I was fired up to get out by myself and at my own pace last Friday, but I was bummed when the temps were still above freezing at 5:20am when I left the trailhead. I knew the temperature would drop a little bit more before the sun came up, and things had to be freezing up high, so I felt like there was hope to get some good skiing in today.
I knew the window for good snow would be quick, so I skated and poled from the trailhead and across Taggart Lake before putting on my skins and heading up Avalanche Canyon. I occasionally travel like this when the snow gets firm in the spring and I think it is sometimes faster. I was hoping for a nice sunrise, cuz the skies were partly to mostly cloudy, but it was only marginal as I pulled into Lake Taminah and my first food break.
I had put my ski crampons on before the lake, so I continued on the skis up to about 10,000 feet and a short walk on dry ground to the bottom of the couloir. The snow was punchy in spots, but mostly firm as I made my way up the gully. The clouds still lingered and I wondered if the snow would be soft when I was ready to ski.
The views looking south from where I was were just unbelievable, and I found myself stopping often, snapping pictures and checking out ski lines. A great view was had of the line from the day before on Wister as well…bummer about that one. Maybe a bit easier in a bigger snow year.
I reached the col just east of Cloudveil Dome and the beginning of the descent. I peeked over the cornice, into Garnett Canyon, to see if better weather was over the high peaks. Things looked about the same and I though about waiting for the sun to pop out and soften things up. I didn’t really feel like hanging out, so I said a quick prayer to Heather Paul (who died in this area of the park in 2005) and clicked in.
The snow was firm but edgeable and occasionally I found some patches of powder snow that quieted things down a bit. I made slow, rhythmic turns, keeping the speed in check as I skied down the couloir. I picked my way through the rocks near the bottom of the couloir, and managed to get through with surprisingly minimal side-slipping/stepping.
The sun busted out as I walked west towards the route back down to Lake Taminah, so I sat down for a bit, ate some food, and generally soaked it all in. I sniffed out a cleaner line back to the forks of Avalanche Canyon, bypassing Lake Taminah all together. The snow at these lower elevations was now ready for harvest and proved to be quite corn-a-copic!
I made it back to the parking lot before noon with a round trip time of about 6 hours. I question this line being called the south or southwest couloir, since it connects with another line a few hundred feet below the col. Does anyone have any insight on this?
Note: I made the wrong call (along with the weatherman who predicted clear skies) and went back up to Avalanche Canyon on Easter Sunday, looking to have a big day in the mountains. The sky was cloudy when I woke up at 4am, and It was snowing lightly by the time I reached the west shore of Taggart Lake. Being stubborn, I continued on, telling myself Lake Taminiah would be the turn around point if the weather didn’t improve. I waited around for 30 minutes when the sun came up to see what would happen after I reached the lake. It was graupling pretty hard and I couldn’t see Mt, Wister or any of the surrounding peaks..so I bailed. It was raining, and I was soaked wearing my soft-shell uniform by the time I got back to the car…lame! -Steve