Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Falling Waters: March 30, 2013

I knew that I'd be chasing snow buffalo all day - Na$ty, P9, and the Noodler are all super fast. I wanted to go as light as possible, but the location dictated that I bring some prudent supplies: an extra puffy, a pint of water, a pack of Shot Bloks, and some pop rocks.  Lately, most ski outings have been dictated by the Noodler's schedule. His pick-up and drop-off times are firm to the minute. Today we had 7 hours door to door - not a whole lot of time, but I enjoy the limiting hours. I can hang for a half day, but I loathe to think what would happen if I got on the Noodler 14-hour express.

We were heading to Falling Waters, a drainage above the Eagle River Nature Center. Access typically falls into a grey area because of private property issues, but fortunately a mutual friend has land that abuts the park boundary.

Na$ty and P9 had put the skinner in the day before and had a zone in mind: the 6 North facing chutes on the ridge separating Falling Waters and Ram Valley. The plan was to get 2 laps. I've had 4 or 5 days total skiing in Falling Waters, so I had a pretty good idea what they were talking about.

With the skinner already in, travel was fast and I struggled in 4th place. It was mostly sunny and the powder was still fluffy. Sweat stung my eyes. Fatigue stung my legs. And the gassy nature of the pop-rocks stung my intestines. It was a good thing that I was in 4th because that pop-rock gas had me sounding like a flock of geese.

Predictably, we made awesome time and were soon looking up the 1st of the 6 chutes. Na$ty and P9 led the charge up what they considered to be the mellowest gully. The skinner went in as high as possible before swapping to a booter. The 3 buffalo swapped lead position while I managed to stay somewhat close.

Up the Yellow; Down the Blue
The plan was to use the same uptrack for both laps, so at the ridge we took a left and climbed higher to another chute.

Nearing the Ridge
Getting Ready to Drop
For at least 2 years now, the Noodler has carried an insulated skirt in his pack. After borrowing his wife's for some time, Santa finally got him his own: the Montbell Thermawrap.  Just about everyone has questioned his odd choice of gear, but I am slowly being won over based on the advantages. On the climb you sweat like crazy, but quickly freeze on a windy ridge. Long johns are too hot on the up; no base layer is too cold when just standing around. An insulted skirt solves this problem. Most insulated skirts have full-length zippers making it a pain in the ass to get on and off - especially with skis on. The Thermawrap only has one snap at the waist - super easy to get on and gain almost instantaneous relief from the wind where you need it most. Also one snap does not restrict movement like a full length zipper - important in tight couloirs. The Thermawrap also functions as a lightweight compressible emergency blanket.  Strange as it may seem, this could catch on.

P9 in the Crux
The Noodler and the Thermawrap
The low density powder was shin to knee deep on stiff wind board. The steep walls of the couloir improved visibility and the skiing was excellent. Once on the apron, this shot pulls the skier to the left and out of sight from those waiting on top. So we waited and waited until we were sure we weren't dropping in on someone.  Radios next time!

We quickly retraced the uptrack but opted to drop off the south side of the ridge directly into Ram Valley. The idea was to get better light and take a more direct route to the vehicle. By the time we were ready to drop-in, the light had gone to shit. P9 graciously volunteered to Guinea Pig the route and put some features into the featureless void of white below us. Coverage was much better than expected and the run seemed to go on forever.  Even with P9's tracks, I took it slow and finally made it to the safe zone which was only about 100' from the skinner. 

The route back to road was straight forward with boredom alternating with unexpected excitement. Down gullies, over tundra, around boulders with the occasional alder face whip for good measure. Back at the vehicle, we pulled the beer from a snow bank. Typically the Noodler is so pressed for time that he militantly forces us to chug our post-tour beverage, but our south side short cut had saved precious minutes allowing for some down time. It was a nice change of pace, but I knew the Noodler was thinking we could've gotten another half lap somewhere.

Photos from: Noodler, P9, Na$ty, goggle-earth, and maybe me.

 - U.K.

1 comment:

  1. jealous. falling water is where i thrashed my skies the other day...across the valley from your first run.