May 04, 2008

Tour de Rocky Mountain National Park

Yesterday I went with Chris and Andy on a beautiful tour of the high country in Rocky Mountain National Park. We first climbed up a ridge to the less-than-impressive summit of Flattop Mountain. Although there wasn't much of a summit, the south side of the ridge was quite impressive with several steep and skiable couloirs dropping from its crest. Early in the morning, we were fortunate to see a few animals braving the altitude and cold weather, which gave me a chance to practice my wildlife photography.

Camp Robber

Well Camouflaged Ptarmigan

From the summit of Flattop Mountain, we hiked along the continental divide, above the Tyndall Glacier, until we reached the summit of Hallett Peak. The weather was beautiful all day, and we were perfectly content to linger on the summit a while, enjoy the view, and ogle at all the great rock and alpine routes that were visible from our vantage point.

From here we proceeded to ski down the south face of Hallett Peak (we had come from the north), dropping into Chaos Canyon, the area where Chris and I had skied the previous weekend. The top of the mountain contained some surprisingly nice snow on moderate pitches.

Me throwing some snow near the top of Hallett Peak

After the opening moderate pitch, we rounded a corner where the only way down was to ski, more or less, below a monstrosity of a cornice.

Cornice looming over the top of our ski run

Thankfully, the cornice didn't try to eat any of us as we took turns skiing this slope, which varied from classic corn snow to windblown powder.

Andy Giving some Perspective to the Cornice

Lower on the mountain, where the snow melt was a little more pronounced, there were several obstacles with which to contend. I decided to jump over this one, and Andy miraculously captured this photo documentation.

Airing off a small and poorly covered rock

Not to be outdone, Andy decided to go for a little air of his own on the next section of skiing. I was unable to get any footage of the ensuing event, so I'll have to describe it. Skiing down some hard packed corn, Andy sized up an air off of a wind sculpted feature. He executed it nicely, only to land in about 2 feet of packed, windblown snow. As this was quite unexpected, Andy quickly performed an advanced face plant that stopped all forward progress. Upon pulling his head out of the snow bank, he looked . . . well . . . see the picture below.

Andy's Dorsal Fin

We proceeded down the rest of the valley in high spirits. We intended to do a repeat of ski descent of Otis Redding Couloir from the previous weekend, but by the time we reached the bottom of the couloir, the snow conditions were becoming suspect due to the recent snowfall and the fact that it was warming up dramatically. We decided not to ski Otis and proceeded to tour back to the parking lot - a wise decision based on the snow conditions we encountered on the way back.

Today Ashley and I went for a mountain bike ride where we did three laps on the Betasso Preserve Loop. Despite the copious amounts of tourists, we managed not to run anyone over and made it out with only minor scrapes and bruises.

1 comment:

Wydizzle said...

Some GREAT pics in this post!

Man, I wish I were in the Mountains doing "Advanced Face Plants" and not thesis writting (grrrr).