Monday, April 14, 2014

Pikes Peak: Y-Couloir

     We had a killer day on the mountain: all ten of us.  CC went gorillas on Pikes Peak this weekend.  I made last minute plans with Chris Dickson to ski the Y-Couloir.  I had no idea that we would be such a huge crew, but it was all the merrier with enough steep and sweet turns to go around.
   10 of us cruised the hero traverse with the golden Corinthian Column above and an 800 foot wall below. Hanson and Matt were climbing, and they started their way up Blind Assumption, a great mixed route.  8 of us continued into the Y-Couloir and found wind-sculpted powder and hard sastrugi.  Chris and I dug a pit and tested the windblown mess.  Our layer of concern was a strange localized layer that that showed up suddenly this season.  About half a meter down there was some reddish dust, blown from who knows where, at a clear interface.  We isolated it, whacked it, whacked it some more, and found the snow to be well bonded.  Springtime at last!

Traversing below the Corinthian Column. Photos: Chris Dickson

Climbing through the ski crux.  Photos: Chris Dickson
  We were unable to believe that it would be powder(ish) conditions on this mega classic(and local) line. We boot-packed it, not even needing crampons.  Parker went right, climbing the steeper variation to the Y. At the end of the couloir we made it through a loose, dry, and scrappy section, topped out, and scored some doughnuts in the tourist's lodge. I filled my nalgene with mountain dew from the soda machine, wanting to get the full-on backcountry 14er experience.  We kicked out some platforms after descending the rock section, and dropped in for one of the best ski descents on the front range.

Photos: Chris Dickson

The mixed top-out. Photos: Chris Dickson
Nate, Andrew, and myself on the summit. Photos: Chris Dickson
Clicking in. Photos: Chris Dickson
Pike's gave us the best. It may not be the real back-country, but it sure feels like it once you're on the north face. The snow was soft and forgiving.  Everyone skied well, making it through the dicey sections with grace.  On the way up, we came to the consensus that someone would take a direct line through the crux cliff mid-height.  On the way down, while myself and the rest threaded around to the side, Andrew DesLauriers stepped up and aired out the cliff without hesitation, making it look casual and linking big turns.
Photos: Chris Dickson
Photos: Chris Dickson
     It was a great day out, and a chance to get a good feel for the steeps before (possibly) heading to the Maroon Bells next week.  I am impressed every time by the skill and the psyche in the CC community, and I feel lucky to share in a day like this.

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