Ending the Season on Pikes Peak

I thought my skis had been hung up for the year after the trip to Quandary last month. Luckily, I was wrong. Carl emailed on Thursday looking for a partner to ski the Y Couloir on Pikes, which was in good condition thanks to all the cool, wet weather the front range has been receiving lately. We were after the East branch, which is on the left in this photo. It’s skied less frequently than the West branch due to a more difficult entrance and a rock band about 500′ in that frequently requires downclimbing. The reward is a more sheltered and aesthetic line.

It was another early morning at 4:45, although that’s relatively late for June skiing. The plan was to drive to the top, ski down, and climb back up. We were stopped a half mile from the summit by a thin sheet of ice on the road.

This was no deterrent though. We all loaded up and made the rest of the trip to the top on foot. There was a pretty obvious rain crust, and we all hoped our line was sheltered from the rain.

Everyone else was wearing typical black/gray technical clothing. I was a little brighter and more colorful.
The undercast was quite a sight, as it always is.

This is such an amazing place.
Despite getting up to 80 in town that day, things were a little different at 14,000′. A high around 30 and a cold morning with strong winds made it such that quite a few tourists probably didn’t bother to exit the train.

The entrance was exciting. Carl aired into it, and hopefully the picture of that will turn up in a day or two. Here’s me shortly after dropping in.

And here’s Caroline getting ready to drop. She was hesitant, but did fine.


Here’s a great shot Carl took from a little way down the line. So much fun.

Lucky for us, the rock band had a line on skier’s right that was filled in enough to ski through. It was a fun little high-speed maneuver.



Here’s Caroline enjoying the last couple turns of the day.

We stopped skiing when it stopped being fun. The snow was softening significantly and the terrain was flattening out, so we traded our skis for crampons and started heading back up.

Such a beautiful place.
It was cooking in the couloir – about 50F, very intense sun, and no wind. I found a mini under-snow waterfall at the rock bands, which told me it was time to get moving quickly. Free water in the snowpack can be very dangerous. In sections, the bootpack up had meltwater pooling in the footprints, small natural sluffs were coming down the rocks, and a couple ice- and rock-fall incidents telling us we should get out of there. I put a chunk of snow in my helmet to help cool me off and went.

We all made it out in good time. Here’s Caroline pulling herself out of the couloir. In about three vertical feet, it went from roasting with no wind back to 30F and windy. It’s amazing what a terrain feature can do.

Success!
I couldn’t have chosen a better way to end the ski season. Until October…

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