Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fools of April

In this game of snow riding, timing is everything, and lately, my timing has been off. There have been a plethora of nice days punctuated with good snow falls in between the past two weeks, but I have been unable to hit any of them right.

I’m exempt from riding a five-wheeled chariot of speed over a 5-square-foot plastic mat 2-3 days a week, depending on my schedule, and if I play my cards right, I can work stormy weekend days and ski sunny weekdays, but it takes coordination, planning, and a little faith in the weather service for that to happen.

The last few outings have been character builders, and indicators that the mountains are undergoing transition.
Kyle and Rachel.

Storm tree.

An old obsession.

A newer obsession.
Slides poured down the NeCo gullies in the midst of a storm two weeks ago, leaving their guts and run outs littered in chunky debris. A hard wind slab formed during said storm made it hard not to feel the base on every turn, and has made for a poor bonding layer now buried 2-3 feet deep. The reliable storm skiing aspect of my winter of 2013 finally let me down, though I enjoyed a nice day of turns in the company of Kyle and Rachel, as well as Jack and a crew of his, for a bit, all of whom let me hitch on for a few laps. Another storm moved in Sunday, and I rode a chairlift with Nathan and Emilie instead or skins. It was good to see Nathan back on a board at last, and he felt much the same too.

While I was bound to a window-less conference room for much of the week in between, the storm of the season for the Front Range rolled in and buried our rocky mountains in a  beautiful and dry coating of snow, unstirred by winds, making for some descent after work adventures.

Snow in the Front Range. A rare sight this season.

How to forget about the office, fast.
Peak 3 last Tuesday was already getting tracked by 5 pm, but sunset bliss is never far off. Back the next day, I scooted farther up the ridge line to the nebula of nubs that stand between Peak 3 and Ptarmigan – Peak 4, Peak 5, peak ambiguous – it didn’t matter, tracks were slim, rocks abounded, but who cares, that’s what old boards are for. The Rabbit Lake Trail Head on a sunny spring afternoon could be confused for a semi-retired ski gear convention.

Peak ambiguous. Point release off the top made the entry interesting.

Skier in the saddle is where I took the above picture from.

One other person in the bowl.
Back to the drawing board on Friday as more snow and rain fell to the south. I pulled apart my Trance and boxed up the fork and shock for shipping back to the factory. Soon enough the time will come for two wheels not two planks.

Saturday looked to start off nice, albeit warm, and the AK Range crew and I headed to Center Ridge to rope up and practice crevasse rescues. We hope to encounter as many crevasse falls next week as we did in Center Ridge, a total of 0.

Roped in Center Ridge.
Angsty about more snow and rain, and seeing a forecast of “sunny” for Monday, I went to work on Sunday.

At lunch, alone in the giant office tower, I peaked at the web cam in Summit Pass.

Bright. Blue. Sky.

I tried to console myself.

“It will be OK, it’s gonna “go blue” tomorrow…just like they said…”

Monday morning dawned warm and gray, but I clung to my mantra. It took till noon for the skies to clear on Sunday, the same would happen today.

Turnagain Arm was gorgeous, blue bird with some ominous clouds out over the PWS way, even north Turnagain looked good, but the farther south I went, the more opaque it got.

Looked like this almost all day over the Pass. What a tease.

The XY.
A corridor of blue sky stayed open just above the highway in Summit all day, but the surrounding peaks were wrapped in a blanket of clouds that hung at about 5,000 FSL all day.

Undeterred, I trekked several miles back Tenderfoot Ridge to about 4,500 FSL on peak 4790 (Tenderfoot 2).

Peak 4790 and her short but fun couloirs.
I sat for an hour, and watched, as the clouds sat stationary, despite an occasional wind, before giving in and making wiggle butt turns back down the ridge through the flat light until I finally hit the top of the trees.

I crossed aspects to Tri Tip, falling waist deep into an alder crevasse along the way.

Was that a fuzzy head I was kicking down there, or just some brown moss?

A lap from The Bad Place was OK, but I didn’t really want to ski trees today.

Screw it.

I went to the top of Tri Tip, where I found a raven on the ridge.

“Oh magical bird, give me some sun,” I said.

“Screw you, screw you,” he cawed, flying away.

Raven on a ridge.
I sat on the summit for a half hour, watching as the sun passed through holes in the cloud cover, waiting for the big one, and finally it came. The west face skied well all the way to the bench. From there, I wiggled more turns on anything even slightly tilted northward, occasionally bashing loudly through a thick layer of death crust. The roll over to the lake was so warm, that even though the sun wasn’t out, the crust was more of a soft and harmless slush.

The day was saved, for as many times as I have frolicked on the slopes of Tri Tip, I have never skied its west face from the top, only the north.

I cursed myself on the mile-long trek back to the car for not carrying a beer with me all day, but was glad to pop-top the lid off a Snowshoe White when I did finally arrive at my car at 7:30.

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