Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Southwest Couloir on Moran done!!!!

After my attempt about a week ago, I was ready to go back and ski the Southwest Couloir. I was hoping the snow would be a little more settled and this time I knew exactly where I was going. This time I was joined by three different guys Don, Patrick and Ben. These guys are some of my favorite ski buddies so I was stoked, they also are strong which is great for putting in boot packs. (ha ha.) We left the string lake parking lot around 4 am and started skinning toward the mountain. We were a little nervous about crossing Leigh lake, but we knew it would be faster and day was supposed to warm so we needed to get going. The lake seemed pretty frozen but the top layer was definitely weakening. We cruised across the lake with no major problems and jumped onto shore. We were hoping that the lake crossing was the crux of our trip. We started to skin up the canyon following Moran around. We passed quite a few bar tracks, a couple of them definitely belonging to a grizzly, this made me nervous. I really did not want to come face to face with a grizzly.
As we wove out of the trees and started to gain elevation the alpenglow on the mountains was so beautiful, there was no one in sight and the only tracks, besides the bears that we saw were the tracks from us the week before. We skinned as high as we could which was put us at 9500 feet only 3000 more to go! The snow was pretty frozen so we put on our crampons and started our boot pack up the gully that we had missed a week ago. We were able to move pretty quickly with the hard snow and continued switching off. We made it to the base of the couloir in about an hour and a half from when we had started boot packing, the base of couloir was at about 11,000 ft. We took a quick break and then started our ascent up the beautiful couloir with huge walls on either side and a mix of different types of rock. The snow was a little deeper in the couloir, which made for better skiing, but tough boot packing. The elevation also was starting to slow our pace we reached the top of the couloir at around 11 am and still had not seen any sun, but we knew as soon as we skied out of the couloir it would be really warm. We topped out at about 12,300 just about 300 feet from the summit, scrambling over rock and snow in an exposed area looked a little challenging so we opted out of trying to get to the summit. We clicked in and one at a time skied the long steep couloir. (about an average of 45 degrees entire way.) The snow was variable, but it was definitely high on my coolest couloir list. We skied out of the couloir and into the sun. The mountains around were starting to come alive with wet slides, so we boogied down the gully and out to a safe zone for a break. This time we had to go around the lake and do some bushwhacking, definitely took longer, but we were all glad that we had nothing to do with the lake. We made it back to the car right around 4 pm, made for a long day, but we were all psyched to have skied an aesthetic couloir on Moran!

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