Approach to Steven's Gulch trail head was no problem, a few snow patches near the trail head but easy to get through with the ground clearance of a Subaru.
Trail head parking reachable with the ground clearance of a Subaru
Left the trail head at 6:30am in near winter conditions, cold and very windy. Looked like the summit might not be possible today but thought I'd go up and touch the route and make the call from there.
Weather looking iffy on the approach to Dead Dog
I started out with my skis on my pack not knowing what the snow conditions would be like on the trail. There was only one breif section that was skinable and in hind sight should have just left the skis on the pack. Made it to the base of Dead Dog at about 7:45am with the weather still very iffy but there were moments when the sun broke through so decided to keep going and see what would happen. Got the spikes and axe out, had some water, and headed up the couloir at about 8:15am.
Base of Dead Dog
There was quite a bit of heavy new snow and the base wasn't as consolidated as I had hoped which made for a tough climb. I was post holing up to my thighs in various stretches all the way up. I continuously probed the snow with my axe and pole checking for a sliding layer. All that i found were patches of a thin crust from previous ski decents and the new snow was stable so kept I going up even though in the back of my mind I kept wishing I had started earlier.
Slogging up through deep, heavy snow
When I got about half way up, the weather broke and it turned into a great day. I kept slogging through the heavy, deep snow, stopping ocasionally to catch my breath, take in the view, and snap a few photos reaching the windy summit at about 10am.
Incredible views from high in the couloir
Didn't spend much time up top because I was worried about the changing snow conditions for the ski decent. I worked my way back down to the top of the couloir, traded the spikes for skis and started down at about 10:15am. Tested the snow with a heavy first turn and a run out to the safety of the rocks. That turn touched off a 2" surface sluff. Decision time. Do I take the skis off and walk back up and out or continue on? The rest of the snow looked stable, no other movement or fracture lines above or below me, so decided to ski down and get out of there as quick as possible.
The rest of the decent was uneventful and amazing at the same time. The snow was perfect and I even managed to make a few good turns. When I got back down to the base of Dead Dog, I felt great about the ski but was glad to out of there. Took the skis off and walked down to the Grays Peak Recreation Trail sign where I was able to put the skis back on and ski all the way down the gulch back to the trail head.
Dead Dog couloir with ski tracks and surface sluff
Notes to self: Never make the call from the couch, always go touch it and decide from there. Always be aware of your surroundings and make decisions based on the information at hand, not based on what other people are doing because they could have a very different risk tolerance.
Enjoy and be safe.