Got shutdown on yesterday’s adventure. The plan was to skin up the Banana Couloir on Prospectors, and then ski a spur couloir that dropped you into the bowl to the west.
We got an early start under light snow and approached via ‘the maze’. We found ourselves contouring into Open Canyon through punchy, north facing snow after not too long, but I think it might be a bit faster to go by way of the Moose/Wilson Road and then the JY fence line…but who knows.
Once below the south facing slopes of Prospectors, we struggled to determine which gully would lead us to the Banana. We began to skin up a steep, thinly covered boulder field that lead to treed slopes above. It’s unfortunate that snow pack on the more south facing slopes is so thin…come on snow!! We had heard a lot of ‘whumping’ and settling in the bottom of the canyon, but the snow seemed to be ‘set-up’ much better higher up, which is nice.
Anyway, we reached better snow as we climbed, but the visibility was getting worse by the minute and the snowfall was increasing. In addition, we weren’t really sure if we were in the right gully either. Reed and I have both skied the Banana before, as well as other routes on Prospectors, but it wasn’t going to happen for us today…so we pulled the plug. Tom Turiano states that Prospector Mountain is “one of the ranges most challenging peaks to access for skiing” and it has never been easy for me. It’s very difficult to see the slopes above once you are in the gut of Open Canyon, making it difficult to determine where to start climbing.
We grabbed a quick lap on Olive Oil on the way out, which skied very funly and brought us to a total of 5300′ for the day. The track out to the road was fast and we were back to the car in no time. Though I’m bummed we didn’t ski the route we had planned, it had been a couple weeks since I’d been out with Reeders, so it was nice to catch up…and ski some great powder as well.
Note: I got a couple emails about the parks winter access policy on Prospectors, implying that we were ‘poaching’. This is not true. The Banana Couloir is an ‘open’ area under the winter use policy of the Park.
For protection of bighorn sheep, winter use closures include Prospectors Mountain and the Mount Hunt areas – comprised of peaks 10988, 10905, and 10495, all areas above 9900 foot elevation, and south-facing slopes on Mount Hunt above 8580 foot elevation. Slopes in this vicinity that remain open for backcountry use include Banana Couloir, Albright Peak, and Buck Mountain.