Yesterday was one of those backcountry ski trips that you wait all year for. New zone. Perfect weather. Fantastic snow. Super stable avalanche conditions. Even our late start due to Louie’s school schedule worked out great, as we got terrific light for photos during our late day turns.
|So what could make such a day even more special? Yeah, it’s the people that really make a good adventure. Being with my son was a treat as always. But also, spending the day with old friend Michael Kennedy just felt so right.
As many of you know, “MK” is the former publisher of Climbing Magazine. Up through the 1980s and into the 90s he and his wife Julie took the magazine from small time publication to an internationally respected book. Michael and I were core climbing partners back in the 1970s. We had some wild experiences together back in our “day,” so ever since then we’ve had a place in our hearts for each other.
Yesterday I could really feel the brotherhood. Michael and I were so on the same page when it came to safety decisions, pace and just general love of the mountain environment we were immersed in yet again. Adding to that, having the next generation out there breaking trail (especially that), skiing well, and making good decisions added liters of sugar to what was already a sweet day. That’s Michael skiing in the photo above, in the Raspberry Peak bowl. (Dave, please know those nice big modern tracks are mine.)
|Our mission: Climb and Marble Peak, then continue west to the summit of Raspberry peak. Plan was to find a new layer of high altitude backcountry skiing powder that would provide something like a classic heli-ski run down the big lower angled bowls of Raspberry. But not to wimp out, we also got some steeper powder on the way in, and enjoyed and excellent descent of Mud Gulch and Ally during our return in the late afternoon.|
|From the summit of Marble, we got in a nice run into Raspberry Creek. This area provides quite a bit of manageable glade skiing you could lap all day if so inclined. I’d been over here a few times before, but so infrequently I’d forgotten how much potential it has. Louie cranks out a turn (note his start, our more adult tracks to left.)|
|Near the summit of Raspberry, MK in foreground, Louie coming up behind. That’s the Yule Creek area in the background, town of Crested Butte just beyond horizon. This is fairly mellow terrain with some good avy safer lines formed by wind and terrain variations. You wouldn’t want to be up here on a day you assessed the hazard at anything greater than moderate. Even so, I don’t go to this type of terrain if there is any possibility of big slab avalanches running to the ground. Today that wasn’t going to happen. People all over the Elk Mountains have been digging snow pits that are becoming a running joke because they’re so solid. Thus, little worry about the mid and lower snowpack — all we had to concern us was a thin layer of new snow (well bonded according to hand checks and ongoing observations), and the possibility of wind slab pillows.|
|Our tracks on Raspberry. The most aesthetic line is to lookers left of where we skied, but it started with what did look like a possible wind slab. So we gave that some room and stuck more with our ascent route for the down.|
|Heading out, Louie up there breaking trail.|
|Day’s end, heading down Ally to the Marble road. Mount Daly area in the sun. Indeed, we were blessed.|
Oh, I should mention that indeed my Dynafit Manaslu skis were a terrific choice yesterday. We had quite a bit of snow that almost any ski would be fun on, but did hit some situations with light powder over breakable, as well as full-on breakable crust down low.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.