Some folks ignite gunpowder to celebrate Fourth of July. Instead, we push a few snow crystals around. I’d spoken with Jordan White last week, who’s been up to Montezuma Basin (above Aspen) and had good skiing in Conundrum Couloir. For this weekend Ted Mahon was game to see how big the suncups had grown. So I joined up with him and the usual cast of die hards. The skiing was actually pretty good, companionship exceptional, and weather perfect. I even got to drive our Jeep. What more can one ask for?
|Adam Moszynski throwing white firecrackers in Conundrum Couloir. Not quite powder and not quite white, but quite fun nonetheless.
|Conundrum Peak as viewed from Castle Peak. Snow coverage presently at about 30% of what’s shown in this photo, but Conundrum Couloir is in, rated Grade I D-10 R3
|Pearl Pass Road to Montezuma definitely requires high clearance and 4-wheel-drive, (just about any stock SUV or truck is adequate though sometimes a bit marginal in terms of clearance). Our “built” 1947 Willys Jeep is overkill, but nice to drive instead of beating up our stock pickup.
|Road above timberline is still blocked by snow, but a fairly short hike gets you up to the areas with good snow coverage. Because of this year’s extensive snowpack, we were able to ski the creek drainage back down to our trucks. That’s Conundrum Peak up ahead, Conundrum Couloir is hidden.
|Ice tarn in upper Montezuma Basin is an icon of the place. Ted hiking.
|Tim Mutrie drops in.
|Just below the choke. Conundrum keeps you on your toes because one section of the couloir stays shadowed and icy ’till late morning. You start down on buttery corn — a few turns later you’re dragging Ptex over ice chunks. People have fallen down the chute and gotten fairly worked, but it’s short and not particularly difficult. The bottom apron eventually melts out to a scree field, in that case a fall can have more serious consequences.
|Couloir crew. Lisa took the photo, she and our friend Scott skied a different line. That’s Glen Poulson on the left, then Adam Moszynski in the blue shirt, Ted Mahon in yellow, and Tim Mutrie in black on right, and me in the foreground. We spent three days picking out the colors, with the coaching of three world class ski photographers as well as TGR. Why I’m the only guy in a helmet I do not know. Probably hit my head one too many times or something.
|Another lap was mentioned. At least we thought about it. Hanging out at the trucks on a sunny alpine day was just as good.
|Heading down, looking at Pearl Basin area. Another excellent day, and appreciated!
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.