Sunday, April 15, 2012

RMNP Ski Tour March Day 3

Today we had plans to ski a number of couloirs, first Dragon's Tail, then Dragon's Tooth, then Corral then Hour Glass. We got up relatively leisurely figuring to give the day some time to warm the snow before we got into it. This worked fine, especially given it was a cloudy day to start.
We had to hike along the divide for about an hour to get to Flat Top Mountain and then down a bit to get to the top of Dragon's Tail. I'd read up about this quite a bit, but it was still a bit difficult to find from the top.
Sign for Chaos Canyon
Kate standing above Chaos Canyon
The top of what I took to be Dragon's Tail looked too thin, so we went down the couloir to the west, Dragon's Tooth. We got a few hundred feet down when we were looking at bare rock for awhile, so we turned around and booted back up.
At the top of Dragon's Tooth
Booting back up
We headed back to Corral Couloir. When we got there we found two snowboarders hanging out, waiting for it to get warm. I tested the snow and figured it was already warm enough, so we hiked up to the steep part of the slope and dropped it.
In Corral Couloir

It was lots of fun, easy conditions and aesthetic. While the top was just a little firm, but still easy turns, the middle was perfect and the bottom was slushy. We got to the bottom, had a short scramble to the next patch of snow and skied down to the glacier for lunch.
Time to take the skis off and scramble a bit
After lunch we skinned up Tyndall glacier. Someone had set a very steep skin track up the glacier, likely in the morning with ski crampons. It was pretty slushy by now and it was hard to get the kick turns safely.

We made it to the top and decided to go check out the lines near Ptarmigan Point that face north. I had found information that led me to believe that Hour Glass Couloir was between the Ptarmigan Headwall and Ptarmigan Fingers. Hour Glass looked very mellow and fun in the pictures I'd seen and figured it be a good end to the day.
Kate very happy to find a small puddle of water
We hiked over to where I expected Hour Glass to be and found a hiker familiar with the area. He told me Hour Glass was one drainage to the north.
Where I expected to find Hour Glass
We looked at the headwall, but there was a large cornice and the skiing didn't look fun, just sketchy hard snow. We looked at some of the couloirs down the ridge and found one that looked promising.
After looking at it from as many angles as we could find and discussing it for awhile, we decided that I would go first, ski 20 feet and if the snow was crap, I'd just boot back and call it a day.
Kate pondering very hard
View from the top, looks like it will go

At the top we got ready, strapping our axes to a ski pole to help with self arrest if we lost control, putting harnesses on and making sure that crampons and other technical gear were in easy reach. As it was the snow was firm but not too bad and so Kate followed. We were careful and took turns descending slowly.


I was in the lead and definitely not doing pretty turns, lots of side slipping and very careful turns. The choke was narrower than my skis, but to point it was more committing than I was comfortable with, so I had to side slip/push my skis past the rock walls. I got down past it and took pictures of Kate coming through, then she led for a bit.


Soon we got to a rock step that we hadn't seen from above, but it was pretty much where our vision had run out. We discussed turning around here and just booting back up, we'd had a good ski already. Kate decided to downclimb and try to keep skiing. After handing down the skis and poles I followed and Kate skied down to get a view of the bottom of the couloir, she called back, "it goes!"

With Kate leading I was more comfortable to make real turns and then pretty soon it was softer and a bit easier angle, and then 150 feet of corn turns to the bottom.



We decided to boot back up instead of trying to skin up the glacier.


It was time and energy consuming and we got to the top with an hour and a half before sunset. We ate a bit and drank the last of our water and started the trudge back to camp. I was still on an endorphin/adrenaline high for the first bit, but soon I started dragging hard.

We got back to camp and I was thoroughly spent, unable to produce warmth, I got into the sleeping bags and just felt nauseous. We didn't have much water and needed to make dinner, but the thought of dinner made me even more nauseous, so I figured some soup would spark my appetite. I heated water for soup, but when I took one sip I was overcome with the need to vomit. I dry heaved out the door of the tent and then crawled back into the sleeping bag. I was unable to help collect snow for water or even to do basic prep for dinner, and eventually, after puking up more we decided to skip dinner and just go to sleep.