| Pikes Peak Summit Ski: Y Couloir - East (left) Branch
Date: Saturday, June 13, 2009
Skiers: Wesley, Bean, reg2303, and USAKeller
Route: Y Couloir – East (left) Branch ski descent and ascent from mile 18 on the Pikes Peak Highway
Stats: under 2 miles; 1,700’ climbed; 1,000' skied; 3 hrs 40 min RT
Yes, another Pikes' Y Couloir TR...
Our routes (red=climb; blue=ski):
Wesley (in particular) and I have been trying periodically this spring to fit this line in, but weather, his traveling, or the road closure had been preventing that. Finally, we were on the same page and the trip was a go; Bean and reg2303 would join us for the ski. All of the recent beta gave us that much more stoke for the line we would ski. I met Wesley, Bean, and my friend (Chuck) in Denver Saturday morning and we hit the road for the Springs, where reg2023 joined us. Chuck, who had absolutely no business being up there, came along for the ride and to photograph part of the event for us. The road was open to mile 18 of 19 (just shy of 13,400'; the ranger informed us that once the ice melted, the road would be open to the summit). I geared Chuck up with his first-ever daypack, gaiters, trekking poles, and we started briefly up the road before heading 700' southeast on the standard route up the final pitch to the summit at 8:50am.
The crew starts up just above the road (near 13,500', top photo); Wesley climbs above a gorgeous low-cloud setting below the summit:
Fifty minutes later, we were on the summit eyeing our ski route. The original plan was to hit the right (west) branch of the Y, but once we saw the steep entry to an inviting east branch ski. The steep and narrow entry spooked me a little bit, but I wanted to try it. I've realized as I've skied bigger lines this year (and that's completely relative), that it's more of a mental/anticipation game than truly being scared, and that I can actually ski steeper terrain. Because the entry was so steep (50+ degrees), Wesley hopped down a few feet to assess snow conditions - the result: sloughy powder on top of a firm base. We went inside the summit house to break from the winds, and hopefully get Carl his donut that he wouldn't stop talking about (he decided to wait on that).
Looking down the east branch:
We watch as Carl gauges the snow pack at the entry:
Preparing to ski - the steepness of the entry is well-depicted:
We started skiing around 10:30am. Carl volunteered to hit it first, and made a fine entrance in doing so. Bean went next and I followed, with reg2303 cleaning up the entry. The top 50 feet of the couloir consisted mostly of slough and sticky snow pack, and it definitely was steep.
Carl airs it off the summit cornice, and gets his turns in the upper couloir:
Bean off the summit:
I hit it next, sans a pretty entry:
reg2303 gets his:
Once in the east branch, we took turns skiing safety zone to safety zone on wonderful soft snow which quickly turned into awesome corn to rip turns on. The slope angle averaged no more than 45 degrees. We only had one decent rock outcropping to negotiate near 13,500'. After surveying it, we all easily skied down the rocks on skiers' right of the band. You could also pop the sticks off and downclimb 10 feet or so on skiers' left.
Skiing the middle portion of the Y - we all found a neat NW-facing slope to take photos on...
Bean's final turns for the season:
reg2023 gets more:
I enjoy the awesome corn:
Through the nicely filled-in rock band (down climbing was also possible on skiers' left in the photo):
The snow was getting too soft (especially on NE aspects) and we stopped skiing near 13,100' at some boulders in the couloir. Even though we could have skied a ways longer towards the Bottomless Pit, the mellower ski terrain and slushier snow would have made for a less-than-pleasant boot back up. A quick break and switch to spikes, we started the ascent at 11:20am following a solo climbers' fresh boot-pack. It was hot (~50 deg.) and no winds. "Let's get going so we can get a donut," Carl says. I finished the climb off at 12:30pm, 10 minutes after everyone else. Pleased with the day, we walked over to the summit house for some photos and socializing. What a great line to ski. Carl - great to get out with you again. Mike and Ryan - nice to meet you and ski with you both!
The crew ascends to the rock band:
Looking back down the Y from just above the rock outcropping:
The guys nearing the top:
Me exiting the steepest portion of the climb:
Left to right: me, Carl, Bean, and reg2303:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):