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Route: Tuning Fork
Elevation Gain: 4,021'
Vertical Ski: ~3,250'
Jump Turners: Darrin (kansas) and me
From the forecast, it was looking like we would get a minimal freeze. Not wanting to give up the Tuning Fork without a try at least, we set off for the trail head Friday night. The 4WD road is clear to ~0.5 mi beyond the first stream crossing. There is a turnout/parking spot just up the hill from the creek crossing on the right that I wish I got to. Since at 2am I crossed the stream in my sandals, my feet became numb, and to see a good turnout really irked me.
We had 2.25mi of road to travel, much of it is snow free. There are plenty of big snowbanks make travel less than speedy. Some can't be skirted. The third stream crossing was a matter of running across at the shallowest part, and hoping the water wouldn't have time to over-top the boots. We didn't leave that crossing unscathed... but only a few drops of water got inside, thankfully. After this, we were able to skin parts of the road up, as otherwise we would post-hole in the very not frozen snow. The wet sloppy snow, frequent surface water, and multiple dirt crossing caused Darrin's skins stop sticking to his skis. A bit of MacGuivering and we were able to skin up to the base of the headwall before the couloir. We then swapped skis for crampons.
The snow below the Tuning Fork was much firmer than what we saw on the road below, so we were hopeful for the route ahead. As we got closer, it was apparent that it had snowed overnight a little. With the added light, surrounding ridgelines that were previously bare, had some new snow. Previous beta mentioned that the route was not snow continuous to the ridge, but the east fork looked like it connected. So we would take that variation on the way up to confirm.
Soon after starting up the couloir, the snow proved to be highly variable. We decided to head to the eastern side for the less sun effected slope. If we stuck to the old surface snow, we didn't sink. While the new snow was drifted in places over a foot. At least I should say that I didn't sink. Darrin unfortunately post-holed like mad through the old snow's surface crust. For once my light frame had it's advantages! I blazed up the couloir, while Darrin was slogging through making a trough. If the snow surface hadn't improved past the fork in the route, he may have turned around at that point. Plus the falling snow and howling wind did not perk spirits much either. Who would expect winter conditions, the weekend before the summer solstice?! Our hands got so cold before I got to the split, where we took a break, that we both had attacks of the screaming barfies before we were able to finally warm up.
After the early morning's snowing, blowing, post-holing almost disaster, the upper east fork of the couloir allowed us speedy and sunny travel. The wind still remained, but the minor warmth from the sun improved our spirits. The last narrow rocky section before the ridge was rather steep and had very firm snow that never really warmed up. One of the far right sections connects beautifully with the upper ridge, so after all that work, we would get a nice continuous ski!
Once on the summit, we took shelter on the northwest section with 2 other skiers. The wind was only slightly less, but better than nothing! We hung out for a while, knowing the snow would need some time to warm up after a very cold & snowy morning.
On our way down, the only rocks to cross are immediately off the summit. When Darrin got down to the east fork's drop-in point, he took one look and immediately wanted to see if we could find an entrance to the west/main fork. I obliged him, but after almost having a ghost ski go down the SW face, I was done. Back to the east fork. Time to learn those jump turns Darrin! It was so steep off the summit ridge, that even I had some trouble. It seems that my left jump turns need work. Right was no problem. I guess we can always improve our skills
Once below the upper rock constriction, we crossed over into the west/main Tuning Fork for the warmer, untouched snow line. From here to the bottom it was a great ski, with fresh powder slowly turning into a wet heavy concoction near the bottom. When the roller balls started appearing in the bottom third, we knew it was time to just head for the base and call it a day.
When roller balls attack!
The views on the the way out made up for the fact, that the skis had to be on the pack for the majority of the way down. Oh, those streams got us on the way out. Darrin was able to dump water out of his boot at the end...
I'll add the video when it's ready...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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