After working some crazy busy days at the shop over the holidays, I wasn’t going to let sub-zero temps keep me away from skiing on New Year’s Day. A couple brave souls, Reed Finlay and Brian Ladd, joined me on the trek into Avalanche Canyon to recon a line that is currently in my cross-hairs of my ski scope.
A dawn time start under cloudy skies with -10F temps had us wondering what the day would bring as we skinned across Taggart Lake. To keep warm, we kept moving and made it to Lake Taminah in good time, but where we though we’d be greeted by some sunshine, we were unfortunately welcomed by stiff winds and -30F wind chills.
It would have been easy to pull the plug at this point, since it didn’t look like the clouds were burning off very quickly and super cold temps often leave little margin for error, never mind the marshmallow-man levels of layering and covering up needed to stay warm. Instead, we bundled up and skinned with our balaclavas, puffy jackets and goggles on to keep our eyeballs from freezing, as well as our mitted hands over our noses and checks to prevent frostbite in the wind. I was suffering (and battling a cold) and wanted to turn around, but my homies pulled me higher with their determination to continue upward.
We eventually made it to the bottom of the couloir and it looked in good shape, so we skinned higher and then booted when things got slick. I think the couloir is skiable from the summit (or can be connected to from the summit), but considering the weather, we decided that the col at the top was sufficient and called it quits there, hoping to come back from another shot at a complete descent another day.
On the way down, the snow was generally good, making for some fun skiing, but we did encounter some wind slab here and there. We also kicked off a couple avalanches in isolated pockets, which kept us on our toes…which where frozen (at least mine were) from the cold. It was a long tour to the objective and the cold weather didn’t help, so I as pretty happy with the result, even though we didn’t ski from the summit.
Wow – that is some sufferfest endurance right there! Nice work – now way would I have that in me!
Randosteve, do you always carry axe plus whippets?
jim…negative. only when i think i will need/like/want them. our line was totally nuked by the wind when some of these shots were taken and we didn’t end up using them.
Randosteve, one more questions…how do you keep your water from freezing? thermos?
jim…i pretty much us a hydration bladder no matter what the temp is and put in very hot water. if it’s really cold, i will just keep the tube inside, next to the bladder, until it warms up enough outside. or, if i do opt keep it outside, i will try to drink often and blow back into the hose and let all the excess water drip out of the bite valve…and then zip it back up in the sleeve of my backpack.
if the tube does freeze at some point, i can usually unfreeze it by putting the tube between my back and backpack. pulling as much slack out of the system seems to work best and even cinching down on the shoulder straps helps keep it in place.