Peak 3 season is in full swing here on Hillside. For those who don't know what Peak 3 season is; It's that time of year where every day at 3pm the schoolteachers start calling you and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can avoid them you'll get in another hour of work before the 8-4'ers start calling and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can say no again - then you get another hour of work in before the 9-5'ers start calling. Usually I cave in to one of the above... and last week Peak 3 was really good!
The trek up Peak 3 usually involves 25+ people of all shapes and sizes headed uphill on everything from alpine gear to dusty tele skis. Last Friday I was huffing my way uphill chasing Todd with a backpack of water bottles (trying to get in shape for spring shovel season) when a guy and girl blitzed past me on scaled skis with Dynafits. I reached the top just as they prepared to ski down and briefly overheard that Ptarmigan's north couloir was in shape.
So... the next morning Yvonne and I awoke to cloudy skies and after hemming and hawing we decided to go give Ptarmigan a shot. Yvonne had been wanting to ski the couloir for a while, and even though I gave her the "the run is freakin' scary" lecture she was amped to go. A few phone calls rounded up Dan and Eric and we set off at noon.
Eric made it about half way in before he realized his bronchitis was still acting up, so he veered off and headed up Peak 3 while Dan, Yvonne and I continued on.
We reached the base in about 1 1/2 hours and then headed up. The snow was pretty much perfect; crunchy Styrofoam down low that soon turned into shin deep powder. The neck of the couloir - which last year had been almost ice - was in perfect shape and we continued uphill quite pleased with the snowpack. As the kept going - and as the snowpack continued to get deeper yet stay stable - my (and Yvonne's) anxiety of the run evaporated and we booted up the entire run in 1 1/2 hours.
The final 50' had an obvious wind pillow that was about 6 inches deep. Yvonne was breaking trail when I noticed a shooting crack. I called out for her to stop and Dan and I were able to isolate a column that easily sheered. I then took over the boot pack and steered up and right out of the way of the wind slab to some rocks where we regrouped and dug another pit. The pit turned out to be quite solid, so we deducted that the obvious wind pillow to our left could be avoided if we hugged the rocks and then skied down the left underneath the rollover. We then climbed the final 50' to the col, stripped our skins and eyed the decent.
Dan took the first pitch. There is a safe zone about 500' down where you can pull out to the right underneath a rock. He started down next to our bootpack and then veered left, inching out next to the rocks just skiers left of the rollover. He then paused, felt around the snow a bit then tentatively did a jump turn to test the snow pack. He then proceeded to ski, linking about 4 turns when he suddenly let out a "WOAH!!!" - he had skied too close to the wind slab and triggered a soft slab that was about 15' wide and maybe 8' tall. Dan quickly skied left out of the slab and stopped watching it slid about 200' before it bunched up in the snow below. He yelled up that he was all right then dropped down the swath cleared by the slab and pulled into the safe zone without another incident.
Yvonne went next; she inched down next to Dan's turns and upon reaching the swath was able to drop down onto it and ski where it had sheared off. She reached the safe zone and called up to me.
I dropped in and linked about three turns and stopped above the swath. The slab was only about 6 inches deep and I ski cut above it to see how it felt; a chuck about the size of a car hood broke off and slid; however it was a pretty soft slab - more like heavy sluff - and I was easily able to lift my ski out of it.
I then skied down, paused at the safe zone, then dropped another 400' or so to the next safe zone which was also an island under some rocks. The snow was in excellent shape so I called up a report and Yvonne soon joined me. Dan came down last - ripping turns and loving the good snow. He took the run all the way down and about the corner into the S couloir where he traversed skiers left to the final safe zone.
Yvonne, feeling strong, went second and linked turns all the way down to Dan, and then I went, skiing down past both of them and headed downhill all the way to the bottom of the coulior.
We reached the base about 35 minutes after starting down; all of giddy after skiing such a fine line. After eating and drinking a bit, we pointed our skis towards town and headed home. The entire run took us 5 hours car to car; not bad for a Saturday afternoon ski.
That evening Yvonne informed me that the run was "Way easier than I made it sound." I guess I need to start sucking it up and skiing steeper lines if I want to keep hanging with her!
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