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A Little Taste of Skiing in RMNP

As winter approaches, we’re all dreaming about the ski season ahead (not to mention all the ice and great alpine routes). Everyone has been prepping and setting up for avy, ski, ice, and mountaineering courses. Now we’re waiting… for the snow, for the cold, and for the perfect days. Guess what? They’re here!

To get you psyched CMS guide, Joey Thompson, sent in this report about his last day of the 08/09 season on an ultra classic ski moutnaineering route in the Longs Peak cirque.
Thanks Joey for the inspiration!

My partner and I had gotten up early that morning 3:00 am to meet up and check our equipment to make sure that it was appropriate for our activity. As we drove up to the Longs Peak trailhead, we discussed our tour plans for the day leaving our options open. We pulled into the Longs parking area turning our headlamps on and finishing our last sip of coffee. We hurried to sign the register and off we went in a slight jog up the trail.

In the morning we found great step kicking up the shaded couloir. The snow was fairly firm. We traveled more towards the shade line to find even better snow for our crampons. Clear skies in the early AM with light NW winds gusting mildly during the day. The temperatures above tree line remained cool.

The snowpack had strong bonding and strengthening in early morning hours. With warming weather there had been an absence of a deep re-freeze. The rapid and intense warming will decrease stability of the looming cornice above. Pin wheeling and wet sluffs were occurring on the interface between new and old snow layers. As rock faces heated, numerous ice and rock fall could be heard around the Longs Peak cirque.

10:10am, We skied Flying Dutchman Couloir (50 degrees + at its steepest) near an elevation of 13,310 feet, we had soft skiing conditions with really fun corn skiing at the top.

Melt water was running under the 40 foot 70 degree ice section on the Flying D. We set up our rappel leaving slings and rings for our technical descent.

After our rappel over the ice fall, we skied to a breakable chalky crust, mixed with warm surface melt to the bottom of the Flying Dutchman couloir. We had to traverse above Chasm Lake because of the lakes creeping cracks that were starting on the flanks of the lake.

Cloud cover rolled in as we returned to the car at 1:53pm.

This wound up being my last ski day of the 2008-2009 ski season. I am now anxiously awaiting for the good snow to return…

Joey Thompson
Colorado Mountain School

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