Tim Kelley of Salewa/Dynafit North America called the other day, asking about doing a company trip for some backcountry skiing on Independence Pass here in Colorado. I told him turns could be had up there, though you need to take care and find the smoother areas without too much sun cupping. I met up with their crew yesterday and we had a blast. Two laps, nice alpine hiking to connect some excellent turns, picnic, great weather. Summer skiing at its best.
|Tim on our second lap. We climbed north of the Pass, up Blarney Peak. Skied the standard couloir off backside of Blarney, climbed back to Blarney summit, then raked a nice corn pitch back down to our trucks at the Pass summit. We stated at the late hour of 7:00 AM. Such a civilized departure is pleasant, but means if any noonish mountain weather is developing you don’t have as much a time window as those days with an earlier attack. But the snowpack is now what I’d call “summer snow,” meaning most is fairly dense and doesn’t soften quickly after the nightly chill. Thus, you’ve got to start later or the frozen suncups will hurt you like a ride on a bucking bull. Interesting how each season has different logistics — you ARE ready for bull riding, are you not?.|
|Gaining vertical meant both hiking and snow climbing. Check out those green boots — you could spot this crew a mile away!|
|Chris tests Dynafit sole rubber. That’s Snowmass Mountain on center horizon, Maroon Bells to left.|
|Summit. Dynafit North America, Blarney Peak expedition 2008, sponsored by — Dynafit!|
|Dropping into Blarney north couloir. Funny thing about this time of year is you don’t know if you’ll hit an ice patch or perfect corn, so it’s good to take it easy when you could slide into the rocks below your line. Sarah did a good job, with a cautious entrance followed by confident turns to the bottom.|
|Ryan gets some too. The snow was beautifully smooth in here, with some rough spots at the bottom but nothing too unpleasant.|
|Our route. For our second lap we hiked on skins and dirt up to the north, crested the pass south of Blue Peak, then walked the ridge back to Blarney summit. Quite aesthetic as you’re above timberline the whole time, enjoying crisp alpine air and views of Colorado’s highest peaks.|
|Chris on our second descent of the day. Corn snow was creamy by now. I’d told these guys about the burgers and grill back at the truck. After that they seemed to ski faster. Sarah had a close encounter with a snowbridge over a creek, but even that didn’t stop our inevitable finish at the parking lot.|
|For trailhead victuals Tim broke out appenzeller cheese, designer bread, and sliced up a tomato. He had a few chocolate bars too, but I had to one-up him by producing a Tobler magnum. Cutting board had to be a demo boot box, but of course! (After all, this is not France, and it’s our own portable gasthaus.)|
|With the grill smoking and everyone munching on treats from our cache, life was good. Even the weather held, though the usual pile of storm clouds was building an attack from the west, as they tend to do when you’re at 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide.|
|Today’s crew in total, Tim to left, then Chris, yours truly at center, Sarah and Ryan. Why am I always the guy in the red jacket? Good day. Oh, one other thing, I tried to dish up some insider tidbits about new gear from Dynafit, but the guys were as tight lipped as a CIA security “consultant” getting interviewed by a Moveon.org blogger. All I got was some mumbling about “look for gear that’s light but still big for the North American market.” I think that probably means the high DIN Dynafit binding and some other stuff, but we’ll see. Perhaps I can pry some beta out of them for a summer teaser. Meanwhile, I’d better go wax my skis so they’re ready for the next day of endless winter 07/08.|
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.