| Making Strides: Mt. Evans Ski (North Face)- Summit Lake TH
Date: Friday, June 5, 2009
Route: North Face ascent (1mi.) and ski descent (1.2mi.) from Summit Lake TH
Stats: 2.2 miles; 1,500’ climbed; ~1,300’ skied; 4 hrs 45 min RT
Our routes (red=climb; blue=ski):
Topo of the route (red=climb; blue=ski):
First off, I was pleasantly surprised Bill was up for taking a beginner ski-mountaineer up Evans' North Face for a ski descent for his third annual "Ski Evans With A 14ers.com Member" trip. I would find out on the climb if I would be comfortable skiing 45-50 degree material – one of the benefits of climbing what you ski. If I wasn't ready, we would go for a mellower line skiers' left of the couloirs. The overnight forecast was just above freezing, but we hoped that the higher winds predicted would allow us a safe summit ski. I met Bill at the Idaho Springs ranger station at 6:00am and we were ready to climb at 7:00am from Summit Lake. We left the road and climbed southwest up a short headwall to the Summit Lake Bowl. At the end of crossing the bench near 13,100', we put crampons on and traversed south to reach the bottom of the North Face. Despite the winds, the snow was somewhat soft here.
Traversing to the base of the North Face:
In the lower apron of the couloir, Bill dug a small pit to find about a 3-inch fracture later on top of about an 8-inch freeze depth. Poking around with our ice axes, we were able to feel the different layers. Bill lead the first part of the apron, I lead the middle part, and he finished the top portion. The couloir averaged 43 degrees and maxed out at 50 degrees near the exit "ramp" at the top. We found mixed conditions throughout – mostly softer snow to punch through interspersed with harder crust, and more cookies.
Bill starts the booter – plenty of cookies:
I took the reins for a bit – entering the main couloir:
In the choke of the couloir:
Looking back down the couloir – photos just don't do the steepness justice:
The last two snow seasons really have had my nerves up for whatever reason, but this being the steepest snow climbing I've done thus far, didn't bother me whatsoever. It was a nice feeling. We topped out and had the steepest part (a short 50 deg. section) to reach the exit point. We took this section one at a time as there was quite a bit of loaded snow here. After this, it was a short jaunt up to the summit.
Traversing to easier terrain at the top of the couloir:
I think we're in for a summit ski! Finishing off the climb:
We were on the summit at 9:50am; only one other person and lots of cars at the parking lot. It was pretty windy - we were ready to ski at 10:30am. I found myself a little more nervous for this ski than any other one so far, but decided on wanting to ski the North Face couloir. "You just can't fall," Bill said, over and over. A few billy-goat sections and short areas to pop off skis later, we were ready to hit the couloir.
A shot of the route and upper 50-degree section that leads to the top of the couloir (taken from the summit of Evans):
I make it work off the summit:
We popped off the skis for a brief section here. Skiing to the top of the couloir:
Bill off the summit and skiing the steepest portion:
Bill pounded on it with his turns and nothing was going to move. I paused for awhile, thinking about what would happen if I fell. Skiing something this steep at a resort is something I have done, but on more technical terrain above a narrow couloir is something I have not. I quickly built up the courage and went for it.
First 50-degree turns on a Fourteener. Again, it's hard to appreciate the steepness in these photos:
I met Bill across the top of the couloir and skied next. The winds were still there and it wasn't warming up. Snow conditions were very similar to the climb up (a bit crustier in areas), and Bill warned me that skiing on cookies was tougher as that type of snow can cause you to stick. In the top third of the chute, there were a couple small areas of exposed rock that we side-slipped by.
I dropped into the couloir, made a few turns, and Bill followed:
Bill went first through the rocks and enjoyed more of the couloir:
I carefully made my way down:
A few turns more down the apron, we made a short traverse west above a small slide to finish off the North Face ski. We opted not to ski down the first headwall we climbed up; so we skied east to where we put crampons on, and then north towards Summit Lake until it contoured east again and dumped us a few hundred yards from the parking lot. We were back to the car at 11:45am.
Bill finished his ski:
My final turns:
I was so shocked and happy to have skied that route successfully. I feel like I've made some decent improvements as a beginner ski-mountaineer this season and skiing this route only reinforced that feeling. It was a great feeling, and it helps having an excellent teacher. I want more steeps!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):