| Riding 'The Wiggle' on Grizzly Peak D
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Yesterday, Mike Records, Andrew Oakley, Alex de Boulder, and myself climbed and descended a snow route dubbed 'The Wiggle' on the North Face of Grizzly Peak D. It proved to be a spectacular tour; a definite high point of this Short Spring Season.
We met at the Grizzly Gulch turnoff along Forest Road 189 at 8:30am, uncertain of how far our 4WD rigs would take us up valley. The next 30 minutes were spent bouncing up a narrow, winding Jeep road – complete with creek crossings, snow patches, and testy little rock obstacles. After a mile and half, we called it quits and threw on our packs.
The dramatic North Face of Torrey’s Peak catches our groups’ attention during the approach. Photo courtesy Mike Records.com
Grizzly Couloir rises sharply from the valley floor. Mike, Andrew, and I descended it a few weeks prior – what a line!
Andrew shows his excitement to be back in the hills. Schoolwork and a concussion reduced his time on skis this season, but increased his energy and drive to get back!
Mike takes time for the paparazzi during our first changeover.
After an hour or so of hiking, we found continuos snow, and gladly took some weight off our backs – it was time to skin. Unfortunately, recent precipitation and warm temperatures resulted in some glopping issues, but nothing some cursing and grunting couldn’t handle. Our journey beneath Grizzly’s North Face passed quickly, as we called out lines and marveled at the beautiful surroundings.
The Boulder Entourage rolls three across – earning their keep.
I work my way ahead to get some shots of the boys – humbled by the size and scope of the hills. Photo courtesy Mike Records.com
Mike takes the lead with our goal in site – the North Lines and 'The Wiggle' of Grizzly Peak.
Alex enjoys a lunch with a view – taking it all in near the top of Grizzly Gulch.
Our skinning efforts terminated at 12,200 feet, directly beneath the steep and snowy north lines. Ominous Cumulous clouds began building to our West, promising precipitation later in the day. We made a quick changeover to snow-climbing gear, and began the boot up. The snow was soft and saturated – putting our climbing nerves at ease but heightening our avy senses. Mike and Alex would stop half-way up the couloir to dig a pit and assess the consequences of the recent moisture. Andrew and I continued to the top of the line, setting a staircase to the heavens.
Andrew pauses for a picture at the top of the apron of the North Lines.
Alex pushing through the hot mid-day sun during our snow-climb.
The group works their way through a thinner section of snow 1/3 of the way to the top.
Andrew enjoying a fine workout on steepening snow near the top of one of the chutes.
Mike showing his stoke-face: uphill finished, downhill earned!
Under mostly cloudy and continuously darkening skies, we reached our high point around 12:45. Alex and I made a quick up and back to the true Summit (all of 100′ from the top of the North Lines), and connected snow back to the rest of the group. While our approach had been filled with friendly banter and relaxed spirits, the steep descent required focus and commitment. We made a plan for safe zones, picked orders based upon camera hierarchy (ha!) and dropped into the top snowfield.
Alex making some moody backlit turns at 13,400ft.
Brennan finds soft surface conditions in the upper bowl. Photo courtesy Mike Records.com
Being able to throw down open turns on a steep line in soft snow – YUP, I’M EXCITED! Photo courtesy Mike Records.com
Andrew snapping turns down the steep skier’s left face of the top snowfield.
Mike playing in some soft May conditions, making Snowboarders everywhere jealous with a hand drag!
Michael Jordan and Michael Records throw out the tongue when they are in the the zone. Jordan had it easy – no climbing or avalanche navigation is required at NBA arenas.
The first 500′ of our chosen North Line was sublime. Soft and steep, it was coated by the type of snow that we salivate over and brag about – yielding amazing turns. As the line funneled from an open face to a tight rock-walled chute, the snow transitioned to true corn – each turn sending shallow cascades of granules down the choke.
However, this same funneling produced a few moments of anxiety in our group, as none of us could state with certainly if the line “would go”. In other words, in our decision to ascend a different slope than what we would descend, we lost the knowledge of the most complex and committing feature in the line – and couldn’t see it directly from the top. Mike stepped up and made his way down to the choke.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to the sun coming back out for this move (The Wiggle itself),” Mike hollered up to the
“Great,” we thought, “there must be something pretty spicy lurking beneath us.” Alex made his way to the skier’s left side of the chute so he could watch Mike.
Within ten seconds of the sun coming out, we heard a distant “WHOOOOOHOOOO” from Mike, an “Ahhh YEAH!” from Alex, and saw a skiing figure flying down the slope at Mach 2. He had straight lined the 20 foot choke, made a subtle move right to miss a granite wall, and let ‘em loose down the soft apron.
Wanting to shoot photos of the group coming through the choke, I made my way down to the pinch to descend. Alex joined me with his camera at the point-of-no-return, and after a few deep breaths, I made the move that initiated one of the coolest experiences I have had on my snowboard. The instant I jumped my split directly down the hill I experienced an incredible acceleration. Protruding pieces of the granite wall passed within inches of my board as I gained speed. After the initial straight-line, I leaned over my heal side edge and subtly moved away from a second wall. Everything was passing in a blur as I entered a strangely comfortable zone – a removed mindset. As the rock structure to my left began to disappear I brought my body over my toeside edge to pass beneath it. At this moment I was moving as fast as I ever had in the backcountry – and loving it. I slowly moved back to my heels and enjoyed the smooth ride of a high speed turn. I couldn’t believe or process the unexpectedly incredible experience I had just been given. Mike and I exchanged a few wide-eyed high five and let loose some howls!
What we saw next only furthered our euphoric state of stoke. Alex, a damn competent telemark skier, dropped into the staightline under completely flat light and made all of two turns by the time he reached the bottom of the apron. The sound of his jacket being ripped around in the wind as he charged down the flank of Grizzly was awesome!
Alex straightens them out at the point-of-no-return. While subtle turning options were available after the initial straight-line, Alex chose to minimize them. So sick!
Alex powers through a turn at the bottom of the apron, moving with some serious heat.
Next, it was Andrew’s turn to drop. Faced with completely crap-light, a cleaned out choke (swept thin by the first three members of his group), and the knowledge of what another high-speed fall could do to his concussion, he made the difficult, appropriate, and humbling decision to down climb the first 20 feet through the straight-line. Andrew, I know that you’re a competitive dude and you’re still debating about the choice to down climb but you did the right thing – and will be better for it the next time you face a tough decision. I respect your ability to chose preservation over risky adrenaline. Honest.
Andrew makes his way into the heart of the 'The Wiggle'.
After clicking back into his skis, Andrew made his own signature on the steep….smoothly blending turns down the tight upper pitch before opening up some big-ole carves down low. Everybody killed it! High fives and hot tea were shared, as our group repacked for the deproach to the cars. We were able to ski to within a mile of the trucks (skiers a little further), and within an hour of our descent, found ourselves bouncing down the Grizzly Gulch 4×4 Road.
Thanks again to a rad group! Great to meet you Alex, and nice getting out with you again Andrew and Mike.
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