface went from a solid white mass into a jigsaw puzzle (like dozens of cracks appeared from nothing) and then it all fell away. Next thing I know, my board was scraping rocks and I pulled it hard on my toe edge toward a safety zone. Wild stuff!
_________________ Riding a '06 Voile Split Decision Freeride 173, '07 Salomon Malamutes, Spark Ignition I bindings.
I would have been willing to try a Spearhead. My Summit is definitely a pow specific board, but it just sucked in these conditions. I also had my stance fairly forward. I have now moved it back a bit to get the nose to ride up a bit more. I really doubt that would have done it. I don't think the Spearhead would have pulled it off, I would be willing to give it a college try. It couldn't have been any worse than what we experienced.