Note: To view larger images, please right click and select view images…thanks!
Cary Smith called me this weekend, inquiring about skiing the Hourglass Couloir on Nez Perce with Brian Harder. After getting a feel for the snow conditions in the park on the past couple tours, I figured that the couloir should be skiing great and decided to join them. We made the call to meet at 7AM at the Home Ranch lot, and Brian ended up bailing. Having just come back form a trip to Nepal, I guess he is still battling a lower GI problem. Good luck with that Brian!
Another cold morning had Cary shivering while waiting for me to snap a couple photos, but we quickly warmed up. The ice on Bradley Lake still looked a little thin, so we followed the Valley Trail to the east. The lower faces are still thinly covered, but we cut the switchbacks and soon found ourselves traversing into Garnet Canyon, which looked cold! A low and thin layer of clouds was keeping the sun from warming things up and Nez Perce blocks much of the sun this time of year once in the canyon. It took us about three hours to reach the meadows…not too bad considering we didn’t take the more direct “winter” route right up the gut.
After a quick bite, we both put on our warmest gloves for the skin to the base of the coolie. The Cave Couloir looked great…but we were here for the Hourglass. The snow got slick after another few hundred feet of vert, so we clipped on the crampons and packed the skis for the final push. The fastex buckle broke on the safety strap of my lightweight CAMP crampons, gotta remember to fix that. It felt good to be booting in the park again. Though it was very cold still, there was no wind and my body was warm. Cary has bad hands from some past adventures, I think they were cold. The snow was OK on the apron; good powder on the skier’s right, but bulletproof on the left. Surprisingly, conditions only got worse further up. All the nice snow had evidently been blown away, leaving a sustrugi like surface and exposing some rocks.
The final pitch didn’t go, so we skied from the highest point. The snow was pretty bad, but skied a little better than expected and I think I have skied the Hourglass in worse shape. It’s not super steep…so it’s not too scary!