A website dedicated to the blissful pursuit of the backcountry experience, wherever mountains rise,

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day


Yesterday, I skiied my personal nemesis, Central Couloir, a gnarly line off Cody Peak in the Jackson Hole backcountry.  It is a super steep and very exposed line, with a 30' cornice on the entry and a 30' jump on the exit (at least this year).  It's a line I've done before, but not since rupturing my ACL three seasons ago. Central requires that you ride it in near perfect conditions, as any mistake could be fatal or at least result in serious injury.  And since it takes more than an hour to hike to, and its position on the mountain is unique, conditions are rarely what you expect them to be; you are often forced to turn away.  My knee situation in particular precludes most attempts, and I must approach the line with extra caution.  Yesterday, with conditions sketchy at best (poor visibility and strong, persistent southwest winds loading the entry), I hiked up to the entrance to see what was up.  I found deep, powdery windblown snow, with two tracks (not always an indicator of safety!) leading the way. While the wind was still blowing, the skies cleared briefly, just enough for me to make out the contours in the snow.  I dropped in behind two others who graciously requested priority, as it was apparent from my setup that I wanted to rappel.  The snow was knee deep, slightly damp, and very slabby, but I let it slough below me on each turn.  As I approached the exit, I stopped, assessed the size of the jump, concluded that I could do it if I had to, and took a deep, reassured  breath.   I then built a snow anchor and used all 40 meters of my rope to rappel the cliff.  I unclipped, stowed the rope away in my pack, and dropped the last 7-10 foot air before riding out.  Mission accomplished.

Satisfied with my season, I am setting off tomorrow morning for Chamonix and La Grave, where the snow is deeper and the lines even bigger!