Sunday, March 9, 2014

Le Tour de Couloir

The massive East Face of Lone Peak. Yes, we skied it. 

By far the best week of skiing I've ever had. After tagging the 2 lines on Kessler Wednesday(previous post), I decided to see if I could tick off another line on my hit list Friday after work before our big day Saturday. With no partners materializing, I decided to go ski Scotties Bowl, not a major line but one I hadn't done. But upon arriving at White Pine and seeing 40 tracks down it, and the 4 star Little Pine beckoning across the street, it didn't take much to convince myself I should go tick that one solo.

I walked across the street and found Court's skin track from last week(he promptly ditched me despite my pleading not to) heading up and left toward the colouir. Old avy debris and soft sugar were the norm down low, and visibility gradually diminished to 100 yards. I had planned on about 2 hours of hiking before turning around due to darkness, and with the 6 o'clock hour fast approaching and not being able to see the top, I booted onwards knowing I had to reach the top or it wouldn't count. Luckily 5 minutes before 6pm I found myself with nowhere else to go except down into Lake Blanche. Sweet.

Lower Little Pine. Yes, it is good. 

Upper Little Pine with clouds rolling in and some old avi debris
Ridge photo proving I made it to the top
Enjoyed quality 6" of "dust on crust" turns at the top, and some mixed bag conditions down low. 2:20 ctc. So stoked to have ticked this one off finally. If there were a foot of pow in this thing I'm not sure I would ever leave.

The top choke. I'll give you one guess what I did here, and it didn't involve turning

I almost felt gyped since there wasn't any bushwacking on this adventure, but luckily the bushes at the road came through

If you can't find this line, you don't deserve to be skiing it

Saturday Court and I had big plans. Our motto was, "if you're going to ski up Bells Canyon, you'd better make it worth it." Aka, make yourself really tired by skiing a bunch since its kinda a slog.

Our agenda for the day was:
1. The Notch
2. NE couloir of Lone Peak
3. North couloir of Bells Cleaver

We started hiking up from the Granite TH at 7:15 with skis on our backs. The Bells trail was about as icy as the Sochi Boblsed course. We stashed our shoes across from Middle Bell and began skinning the slog up into Upper Bells. To be honest I think we had psyched ourselves out too much on how painful it would be, so the hike up to the actual lines wasn't bad. We stayed high right and managed just fine.

We kept saying, "its like magic", and it was. Bluebird, soft snow, and solitude

We spotted the obvious line known simply as "the Notch", which is the low point of the lone peak ridgeline that separates Bells from Big Willow. Steve and I used it on our failed 3 peak linkup last summer. I took my turn by skinning/booting the line up the Notch. It was fantastic skiing and we were hooting the whole way down.
The Notch with our ski tracks

I got first turns on this one, and here is Court loving 2nd tracks

Next up was the NE couloir. This one is just upcanyon from the Notch and is a very intimidating line. We found the bottom, and Court took his turn booting this one. We topped out just below the South Summit of Lone in about an hour and were pretty nervous to ski it as the line is dang steep. Nevertheless it was the highlight of my ski life. The position, quality of turns, steepness, and scenery made this a 10 star route in my book.

Our tracks out the bottom of the NE couloir

The line
Court following the booter

Wild Terrain on the East Face
First turns off the south summit
Look at Bighorn! Cool clouds/spindrift
Hop turn, hop turn, don't tumble. 
Short low coverage rocky section at the bottom

Soft apron 

We whooped and yelled our way down the soft apron to the bottom where we took a lunch break and admired our tracks on the amazing line.

We were getting tired by this point, but Court pushed us up the Bells Cleaver after I had a short meltdown when my skis kept popping off as I slid down the slushy west facing sidehills we were skinning up. Katy Perry calmed me down. We more or less summited the peak and looked down into our last couloir of the day. It looked as good as any of the other two. Court went first and we skied still more soft powder turns out onto the apron, convinced we were in heaven despite dehydration headaches, fatigue, and massive sunburns.

Bells Cleaver on the approach. Our line is the snowfield on the far left of the peak
Ridiculously cool couloir
Court can't believe he isn't dreaming
Our 3rd apron skiing of the day
Bout as good as it gets my friends

The ski out Bells was filled with soft pillows, great powder tree turns, and finally some crusty "save yourself" terrain back to our shoes. We slid down the bobsled with Court eating it quite hard once. We received many a confused blank stare hiking down Bells with our skis on, but only Court and I knew what miracles we had witnessed higher. 10 hours and 8k' of skiing done, we arrived back at LCC. Its no Hulk Hogum, but its good enough for us.

Court made the painstaking 2 minute drive back to his house and Panda express and some NCAA basketball rounded out the night for me. Failed to remember daylights savings time and made it to church an hour late looking like burnt fried chicken.

 Hope everyone who was busy running(Steve) or exploring crappy rock climbing areas(Jake) or taking some test to help children(Pete) or skiing a lame resort(Nick) or living in California(Nate) or anyone else I know felt good about not coming along cause you missed out! 

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